Friday, March 30, 2012

5 Star Makeover March: Junk Food Round-Up

This month our 5 Star Foodie Makeover Crew reconvenes to attempt to disprove one of my deepest held kitchen axioms, "You cannot make chicken salad out of chicken shit."

Our challenge was to make a 5 star dish out of Junk Food.  Not recreating junk food, but making junk food of a dish.

This group is all about challenging ourselves.  If you are gonna be in this group the limits of your cuisine will be pushed.  Many of us really do not eat junk food.

I want to thank my fellow crew members for coming through in a big way.

You want a tease?  OK.  How about this...

The very gifted, Lacy from NYCity Eats, a fabulous blog you should really check out.  Her junk food of choice was Kettle Cooked Sour Cream & Onion Chips.

What did she do with them?  Nothing really, just use them to make fresh pasta!

Hop on over to my amazing co-host Natasha's marvelous,5 Star Foodie Culinary Adventures , for the complete round-up of these fabulous creations.

That's it for now...till we exchange a few words again...Peace!

Monday, March 26, 2012

5 Star Makeover March: Junk Food Mac & Cheese

This month our 5 Star Foodie Makeover Crew reconvenes to attempt to disprove one of my deepest held kitchen axioms, "You cannot make chicken salad out of chicken shit."

Our challenge was to make a 5 star dish out of Junk Food.  Not recreating junk food, but making junk food of a dish.

So how did that go over in the house?  It went a little something like this...

The Lawyer: "You are making what now?  What is your junk food?"

Kitchen Hack: "Well, I am gonna use three actually."

The Lawyer:  "You did not answer the question."

Kitchen Hack:  "I am gonna make a mac & cheese out of Velveeta, Beef Jerky & Funyons."

The Lawyer: "OMG, that sounds disgusting!"

Kitchen Hack: "It could be good, maybe?!"

The Lawyer: "I am not eating that crap.  It's gonna be really salty."

True these ingredients on their own are quite salty ridden.  Imagine together?!  Look I would not use Velveeta, like ever, ever.  Even here I augmented it with grated Fontina & cream cheese.  In the end, I did not salt the mac and cheese, the salt level comes entirely from the cheeses, ground beef jerky and Funyons topping.

I ate a lot of Funyons growing up, so adding them here was a no-brainer for me.  Actually was a perfectly crisp topping.

Funyons are onion "flavored" ring chips.

I found one last way to incorporate the Velveeta by breading and frying it, to make a crispy fried cheese treat.

Junk Food Mac & Cheese 

The Lawyer:  "You know it's not as horrendous as I thought it was gonna be!"

Kitchen Hack: "Umm, thanks.  I guess!"

The Lawyer:  "It's true, in the kitchen, anything in your hands tastes good."


Please check back on Friday for our complete 5 Star Makeover Cooking Group Junk Food Makeover.

That's it for now...till we exchange a few words again...Peace!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Tripleta Burger with Yukon Gold Chips

La Tripleta is quintessential Puerto Rican street food.  Basically it is a sandwich that combines 3 different types of meat, Tripleta, into one eating experience.
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Pork
My lovely and talented wife, The Lawyer, is Puerto Rican.  A glance at the fine print in my blogging contract reveals a clause that requires me to mix in a PR dish every now and again, or face repercussions.  Errrr, I mean, I love Boricua food and I am glad to spotlight it here.

I decided to take the traditional sandwich concept and turn it into a stuffed burger.

Lets discuss the flavor layers...
  • Beef - An 8 oz NY Strip steak freshly ground.  Divide into two equal 4 oz patties.
  • Chicken - Chicken leg confit.  Organic Free-Range chicken legs slow cooked in duck fat.
  • Ham - Jamon Serrano provides the perfect hammy accent to our burger.
  • Lime Mojo - A combination of fresh orange juice, lime juice, onion, cilantro, cumin & roasted garlic.
  • Creamy Havarti cheese - Melts like a dream.
  • Colombian Bread - The Latin version of a Brioche.
When making the Yukon Gold Potato Chips you want your potato slices to be as dry as possible.  Use paper towels to dry up as much excess moisture from the potato.  Fry at 375 F until golden & crispy.

Roll the pics...

4 oz NY Strip Patty with Chicken Leg Confit

Serrano Jam

4 oz NY Strip Patty - Seal those edges!

