Pantry Raiders Redux

Pantry Raiders Redux

It’s been a few years since this one was put up, but well worth reposting…

Venture bravely into your pantry one day and you will find a terrible and frightening things. Items so horrid, that Julia and August are ROLLING in their graves! What horrid things might they be?

Some canned this,

Some tepid sauce that?

No, far worse!!! ancient, faded JARS OF HERBS AND SPICES!!!


What can be so bad you may ask?

The answer can be found in a question. Do you remember during which presidential administration you purchased that uber tub of “Italian Seasoning” from your local discount mega club? How about that tiny and dusty little metal tin of ground nutmeg that hides in the back of your pantry? Wait, does that grocery store still exist? I bet you have no clue. Worse yet, just how much do you think you spent on those items?

Let me tell you friends. That it was too long ago and too much respectively.

Okay, reality check. There is nothing REALLY wrong with dried herbs, so long as you are not using the petrified and dead stuff that you happen to have purchased during the Carter administration. Dried herbs are a descent substitute for the fresh stuff when used properly. But what is your solution you may ask? Check out your friendly neighborhood “high end establishment”. Places like Central Market here in Dallas and Whole Foods Market on a nationwide basis, have a fantastic area of bulk bin dried herbs that you can purchase what you need as you need it. Here is the kicker. That $6 plus dollar jar of herbs will cost you PENNIES from bulk bin. You are paying a high premium for the fancy glass jar. I will spend no more than a dollar or two on a bag of dried herbs that can be as large as of not bigger than the glass jar “premium” brands at your local megamarts! PLUS, you know when you bought it!

mustardseed rotated

Why is the when so important? Time! Open that bag of dried herbs. It smells pretty good huh? That aroma is the volatile oils that give the herb its flavor. What is volatile? It means that when exposed to air, it will dissipate into the atmosphere. In other words, your herbs will lose their flavor. Rule of thumb? I would not keep dried herbs in my pantry for any longer than 6 months. If you store them near your stove or oven, no longer than 3. Heat will speed the process of degrading the oils and flavors.

Now for their culinary bunk mates, spices….

They are a little different. When you buy the jar, 9 times out of 10 you are getting the ubiquitous brown powders. They pack a punch! The time rules that apply to dried herbs tend to play the same with pre-ground dried spices. Here is the exception. When you buy them whole, and I recommend that HIGHLY, you can keep them for almost an indefinite period of time. Why? The volatile oils are contained within the whole spice, and are not released until you break them down. Cool, huh? Added bonus? With whole spices, you can do cool stuff, like toasting! Why? Adding heat to whole spices like cumin or caraway will enhance the aromatic properties and deepen some of those wonderful substances that give those spices their depth of flavor.

Okay, so what do you DO with those whole spices? Invest in a coffee or spice grinder. They are not that expensive and can be used for most any whole spice to process down to whatever size powder you desire. Exception being nutmeg. Microplaners are handy tools that are relatively inexpensive and can be used in multiple applications OTHER than removing that fantastic fragrant powder….


By small amounts when you need it. Don’t keep it long. Your food will thank you for it!

One last add on.  There are lots of places that are spice “specialists”  They have high rent building and expensive properties.  I do buy one thing from those guys.  Glass jars.  Great for storage.

2016-07-27 15.53.29

One MORE last thing.  “Truffle Oil”  Don’t do it. There is as much real truffle in that stuff as there is as there are honest politicians in Washington.  You pay a pretty penny for cheap olive oil and in some cases flavoring chemicals.


Leave a comment

Posted by on July 27, 2016 in Uncategorized


Culinary 101 – Conca-Say What?

Culinary 101 – Conca-Say What?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Culinary 101 – Conca-Say What?


