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    Rules of Chef's Club

    The First Rule of Chef's Club is Don't Talk About Chef's Club. 

    The Second Rule of Chef's Club is Never Admit You Used the Microwave.

    Photo by kokopinto (flickr).


    Chocolate Lab


    How much chocolate is in that bar, and how much milk and sugar? These are the questions that move men’s minds, well, when they aren't thinking about boobs.

    Really if you are going to cook with chocolate, eat it, or melt it and drizzle it all over the slowly building curvy under-edge of...well, never mind…you really need to know which chocolate is best to use for various applications.  Tom is here for you.  Tom took one for the team and taste-tested a whole array of chocolate bars.

    There are more than just Hershey bars out there, and if this is news to you, we have some other things to break to you. For instance, there are at least 17 types of bra clasp and as many shapes of breast as there are wine glasses, coffee mugs, and melon analogies.  So open your eyes up!  There is a great deal of variety out there in the world and it seems you’ve been missing it.  We had to go out and buy the Chocolate Blanc, and the 100% chocolate. Aside from that, Tom had seven kinds of chocolate already in the cupboard.  If you count the fruit and spice flavored chocolates Tom had 12 varieties in the pantry.  Yeah, he’s an underachiever.

    The photograph is really a very simple guideline, it only represents big jumps in percentages and ignores all the "other" ingredients nor does it look at where the beans are from, or the number of sources. 

    Running the numbers:

    White chocolate, is in fact…Not...Chocolate.  It is cocoa butter with milk and sugar.  Tom only put it on the cutting board so that we could tell you that.

    The Hershey bar is good if you like that sort of thing.  To Tom’s taste it contains a little too much "other stuff” like milk, and not enough chocolate.

    “World Famous” fund raiser chocolate had a bit more flavor but every bit as much “other stuff” in it and was very milky. So if you really are not looking for chocolate but more just something sweet to eat, it is okay.  Tom will be embarrassed for you, but it’s alright, Jim would probably eat it.

    Bakers Simi-sweet Chocolate had a very hard texture which is fine in a baking product. Nice big chocolate taste and once it melted, it was nice and sweet as well.

    The 34% chocolate bar's packaging didn't seem to want to tell us how much chocolate it had on board but it was nice to eat and had the distinctive milk chocolate flavor but was a bit too sweet for Tom’s palate.

    Now the 54% chocolate bar was rich chocolaty deliciousness on the tongue, it melted into warm sweet goodness rapidly and was VERY chocolaty. Tom ended up eating most of this one, and letting the flavors mellow before he refreshed the palette with coffee. The milky taste was gone at this level of chocolate, replaced with a creamy smoothness to the flavor.

    Now we jump to serious levels of chocolate and the dryness starts to come into play and with some brands, a bitterness creeps into the flavor.  Ghiradelli, however, is just a really big chocolate flavor.  Tom crunched this up a bit when ate the sample rather than letting it slowly melt.  Hey, we are guys after all, people to do, places to cook, and meat to broil.

    Tom sank his teeth into the Godiva 85% chocolate and WHOOP, there it is.  Dry and a bit bitter, but in a spice way that he liked.  This level of chocolate is why Tom is the lab rat here.  Jim’s skull would have exploded out the back of his head like a sniper’s bullet.  Tom is a professional Chocophile.  Magna cum Laude.

    The Ghiradelli 100% dark chocolate is not really for eating at all. Even for Tom.  It is very dry and bitter, all the while tasting INTENSELY of chocolate.  It really is too bitter to leave in your mouth unless you are super dedicated.

    So we hope this run down of what the percentages of chocolates was helpful.  Tom just headed out to have his blood donated as a source of laboratory grade sucrose.