Sear to Perfection

Time to get building

Toasted Colombian Bread, Melted Creamy Havarti Cheese, Olive Oil Mayo & Avocado

Stuffed Tripleta Burger

Lime Mojo Sauce

Tripleta Burger with Yukon Gold Chips

Helluva Saturday Lunch in the Magic City...

That's it for now...till we exchange a few words again...Peace!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Breaded Coconut Shrimp Pizza

Here's my latest pizza concept.  I decided to take a popular fried food and slap it on a pizza.

Breaded Coconut Shrimp:
  • Take your favorite shrimp.
  • Peel, devien & butterfly the shrimp.
  • Make a batter of flour, coconut milk, coconut flakes & seasonings.
  • Deep fry at 350 F for 2 minutes
  • Here's what you get...
After frying please cut off the tails on the shrimp.  Unless you want the extra crunch, then by all means leave them on...

Here's the pizza construction....

  • Pineapple BBQ sauce.  I found this to be the perfect companion for the coconut shrimp.  Made an awesome sauce.  Thanks to my brilliant wife for the suggestion of using pineapple.
  • Sliced Leeks.  Add an onion punch.

  • Shredded Fontina cheese.  Awesome mild tasting and great melting cheese.
  • Flat leaf Parsley.  Adds great color.
  • At this point bake the pizza at 450 F for 8 minutes.
  • Add the quartered fried breaded coconut shrimp.
  • Add a light drizzle of avocado oil.
  • Return to the 450 F oven to finish baking.
Breaded Coconut Shrimp Pizza

Sometimes kitchen ideas are better in the mind of the cook but when executed do not work.  Well, this one was tremendous.  My wife called it a tropical pizza.  Agreed.  It had a very Caribbean feel to it.

That's it for now...till we exchange a few words again...Peace!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mad About Macarons: Guest Post Spotlight

I am honored to welcome to LC, The Queen of the Macarons, Jill Colonna.  Jill is the author of the fantastic book, Mad About Macarons.

Jill's work is consistently witty, smart and well-written.  She's mastered the art of macarons.  Elevating the mac to new heights with varied and eclectic flavor combinations.  Jill always has a surprise up her sleeve.

Here's Jill's gallery on Kitchen Artistry it's a true feast for the eyes.

Please stop by Mad About Macarons check out her work, she's an absolute superstar.  I guarantee you make a classy and sweet new friend.


It’s great to be on Lazaro Cooks. Personally I wish I could be here in person: somehow living in Miami with continuous BBQ weather must turn you into a real dude. Miami Vice? Pah! Miami's Lazaro should have his own TV show, don’t you think?

No need to go on how Laz rocks, as that’s why you’re here. So what on earth could I make for such a brilliant chef? I thought of Florida’s sun and its citrus fruits, and as I had a few macarons left over (this happens at times), I kept with the same flavour combination and added a couple mini desserts with different textures. I suppose it’s a kind of Café Gourmet à la Laz.

The flavour combination is intriguing. If you’re into refreshing bitter cocktail drinks then this concoction will talk to you.

As one of my favourite pre-dinner summer tipples is a Campari and orange on crushed ice, I first wondered what it would be like to add the same kind of bitter appeal from carcadé. Carcadé is a dark red infusion made from dried hibiscus flowers that I discovered in the sizzling heat in Egypt – and it resurfaced the other day when I was cleaning out my kitchen cupboards (this often happens, too.)

Somehow the infusion’s bitterness quenches your thirst, it’s an antioxidant and it’s pretty addictive. There’s a lot to be said for healthy stuff that’s compulsive eating/drinking! A little added to freshly squeezed blood oranges and topped up with Campari and ice? This reddish-pink cocktail just looked at me and pleaded, “Macaron me, baby.”

Then this macaron said…. Och enough. So this macaron turned into a wee trilogy, served with a blood orange-campari ice cream with hibiscus jelly and an inverted tartlet.

As the recipes could be quite long here, I’m following in Laz’s style by just talking you through it briefly, but if anyone is really interested in me posting the full recipe later, just contact me via

Instead of going for a sorbet, I chose a custardy-based ice cream. Let’s just say when you use whites for making macarons, I’m always looking for egg yolk recipe excuses. In place of 1/10 of the cream, I used Campari and the grated zest of an untreated organic blood orange then served it on blood orange segments and an hibiscus jelly: infused the hibiscus flowers in water, added sugar and pre-soaked gelatine (2g for 200ml infusion.) It’s my adult version of my childhood jelly and ice cream. Note that the ice cream melted quite quickly due to the alcohol content. It’s a beautifully soft ice cream but not ideal for someone like me who’s long at taking photos!