Welcome to Texas!  We LOVE to garden.  What is one of the most popular items in our gardens?  Tomatoes!  LOTS of tomatoes!  They grow very well here, and while most people do salad slicers or a variety of pretty heirloom tomatoes, I do the all-purpose, generic Roma tomato.  Why?  It’s the best all-around cooking tomato out there.  Good flavor profile while having a very high meat to gel and seed ratio.  So now you have tomatoes, what do you do with these bad boys?  TOMATO SAUCE BABY!

Hold the phone.  Gotta start with those tomatoes somewhere right?  You throw these little beasties in the pot with all your good and tasty mirepoix and hard worked beef stock, you are gonna have the dreaded and feared seeds and skins to contend with.  What do you do?  Peel and seed those bad boys!  But before you break out those gnarly peelers that will do nothing but destroy your beautiful fruit, you do the old school method of tomato concasse.  Sounds complicated right?  Could not be further from the truth!

What do you need?

  • A large pot to boil water in
  • A sharp knife
  • A bowl for ice
  • A small pot for the seeds and skins
  • A cutting board
  • Something to remove the tomatoes from the boiling water (fingers are a bad idea)

Simple list huh?  Yeah.  ‘Cause it’s just not that HARD!!!

  • Step 1.  Remove the tops of the tomatoes and cut a small cross on the bottom of the tomatoes.
  • Step 2.  Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water, and let go for 30 seconds.
  • Step 3.  Remove said tomatoes from your boiling water and drop into ice water until cool. (notice the lovely peels just falling away from the fruit?)
  • Step 4.  Pull the skins from the cross cut mark and set into the small pot.
  • Step 5.  Cut the fruit in half and scoop the seeds and gel out, into the pot with the skins.
  • Step 6.  Dice tomatoes to the desired size.

So.  What are we doing with the reserved skins and seeds?  I don’t believe in wasting anything.  There is plenty of lovely flavor and tomatoey goodness in the seeds and skins, so I take some of the boiling water and ladle it into my pot with the seeds and skins and boil it to make a tomato water.  Cool the tomato water fully and pour it over your tomato concasse.  If you were NOT using the concasse for sauce, you could skip this step.

Now I will keep the concasse in the fridge or freezer until the end of my tomato season so I can have a large enough volume of tomatoes to make a good sauce.


Coming soon…  The Mighty Red!


Leave a comment

Posted by on June 6, 2016 in Uncategorized


How do You Eat For Your Lifestyle?

How do You Eat For Your Lifestyle?

Time to re-publish some of the archives.  Why?  Because the information is just good information!  I went back and re-read what I wrote and realized.  Hey!  I kinda got a clue here!  Well.  Here goes.


There are a HUGE number of factors involved in your weight loss journey.  What you eat, how you eat, how you exercise, when you exercise.  Did you know that there is more of a correlation between the two on a physiological level?

First thing you have to do to figure out how to lose weight is to get yourself a baseline.  There are any number of formulas that can be used to manually calculate these formulas.  Rather than go through that I have located a nice easy tool online that can do it for you.

You can figure either your Resting Metabolic Rate or your Basal Metabolic Rate.  Both are essentially the same concept.  The number of calories that you burn just being you.  No exercise included.  From there you need to understand the terminology.

Sedentary – 0 minutes of exercise 5 days per week.

Slightly Active – 30 minutes or less exercise 5 days per week.

Moderately Active – 30 – 60 minutes of exercise 5 days per week.

Active – 60 – 90 minutes of exercise 5 days per week

Very Active – 60-90 minutes or more exercise 5-7 days per week.

Understanding where you are in the activity scale will allow you to figure your caloric needs.  Clearly we are not all the same.  Someone that has a desk job, driving a cube, and does no exercise that is the same height and weight that I am has a Basal Metabolic Rate of 2,297 kCal, meaning if that person were to consume that kCal rate per day they would not gain or lose weight.  I am in the very Active category.  My Basal Metabolic Rate is 3,302 kCal per day.  If I do not eat this volume of kCal in a day, I will continue to lose weight. Using systems like my fitness pal and weight watchers you can enter those activity levels and get an effective level of calories per day that you will need to lose the amounts of weight that you desire.