    Peanut Butter and Chocolate

    Last night I wanted a peanut butter cup in the worst way and there were none to be had, trust me I searched near and far in the kitchen. Now I know I could have gone to the store, but that seemed like giving in so…
    I opened a package of chocolate chips and poured my hand full of them, just to starting to drop them. Dumped them in a little ramekin and set it into a pan of shimmering water to act as a double boiler. Second rule of chefs club. Then I grabbed another little glass bowl (see I know what they are really called) and squirted in a bit of light corn syrup (and no I don’t know how much, just enough to cover the bottom) added two heaping spoonfuls of light brown sugar, a shake of cinnamon and set that in the shimmer to warm as well.
    Next I stirred the slowly melting chocolate and tasted it, I decided that it was too sweet (I know, right) and added some of the 85% bar left over from last weekend and back into the shimmer. Next step was to stir the sugar mix and taste it, it was yummy so I added two HUGE spoonfuls of peanut butter (Creamy Skippy in this case) and gave that a bit of a mush and then set it back to warm. By then the new chocolate was all melty so I tasted it again and finding it good I pulled it out of the double and poured in about 5 ounces of heavy cream. This is slow to mix and took me some time and patience, once it was a smooth mixture I set it back to warm for about 30 seconds. Next I added two spoonfuls of powdered sugar to the chocolate and mixed some more, then back into the hot water. I stirred up the peanut mixture and tasted it. It was good.
    So off heat and out onto the counter top with both bowls, I set out a good sized piece of wax paper. I turned out the peanut butter mix and kneaded it a little bit and then formed it out into a thin square of peanuty goodness. Then I flipped it out to the edge of the wax paper. I spooned half of the chocolate mix out on the wax paper and spread it out about the size of the peanut butter blob. I set the peanut butter blob onto the chocolate. I poured the remaining chocolate on top and folded it up in the wax paper. I set the whole deal in the fridge to chill.

    5 min later cut it into squares to serve, or if no one is around, just eat it off the wax paper.


    A procession of Chocolate

    Do you want to know what happens next?


    In Defense of Fast Food

    What with the whole organic, cage-free, grass/grain-fed, no hormones, anti-GMO, no MSG, anti-pesticides, no additives, anti-preservatives, every-chicken-must-be-stroked-by-hand-once-an-hour-and-called-by-it's-first-name-Bernard, movement, it is easy to forget that Americans actually still like fast food.


    Despite the food movement, the United States of hypocrisy has not slowed down the consumption of burritos, noodles, fried chicken, grilled chicken, nuggets, sandwiches, donuts, tacos, fish sticks, and of course….the almighty hamburger. A quick browse of stock prices for fast food companies shows that Wall Street sure likes it's fast victual companies too. The stock prices of fast food companies fell during the worst of the recession, but only just a little. Wall Street must know something we don't.

    Perhaps it’s the addition of those “healthy” 10,000 calorie salads to the menu? Yeah, that must be it…

    So what is this fascination with food that’s been processed through machinery till it screams? Well, we’ve got to think it boils down to one thing. We like the taste. We like the convenience. Yes, we like the food! People deny it, yet McDonald’s numbers wouldn’t be the way they are if everyone didn’t like the food.

    So what’s a Green, anti-corporation, Monsanto-hating, Hippie person to do about this? Well, first of all, cook at home! Try to buy what your farmer grandparents would recognize as food. But it IS important to try to keep perspective. Pack a lunch when you can, but don’t drag the square yard of wheat grass into your cubical.  It's embarrassing.

    Today’s hyperactive lifestyles means we may be forced to eat lunch with a co-worker in 15 minutes.  Good luck finding a Farmer’s Market in that time. 

    Mr. “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Michael Pollan wrote “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and freely admits that “Social values count as much as environmental values with me”. He’s even been known to eat unsustainable sushi! *Gasp!*

    So, eat up America! Drop another dime fiver into the McDonalds meatwagon.


    Just try to do it less.

    Much less.

    Image: Idea go /


    Velveeta Fudge? No, really!

    I was watching Iron Chef a while back and I about jumped out of my Barcalounger  when I saw Paula Dean slap down some Velveeta “Cheese Product” and start mixing in sugar, butter, corn syrup etc into what was to become a…wait for it…fudge.  You heard that right, Velveeta Fudge. 

    The virtual taste buds in my brain went to work on that flavor profile, and the verdict was “It may not suck!”  So I went over to the Food Network website to check out the Paula Dean recipe.  I read through the comments and found out that Paula’s version of the fudge was highly variable, depending on which cocoa powder you used.  Failure meant fudge that tasted of cheese product.  Not good.  I also found out that Paula quite possibly got the recipe from Kraft itself and that the commentators said the Kraft recipe worked fine!