For the inverted tartlet, I blind-baked some short crust pastry and made the tartlet ‘filling’ using

 Egg yolks
·        Superfine sugar
·        Blood orange juice
·        Hibiscus infusion
·        Campari
·        Butter
·        1 sheet of pre-soaked gelatine
then broke up the pastry and plonked it on top. Et voilà.

A Trilogy of Blood Orange, Hibiscus and Campari

Please stop by and say hello to the very talented Jill at Mad About Macarons.

That's it for now...till we exchange a few words again...Peace!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Mahi with Cauliflower "Mashed Potato", Green Beans & Broccoli

"Presentation is there for fifteen seconds; ultimately it's the flavor that holds the memory."
Gordon Ramsay

One of my favorite quotes from one of my kitchen mentors.  He's absolutely right.  

No matter how lovely a course may be composed, if it tastes like the dog's dinner, no one will remember it.

Likewise, if a dish looks like a pile of shit but is magic in the mouth, people will remember it.

Now does it have to be either extreme?  Of course not.  My food is evidence of that...silly people.

I live for plating.  It's my creative outlet; a blank canvas to play in.  Food has to taste good, that's a given.  I've been cooking since I was 12, learning to create flavor profiles, layering flavors, varying textures and temperatures within courses.

However, it was not until 2001 when I read The French Laundry Cookbook that my mind was totally opened to plating.  Thomas Keller's flawless and exquistie presentations blew my mind.  That freak was making food look otherworldly.  I wanted my food to look like that.

Now, I am no Thomas Keller, nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night but I will share some of my thoughts on what it takes me to try and make food look half-decent.
  • Curiosity - Colors, textures, and shapes all play a role.  You can't just throw it on a plate and it's ready to go to the pass.  Think about how it looks, move things around, investigate.
  • Patience - Give yourself a break.  It may not happen on the first go.  Sometimes I plate a dish 10 times before I am happy.  It's an organic process.
  • Persistence - It may take weeks, months or years to find your voice, or in this case style.  Quitters never win though.
The point is not to copy the way someone plates a dish.  Any asshole can do that.

True creation is honestly expressing the self.  To be able to stare at a completed dish and honestly say inside your heart of hearts, "Fuckin' A, that's me on the plate right there.

Learn concepts, techniques, theories and apply them.  Express yourself, it's fun.

Quickly about this dish cause your attention span went about 3 minutes before you came here today.

  • Cauliflower puree makes an awesome fake "mashed potato."
  • Green beans are the universe's gift to cooks.
  • When searing fish on a pan, DO NOT USE TOO MUCH OIL, or you will never get a good sear.  You want maximum fish contact with the pan.
  • If you are frantically searching for the's the pretty dots.
  • The pepper used on the cauliflower was Piment d'Espelette.  Thanks Tanantha.
That's it for now...till we exchange a few words again...Peace!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Blue Mussels with Sweet Potato Fries

Here we have what according to the Monterey Bay Aquariums Seafood Watch List is a "best choice" for sustainability.  Blue Mussels worldwide are farmed using environmentally safe practices.  Now, add to that the little fact that they are easy as hell to cook.

How can you go wrong for a Saturday lunch?

Blue mussels are readily available anywhere but if you live in Dade, Broward, or Palm Beach counties you can get them shipped to your door from Fish On Dish.

This is the bit of goodness you eat.

Do not eat the pretty shell.  But you can use it to...

Make a bed of lobster stock, mussel juice, crispy bacon, shallots, & jalapeno.

Dude, I'd wanna sleep in that.

Blue mussels cook quickly.  That means they over cook quickly.  Please do not over cook your mussels.  You will end up with something truly inedible.

Drop your mussels in a pan with liquid, cover with a tight fitting lid.  Count on about 4 minutes of cooking time.  Then get them the hell out.  

For this Dish, I used:

  • Lobster stock
  • White wine
  • Applewood Smoked Bacon
  • Shallots
  • Jalapenos
  • Orange Juice
Note: Once the mussels open up in your pan, they will release their lovely mussel juice, which of course will add to your sauce.

I paired my mussels with Sweet Potato Fries.  Now, for flavor contrast and balance, I served the fries with a tangy chipotle sauce, in place of ketchup.

Finish the dish with two ingredients that always go a long way...
  • Edible Flowers
  • White Truffle Oil

Blue Mussels with Sweet Potato Fries

That's it for now...till we exchange a few words again...Peace!