What’s next you might ask?  I am eating what I am supposed to be eating but I am still not losing weight like I want to!

You could be eating one of the 5 foods that are absolute dietary black holes.  These foods can be caloric traps, or foods that are so processed and un-natural that they are inflammatory foods, or they are both!

Fruit Juice   Fruit Juice?  Really! What about all that fruit, and the vitamins?!?! Hmmm…  I can hear it already.  What is so wrong with not from concentrate juice?  When you take a piece of fruit, apple, cranberry, orange, grapefruit, etc, and squeeze the juice out, you are left with 2 things.  A glass of sweet and tasty juice, and a pile of all of the less tasty, but fiber and nutrient packed pulp, skin and flesh.  To get the full impact of a piece of fruit without dealing with empty calories that are contained in the juice, you need to eat the entire piece of fruit.  There are on average more kCal per glass of orange juice than there are in a can of soda.  Scary huh?

Margarine  I Can’t believe it’s not butter!!  It looks like butter, it tastes like butter, it is supposed to be more healthy right?  It does depend on what expert you talk to, but this is one chef’s opinion.  If you have to manufacture a product from a variety of fats and chemicals to replicate something that if you are lucky has 2 ingredients?  The human body has a problem with processing of processed foods.  There is recent research that suggests that manufactured foods can cause an inflammatory reaction in your body.

Processed Wheat Products   Wheat on its own is a fantastic grain.  Full of nutritional value, natural fiber, fats, and carbohydrates.  When used and or ground whole, the human body has no problems with processing what is needed and not holding on to the rest.  When you take that wheat berry and grind it, bleach it, and sift it to remove all of the germ, bran and fiber from the berry, you are left with the endosperm of the berry.  That endo-sperm is nothing more than pure starch and gluten proteins.  The bleaching and purifying process removes all of the nutritive value, so you will see “enriched” flour.  Why enrich the flour?  You are replacing the vitamin B compounds that are found naturally in the wheat.

Processed Soy Products   Soy is another of those products that are touted as a super food and a fantastic human food resource.  Similar to the issues with wheat.  When you process out the good stuff, you are left with pure carbohydrate!  There is one hidden issue with Soy that has recently been discovered.  Soy contains phytoestrogens known as isoflavon.  This is a plant based estrogen compound that has a similar effect in the human body to human estrogen.  While these compounds can be effective in treating symptoms of menopause, that is not such a good thing for guys.

Corn   Corn is pretty much in everything.  It has a very high ratio of calories to nutritive value, and in its current and highly processed form is a very high factory of inflammatory problems in the human body.



Posted by on May 3, 2016 in Uncategorized, Weight Loss


The Saucier’s take on Green Pork Posole…

The Saucier’s take on Green Pork Posole…

Today in A Saucier’s Take on Green Pork Posole… we will take a culinary classic and meld it together with a classic home cooked Mexican dish.

Posole is a beautiful home cooked and quick Mexican cuisine.  Usually quick, relatively speaking, a broth cooked in an hour.  I LOVE it..  I LOVE the flavors.  But I am a lover of stocks, sauces and beautiful rich soups so it was time for me to put the Saucier’s take on this classic.

So today, we tackle phase 1. The broth!


The heart and soul of most classic French soups is the stock. I am doing a derivation of the classic brown beef or veal stock to meet my needs. I am replacing the classic beef knuckle or leg bones with a good, meaty pork “neck bone” from a local Mexican market. These consist of rib ends, chine bones and split spinal bones. As with any brown stock, you must roast the bones. You are bringing the maillard reaction into play. What is the Maillard reaction you say? I am glad you asked!!!