    So I ran down to the grocery store to get the ingredients to try this recipe out.  I recommend that if anyone looks at you funny when you pick up the “Cheese product”, just tell them it’s a gag gift for a bachelor party and involves a stripper.  They won't ask any more questions.  Do not admit your actually going to eat it, and certainly not in fudge.

    The first thing I noticed when making the cheese fudge was that it is a damn sight better than Ole’ Fashioned Fudge in that it is cooked fast in the microwave, and doesn’t require a candy thermometer.  Win!  Aside from the cooling off period in the refrigerator, the whole thing takes about 10 minutes to make, mixing and all.  Pretty slick. 

    The taste test was….interesting.  I am used to eating fudge that grabs you by the teeth, slaps your jaw with richness, and then goes off in your brain like a firecracker of sweetness.  With Old Fashioned Fudge you KNOW you just ate a chocolate bomb. 

    This was not that. 

    It isn’t a chocolate bar, but it’s not quite decadent fudgie goodness either, it was something in between.  Medium fudge. 

    That’s just not right.

    That being said, I can see two possibilities out of it.  One possibility is that one could modify the recipe with more chocolate and sugar to get more bang out of it, or the other possibility it that one can simply get another recipe for microwave fudge. 

    In Part 2, I am going to mix up a batch of microwave fudge and do a taste smackdown...

    UPDATE: Jim's wife, the Teutonic Goddess, woke up and pronounced the fudge "excellent" and "salty goodness".  Just goes to show, we are not the final word! 
    Kraft Velveeta Fudge

    12 oz VELVEETA Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product cut into 1/2-inch cubes
    1 cup  (2 sticks) butter or margarine
    6 squares BAKER'S Unsweetened Chocolate
    2 Tbsp.  light corn syrup
    2 pkg. (16 oz. each) powdered sugar (about 8 cups)
    1-1/2 cups  chopped PLANTERS Pecans
    1 tsp. vanilla
    Add chocolate mixture, in batches, to sugar in large bowl, beating with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended after each addition. Stir in pecans and vanilla.

    Pour into greased 13x9-inch pan. Smooth top with spatula; cover. Refrigerate several hours or until firm before cutting into 1-inch squares to serve. (For longer storage, wrap tightly and freeze up to 2 months. Thaw in refrigerator overnight before serving.)

    Place Velveeta, butter, chocolate, and corn syrup in large microwaveable bowl.  Microwave on High for 2 min. Stir.  Micorwave and additional minute; stir until well blended.


    DO NOT READ THIS if you have a pet whale!

    If you like a good dose of mercury in your meat, and don't mind eating Willie, well you may be interested that Willie tastes like beef, not sushi:  "It's similar to reindeer or moose. Whale tastes much more like its hairy cousins on land than its gilled neighbors in the sea. In places where gamey meats are common—like Norway, Iceland, and among the indigenous people of Alaska—whale is served straight up with little or no seasoning. For those who find its unrefined flavor off-putting, whale is cured, marinated, or slathered with a flavorful sauce. Whale bacon, marketed in shrink-wrapped packages of thin marbled slices closely resembling pork bacon, is offered at some Japanese markets."
    Mmmmm.  Willie bacon. I know I'm hungry now.....


    UPDATE: Two people contacted us that have actually tasted whale meat:

    "...It was definitely a red meat, and tasted a bit like beef liver. It was prepared that way too, pan sauteed with lots of onions."


    "I had it as a pepper steak, it was like a really coarse and dense steak, with shrimpy overtones. I probably should have ordered it medium instead of well done."

    There you have it, folks.  Like red meat everywhere, order it medium-done or less, tastes like chicken...


    Salt and Pepper. No not the band.

    Salt and pepper have really evolved from your Grandma's poodle shaped salt shaker with ioidine-laced table salt and pre-ground pepper in a spice can.  A jog through the local grocery store can usually yield at least Coarse Kosher Salt and perhaps exotic varieties such as Himalayan Pink Salt (our personal fave).  Your grocer may even have coarse sea salts, and perhaps a smoked salt, or maybe even a red or black salt from Hawaii. 