The Maillard reaction is a culinary phenomenon that occurs when proteins in meat are heated to temperatures of 310°F or higher, causing them to turn brown. Named for the French chemist Louis-Camille Maillard who discovered the process at the start of the 20th century, the Maillard reaction is similar to the process of caramelization, where carbohydrates like sugar turn brown when heated.±


Thank you Louis-Camille for your assistance tonight.


I digress. I tend to do that. Digress? Oh yeah! Stocks! The classic Escoffier brown stock includes beef or veal knuckle bones or joint bones, mirepoix (2 parts onion, 1 part carrot and 1 part celery) tomatoes or tomato paste for acid and fresh herbs and dried spices such as parsley, thyme bay leaves and black pepper corns, which is then roasted or caramelized to a nice golden brown to bring out the bold flavors, with a splash of red wine and enough water to cover the whole beautiful mess. We are turning that on its head with the BROTH that we are making here. Time for another culinary term:

Bit of Culinary Knowledge:

Broth vs. Stock. A stock is a flavorful liquid made from bones, aromatic vegetables, water, herbs and spices. Stocks are the basis for many classic cuisine dishes and are generally not served on their own. Why bones? Bones and the connective tissue that surrounds those bones contain large volumes of collagen, a protein which will, when exposed to simmering water over a period of time, dissolve from the bones and tissues giving the stock its body and richness. A good stock, when chilled will be thick and resemble a gelatin dessert. A broth is a flavorful liquid made from bones AND MEAT, aromatic vegetables, water, herbs and spices. Broths can be components of a dish OR can stand alone as a dish on their own.

On track again. The broth we are making today replaces the beef bones with the afore mentioned pork neck bones with a considerable amount of attached meat. The classic mirepoix is being transformed into a sofrito.


Sofrito is the secret ingredient in many Latin Caribbean dishes and it’s so easy to make. It’s a versatile, aromatic puree of tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, onions, and garlic. ±±

To the onion, carrot and celery combination, we add poblano chilies and garlic. So while not meeting a classic definition of a sofrito, as it does not contain tomatoes, nor is it blended, it’s also no longer a mirepoix.



Next, we are replacing the parsley stems and fresh thyme with more classic Mexican ingredients of oregano sprigs and coriander. I happen to have cilantro on the back end of its productive life and is therefore now going to seed. And yes, those seeds are coriander seeds. Completely different flavors. With the fresh coriander seed, you still get the hint of cilantro with a very bright coriander flavor. The peppercorns are enhanced with dried coriander seed and dried cumin seeds as well as the fresh bay leaf that we have in our back yard garden. It’s pretty amazing that fresh bay leaf actually tastes like something more than notebook paper!

Next replacement? We are making a green posole, and one of the basics of that is the tomatillo salsa that is added to the soup at service. We are incorporating tomatillo in place of the tomato for acidity. This will bring that signature tartness of the tomatillo to a bold flavored broth.

Last but not least. Wine. The tannic and fruity red wine is replaced by a dry white wine. We still cook the alcohol out but we have that little extra sweetness, without coloring the broth.


So now, as I type away on this bad boy, we will let it cook overnight for further processing tomorrow. A good brown stock needs a MINIMUM of 8 hours with those thick bones. The pork bones are not near so big, so you could get away with less cook time. We will give it the full time to extract that maximum flavor from the vegetables and meat and as much of the collagen as possible from the bones. One last important factor with a stock. We do NOT boil stocks! We simmer stocks, starting with cold water to more slowly dissolve the proteins without setting them, and bring up to just a simmer.  How much water?  Just enough to cover.

On that note? It’s been a long day and my posole broth has several more hours to brew!



Leave a comment

Posted by on May 23, 2015 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Suddenly Sous Vide!

Suddenly Sous Vide!

Suddenly Sous Vide!

Chapter 2 in the epic saga of Chef Sean and bro-mance with the Anova Sous Vide Immersion Circulator.

Which Came First, The Chicken Breasts or the Hard Egg?


The girls at the Jett Family Farm have been working overtime lately and providing 4-8 eggs per day. That puts us at a bit of a surplus, so it’s time to do some experimenting! I want to make that perfect hard cooked egg! We want that egg that is ideal. Fully yellow yolk with no green or grey and a perfect firm and tasty white.


First things first. These are not yer mamma’s grocery store eggs. They are the real deal, fresh eggs. Before we can use them, we need to wash them. My hens leave a bloom on the eggs. It protects the eggs and allows them to remain fresh and viable for as many as two weeks until the hen is happy with the clutch she lays and starts the 21 day incubation process. This is why many home chicken folk will leave their unwashed eggs on the counter for a month and feel just fine about being able to eat them.


Oh yeah, wash the eggs. Set your immersion circulator for your desired temp. I am going with a slightly cooler temp today of 160° F. That will leave the whites a bit more creamy and the yolk fully cooked but not grainy. The goal of these eggs is out of hand consumption. If you want the perfect egg for deviled or egg salad, run your temp UP to 167° F. Cook your eggs for 1 hour. Why did I set it long? I wanted to give myself some buffer room for cook times and hold times.


After an hour, shock the eggs in an ice water bath.


Pretty huh?


Crack and peel. Again. These are not the perfect salad or deviling eggs, as they white is a bit softer, but the texture of the yolk and the white are fantastic for out of hand eating!

So you want to cook a chicken breast and they are ALWAYS SO FREAK’N DRY!!! Today we experiment with that most pedestrian of proteins. The humble chicken breast. Maligned and dreaded for its lack of flavor and overcooked and dry texture, we will use a bit of technology to improve both the flavor and the texture of this most dreaded of daily proteins.


First you have to make it usable. Market form chicken breasts are MONSTERS! This beast is 14 ounces!!! The average human needs no more than 4 ounces of protein per serving, so we get to trimming! Trim the outside cartilage where the keel bone was, trim the excess fat around the tip, and trim the bone and cartilage around the wing joint, then remove the membrane that covers the breast and you are ready to portion it out!


Rather than cut across the breast into odd size and shape portions, use your sharp chef knife and essentially butterfly cut the breast into approximately 4 ounce portions. So from the 4 breasts we started with there are 9 portions plus an extra 8 ounces of trim for the soup pot! Save your non trim scraps for the stock pot!


Time to cook? Close. Time to bag ‘em Going to do two methods of “bagging” to test the systems. Vacuum bagging and water displacement with zip top bags. So why different methods? Not everyone has access to a vacuum sealing system, so I wanted to show that using zip top bags is a doable alternative. This recipe is a simple salt and pepper seasoning with fresh thyme and garlic. I am essentially butter poaching the meat so I am throwing in a half ounce of butter per portion. Vacuum sealing is obvious. Seal and go. The zip top bag, is one extra step, but far from difficult. Zip all but an inch of the bag and let out most of the air. Then when the water is at full temperature, immerse the bag, TOP UP into the water, allowing the water to force the balance of the air out.


So, fresh water in. I am going with setting the oven to 149° F and cooking for 1 hour. Let the water come to temp. But wait chef, you say! 149° F? Isn’t that an unsafe temperature to cook chicken to? Good question! The standard minimum internal cooking temperature for chicken is 165° F for 15 seconds to safely kill Nontyphoidal Salmonella, so 149° F just does not seem like its warm enough! If you were ONLY cooking the food UP to a temperature of 149° F, then you would be correct, but in this case you are cooking the food to an internal temperature of 149° F for an hour. The USDA cooking guide for pasteurization of chicken breast at 149° F is to cook it at temp for 3 minutes and 30 seconds. In English? The food has been cooked to a safe temperature, even cooking it to UNDER the recommended 165° F!