    This article in the Atlantic presents the joys of fancy salts, including some information from the book Salted: A Manifesto on the World's Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes by Mark Bitterman.  Our only beef with the Atlantic article is that the author failed to mention the joys of Himalayan pink salt, except in passing.  We highly recommend it.  Bitterman says to avoid coarse sea salts from San Francisco.  Noted. 

    Black pepper is on every table, everywhere, for a reason.  It adds it's special bite to about any savory dish one would want to consume, and some dishes such as Peppercorn Steak (recipe below) make it the entire show.  Historically, black pepper was as valuable as gold and was even part of the ransom of Rome when it was sacked in 410 A.D. by the Goths.  Who knew Goths had such good taste?   

    If you are still getting your pepper out of a can, just STOP.  Go get a pepper mill (grinder) loaded with black pepper already.  Why are you still reading this?  Okay, you can leave after you finish this post.  

    Pepper is the key ingredient in meat spice rubs, the go-to spice to dress a salad, and some people even use it in desserts like ice cream and lime and pepper cookies.  Go figure. 

    Cook's Illustrated reviewed many different peppers and seemed to lean heavily toward the Indian Tellicherry peppercorns as the preferred type to buy if you are going to be using peppercorns as a main ingredient.  If you are just using pepper in small amounts, regular peppercorns will suffice. 

    Now go get that peppercorn mill!! 


    Steak au Poivre Recipe

    (Peppercorn steak)

    Soundtrack: ”Push it” by Salt-N-Pepa

    2 thick USDA Select steaks
    2 tablespoons cracked Tellicherry black peppercorns
    Butter or Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    2 cloves garlic
    1 tablespoon minced shallots
    2 tablespoons brandy or cognac
    1/2 cup tablespoons red wine
    1/2 cup heavy cream

    You are going to need to crack the pepper corns, yet not have them fly everywhere.  The best way is a mortar and pestle, however, you can also place the peppercorns into a plastic bag and crack them with a rolling pin or even lightly with a hammer.  Mr. Mechanic, if you use the hammer, clean the oily damn thing first, capiche?  Also, be aware of the surface you are pounding on, so you do not dent or break it and have your spouse beat you to death with your meat hammer.  We want not culinary murders on our hands.

    Remove the cracked peppercorns from the bag and press them into the steaks on both sides.  Heat the butter or olive oil in a heavy skillet and sear the steaks on high heat till browned.  Now, reduce the heat to medium and cook till medium-doneness.  Well-done steak is an abomination unto the gods.  You should only have to flip the steak once and you DO NOT want to use a fork to do it, use tongs or a wooden spoon.  Remove the steak from the pan with the tongs, plate them, and let the steak rest for FIVE minutes before you so much as show it to a knife or fork.  No exceptions.  Those yummy juices will flow out of the steak if it does not rest for five minutes.

    Add shallots and garlic to pan and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the shallots go from white to clear.  Add brandy and wine and then boil while stirring for three or four minutes or so to reduce the sauce.  Reduce the heat a little and add the heavy cream to the pan, then heat till the sauce is warmed again.  Pour sauce over steaks and serve.

    Image: Catherine Hadler /


    Drink of the week!

    "Secret" Coca Cola recipe is published by NPR!!!

    Regular ingredients:

    Fluid extract of Coca: 3 drams
    USP Citric acid: 3 oz
    Caffeine: 1 oz
    Sugar: 30 (unclear quantity)
    Water: 2.5 gal
    Lime juice: 2 pints, 1 quart
    Vanilla: 1 oz
    Caramel: 1.5 oz or more for color

    The secret 7X flavor (use 2 oz of flavor to 5 gals syrup):
    Alcohol:  8 oz
    Orange oil: 20 drops
    Lemon oil: 30 drops
    Nutmeg oil: 10 drops
    Coriander: 5 drops
    Neroli: 10 drops
    Cinnamon: 10 drops

    See instructions HERE at the NPR site.  Make at your own risk! 

    Image: zirconicusso /