Okay, we are done with the sanitation and safety portion of our presentation, so, the result? A fully cooked, butter and herb poached chicken breast. After we put a nice hard sear on the meat in a hot pan, we can cut it open and give it a try! The meat is VERY juicy, and the texture is a little different from the standard issue grilled or broiled chicken breast.   Texture wise is very tender and very much not dry. Normally, I brine chicken breasts, but this time, I ran without so I could get a good benchmark. Next time, we brine!


Next up? Pork Loin!!!!

1 Comment

Posted by on February 26, 2015 in Uncategorized


Sous Vide or Not Sous Vide


Sous vide, or not sous vide… That is the question !

Okay. I have been a BAD blogger. I have NOT been on the ball, nor have I been good about taking pictures, but times they are a changing!

So again. Sous vide or not sous vide ! I guess the question now is, what IS sous vide?

Sous vide is a technique that has been kicking around some of the finer commercial kitchens since the mid-1970s. It is a technique involving a very old cooking principal combined with new technology. The old thoughts of low and slow temperature cooking. Similar in concept to a braise or poach. The primary difference being that in MOST cases, the foods are cooked in a sealed plastic bag that has been immersed in precisely temperature controlled water. Until recently, that temperature control technology has been too expensive for the home based cook or small shop chef to be able to afford. This is no longer the case!

There are two primary home sous vide units out there for the home cook. The Sous Vide Supreme,  which is a self-contained unit, an insulated box with a lid and self-enclosed immersion circulator. The other is the Anova Sous Vide Immersion Circulator, which is a standalone immersion circulator that you provide your own container to use. I went with the Anova unit, so I will be doing my reviews based on that unit over the next few articles.

Okay. Now for the first question. What can this do that I cannot do with my oven? Ovens, and stove top ranges cannot deliver the precise heat without fluctuations over an extended period of time.   What does that mean? Your oven generally runs hotter (175 and above) than most sous vide temperature preparations. AND, temperature control will not be precise. Why? When you set your home oven for a temperature, say, 200, that temperature will fluctuate as much as +/- 25 degrees to get a median temperature of 200 over time. The home range top has similar issues, and a serious lack of accurate temperature controls when you look at setting of Hi, Med or low, or 1-10.

So, you have decided to go head long, what is ELSE do I need? Water, a cooking bag and the protein that you desire to cook. I prefer to use a vacuum sealed bag similar to this Food Saver Vacuum Sealing System, but it is NOT required. You can use zip top bags and use the water displacement method of removal of air.

Next up? Cooking!!!!

1 Comment

Posted by on February 19, 2015 in Uncategorized


Blueberry Dutch Baby


Ladies and Gentlemen!

After many posts requesting this, here we go.

Blueberry Dutch Baby:

Prep time: 2 Minutes, Cooking Time: 30 Minutes
Equipment Required: 9” Iron Skillet, Blender

4 Servings


2 teaspoon butter
1 cup fat free milk
¾ cup A.P. Flour
2 large eggs (about 4 oz.)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch salt
¾ cup fresh blueberries
2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar
½ cup plain, fat free yogurt

Pre-Heat oven to 450 degrees F.

Heat Cast Iron Skillet over medium heat.  Melt butter in pan and swirl until the sides are covered.  Set aside.

In a blender bottle, place milk, eggs, flour, vanilla, canola oil, salt and cinnamon in the blender.  Blend for about a minute or until fully blended.

Place the pan back on the heat and let the butter start to bubble.  Pour the batter into the pan and place into the oven.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until puffed and lightly browned all over.

Cut into quarters, dust with powdered sugar and spoon a 2 tablespoon dollop of yogurt on for service!


Nutritional Information Per serving:
200 kCal
6 g. Total Fat
2 g. Saturated Fat
0 g. Trans Fat
6 mg. Cholesterol
132 mg. Sodium
27 g. Carbs
8 g. Sugar
1 g. Fiber
10 g. protein
112 mg Calcium


Posted by on January 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

%d bloggers like this: