Archive for Comfort Food

Everybody loves Cauliflower! OK, not everybody – but you’ll love *this* cauliflower

Who wouldn't love this cute little cauliflower head?

Who wouldn’t love this cute little cauliflower head?

Cauliflower is a tricksie beast.

Some of us love it – some of us (shudder) even eat it raw. With relish. We like it roasted, we like it boiled, we like it sauteed. Some of us are indifferent to cauliflower’s taste, but eat it because the truth is, cauliflower is a nutritional powerhouse.

But some of us Don’t Like Cauliflower. There is nothing that can be done to this mild-mannered crucifer to make it lovable and delicious to us – even its tempting nutritional characteristics are not enough.

Until now.

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You’re so cheeky! Tacos con carne mejillas – respect for your ingredients

A few sprigs of cilantro garnish your taco

A few sprigs of cilantro garnish your taco

Today, cooking is often filled with one-upmanship. Better – or more unusual – spicings. Less common, more technical or just plain cooler preparation methods. Exotic ingredients. Recipes that read like a novel.

Know what I mean?

And that’s. . .OK! I love seeing all the different things brilliant, creative chefs come up with to transform simple ingredients into astonishing dishes.

But sometimes, just cooking a great ingredient simply, with a lot of respect and maybe even a little love,  is all you need to do to create an amazing dish. So it was with my beef cheeks.

I had about 2 lbs. of beautiful beef cheek – a bit of ultra lean muscle from a grass fed organically raised cow.  Beef cheeks are a pretty unusual cut for your average American supermarket, so I didn’t try to get them there. I found them at our local Farmers’ Market, straight from a happy, grass-fed mostly-organic cow. You can also find them – or order them – at most butcher shops.

When confronted by an unusual ingredient or a cut that’s not often used, chefs often succumb to the urge to tart things up a bit. With beef cheeks, you can marinate them. Dry rub and refrigerate them overnight in plastic wrap. Or without plastic wrap. Create an exotic sauce with multiple dried peppers that’s also a marinade. Cook them sous vide with a ton of spices and aromatics. Sear them, slice them, poach them – the methods are endless.

All these things – don’t get me wrong – are good and some of them are very good indeed. When great chefs get creative, they can fashion extraordinary dishes from simple ingredients.

But I wanted to go for a simple preparation method as well. Something that wasn’t fussy, but that was as good as anything you could get by fussing.

Here’s what I came up with – a method that blends utter simplicity and foolproof cookery with a few reasonable seasonings for a rich, totally delicious  dish that will disappear so fast it’ll make your head spin. Read on for recipe and a bonus recipe too. Here at Calorie Factory, we aim to please! Read the rest of this entry »

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What to do with all those bits of leftover cheese? Why, make Fromage Fort, of course!

Tidbits from the cheese drawer

Tidbits from the cheese drawer

I confess to being a bit of a hoarder. I have a large book collection that seems to grow larger all the time, even though I do have a Kindle e-reader. I have pots and pans galore because – pots and pans!

And I am a compulsive and inveterate collector of cheeses.

It’s nearly impossible for me to walk by a well-stocked cheese shop – or the well stocked cheese section of my favorite supermarkets – without buying something. Really – I mean, c’mon!! They’re just waiting for me, glistening and shimmering on the shelves.

And I know I want them.

If you’re French, you may well buy a nice fresh baguette each day, or perhaps every other day. You eat the baguette and all is well. Me, I buy a nice fresh baguette every few days and then eat some of it. Not all, but some.

This leaves a perfectly good baguette in the bread drawer, where it rapidly turns into a baguette-shaped brick.

Lately, I’ve been telling my wife – “Bread crumbs!! There is nothing like fresh ground bread crumbs.” Wordlessly, she points to the multiple containers of breadcrumbs already in the pantry. OK, so I do get a little bit carried away – but I’m in rescue mode!

You can imagine how cool it was to find that – like the bread crumb stratagem – there is a rescue – a delicious rescue – for the many bits and pieces of leftover cheese that are too nice to throw away.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Breakfast Scramble – Seasonal Feasting

Last year,  we spent a few days in Portland and stopped by Navarre for a bite of breakfast. Navarre is a Spanish style cafe with Basque influences. In my admittedly limited experience it’s one of the best restaurants of its kind – or any kind – in Portland.

In the morning, Navarre does omelets, but they aren’t really omelets – they’re called scrambles. A scramble, apparently, is an omelet that is shaken, rather than stirred – an omelet that  does not fold neatly over a tidy packet of whatever-you’re-using-as-filling, but whose fillings are precisely chopped and dropped into the pan with the eggs, then folded about, hither and yon, ultimately forming a lovely, cohesive whole.

After leaving Navarre, I vowed to recreate their techniques for preparing this seemingly simple, yet beautiful and delicious dish. I  think I’m making progress. Here are a few ideas, a recipe and some photos to show you where I’m now at with this dish.

By the way,  scrambles like this make wonderful Breakfast for Dinner meals! Read the rest of this entry »

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Experiential Cookery – Savory Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Fritters. Or maybe they’re pancakes.

Side View - Asparagus Smoked Salmon Fritter / Stuffed Pancake

Side View – Asparagus Smoked Salmon Fritter / Stuffed Pancake

What is the difference between fritters and pancakes? What’s in a name? A batter of flour, milk, and eggs is common to both, although the flour may be amended by almost any additional starch, such as potato, and enhanced by rising agents such as baking soda or baking powder.

You make a pancake by frying a small amount in a pan to form a thin cake (a cake fried in a pan, aha!), which you can offer a slightly Continental flair by calling it a crêpe.

But it’s still a pancake.

You will typically serve this basic pancake with butter. Sugar. Maple syrup! Distilled fruit juices. You can even fill it up by folding or rolling it around something. Like bananas. Or blueberries. Or. . .Bacon!!

So that’s a pancake. If you dip a filling in the raw batter, then fry it up, voila! You have a fritter. Now this is – of course – more of a guideline then a rule, but you see where we’re going with this. My take, after much observation of fritterists and pancakistas is that:

If there’s more stuff than batter, it’s a fritter. If there’s more batter than stuff, it’s a pancake. Pancakes and fritters have both been around for a very long time – see the recipe snipped below. Read the rest of this entry »

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Recipes: Algorithms or Heuristics – Pad See Ew – Factory Style

Pad See Ew - in the Wok, almost ready to serve

Pad See Ew – in the Wok, almost ready to serve

Heuristics, Algorithms and Recipes, Oh My!!

Some people like recipes that are algorithmic – in fact, most recipes are algorithmic. So many tablespoons of this, a cup and an eighth of that, 14oz. of flour – cook for 25 minutes at 387 ° Fahrenheit – you know the drill.

The thing is – ovens vary – 375 in one oven is 352 in another, and one person’s fast simmer is another’s medium boil. A cup – sure, that’s a cup, but you know, the real way to measure is with weights, and my cup of flour might outweigh yours by 15-20%!!

In that spirit, I offer this yummy heuristic recipe for Pad See Ew. Fat rice noodles with meat and egg and gai lan (Chinese broccoli), dark soy, onions and a few other condiments, this is street-food comfort food at its best. OK, you can use broccolini. Or, if it’s around, you can even use broccoli – standard, beautiful broccoli – if you just cut the stems into long thin strips and split the florets into 3-4 pieces, depending on their size. Read the rest of this entry »

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The loving kindness of gentle eggs

When they won't drip off the fork, they're ready!

When they won’t drip off the fork, they’re ready!

Years ago, my wife was ill and – as is sometimes the case with sick people – was rejecting food. Too spicy! Too bland! Too crunchy! Too much like – food!

I have a strong feeding instinct and it was being balked. Then, as in a dream, I saw it – a savory egg custard. What sickie would not love such a thing!!?

But – a traditional egg custard would not have the texture I felt she wanted and I felt it needed a little updating.

I soon found myself in the kitchen making what we now call gentle eggs. Our son asked me what I was making that took so much stirring and I said something like “Oh, I’m stirring them a lot, but I’m stirring very gently!” to which he responded, “So – these are “gentle eggs”, then?”.


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Snack Food as an Art Form – Tortilla Espagnole


An elegant potato frittata - a national snack food!

An elegant potato frittata – a national snack food!

I was lucky enough to win the blue ribbon at our local Culinary Art Society monthly dinner gathering with this dish – a rich, elaborate potato frittata that is one of the most popular types of tapas in Spain today. I adapted this recipe from one shared by Bobby Navarro (100eats100days).

I remain convinced that it is not necessary to fry the onions in the large semi-deep-fry amount of oil (see the recipe below) that you’ll later use for your potatoes. Proponents of the “cook the onions in the deep pool of oil” note that this will give the potatoes a better, more onion-y flavor.

I don’t think so, but I was in a hurry, and so – I cooked to the recipe’s indicated technique. Next time I make these, I’m going to try an entirely different technique and will report back to you on how it turns out!

This is the classic Spanish tapas and is something you will see (we did!) at virtually every place in Spain where tapas are sold or given away. I’ve tarted it up a little with some good local chorizo and a little homemade sofrito.

I love how the Spanish have transformed snacking into an art form. In the States, snack food is a mercilessly commercial operation, where we are besieged with engineered snack foods designed to turn us into, well, mindless munchers. In Spain, snacking – tapas – is an art form that celebrates local ingredients, unusual and beautiful preparations and regional culinary heritage.

Makes enough for 2 tortillas, about 50-60 small wedges as tapas. Served with chorizo and homemade sofrito.


  • 3 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes (or use any waxy potato), peeled and sliced into approx. 1/8th” slices
  • 3 large sweet yellow onions, peeled, halved and sliced into very thin slices
  • 14-16 large eggs (depending on the actual size!)
  • 1-1/2 T coarse salt (I used Kosher)
  • Half a sweet red pepper, chopped
  • ½ lb. chorizo (sausage style, not cured)
  • 1 Pint homemade sofrito
  • Olive oil for frying, so no need to use expensive Extra Virgin, whose flavors will be lost in the fry!


Put potato slices in a large bowl of warm water for about ten minutes or so to remove surface starch. Strictly speaking, this is not required, but it makes for much easier frying and a cleaner tortilla. Treat your potato slices like this and they will not stick to the pan or to other slices!

Remove from water, spin dry, then pat dry with paper towels.

Heat about 1” of oil in a good sized fry pan. Note: You can re-use this oil and not that much of it stays with the tortilla! It should be hot enough that an onion slice sizzles immediately after being dropped in.

Fry sliced onion until it begins to turn a little golden, about 8-10 minutes.

When the onion is almost done, add the red pepper and stir fry for another minute or so until the pepper has softened.

Remove onions with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined container. Try to shake off as much oil as possible from onions, and then turn them once or twice in the paper to make sure as much oil as possible is removed.

Using the same oil put about half the potatoes into the pan and fry them until they’re puffy and golden, about 10 minutes. Move them about a bit with a heatproof spatula or tongs, so they cook evenly.

Remove potatoes with slotted spoon, again shaking off as much oil as possible, and add to onion mixture. I like to put another paper towel or two on top of the potatoes briefly to remove additional oil, but it’s not required.

Repeat with remaining potatoes. Sprinkle with 1 T of the salt or to taste (mine is for a little bit more salt), turning gently to let salt come in contact with as much of the mixture as possible.

In a large bowl, lightly whisk eggs and mix with the remaining salt. You want to mix them a bit, but not so much that they homogenize entirely and get runny.

Mix the potato onion mixture with the eggs and fold in gently

Heat a medium sized nonstick fry pan and add a little of the olive oil from the potatoes. Add half the egg potato mixture and fry gently over medium heat, stirring a little with a spatula. When the eggs have just begun to set up, turn heat to low and cover the pan. Cook another few minutes until eggs are set, but still a bit loose.

Put a large plate over the pan and invert the pan over the plate, plopping the omelet into the plate. CAREFUL, there’s hot oil here! Slide the omelet back into the pan and cook for another few minutes until both sides have been lightly browned.  As Julia Child says “Flipping anything is an act of faith.” Have courage – this will work for you!

Slide tortilla out of the pan onto a cutting board and let cool. Repeat with rest of egg potato mixture. Slice into thin wedges for tapas.

If desired, top each wedge with a little fried chorizo, add a small thin piece of manchego cheese atop each wedge, and serve on top of slices of baguette, cut on the bias and lightly toasted or grilled. Spread a bit of your homemade sofrito on each baguette slice before arranging the tortilla wedge – you’ll be glad you did!

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There Are Two Kinds of Cooks in the World – Stuffed Scalloped Potatoes Gratin

Stuffed, Scalloped Potatoes with Kale Salad

Stuffed, Scalloped Potatoes with Kale Salad

No. Really. Two kinds. And hang on for a moment, because towards the end of this piece, we’re going to talk about what they are. But first, let’s talk stuffed scalloped potatoes.

They are astonishingly good, you can make them in a wide variety of ways – they’re one of those dishes that can be elegant and mannered or real refrigerator cleaners. And I mean that in the very best of all possible ways. Read the rest of this entry »

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Factory Pot Roast and Roasted Root Vegetables

Pot roast gets a bad rap in some circles. “Diner Food”, “Boring”, “Old Fashioned”, “Gramma’s Dinner Choice”, and other, equally vile epithets. I’m here to tell you that properly done, a good pot roast is a sublime thing of joy. The aroma alone makes the house sing “Dinner is cooking and you’re gonna Love It!” and the simplicity and accessibility of the dish means most eaters will dive right in with no qualms.

I’ve made pot roast perhaps two dozen times in the past decade – about twice a year is my average. Last night my audience of critical eaters was kind enough to let me know that this pot roast was the best to date. Doncha love that “to date” thing – you could probably do better, improvement is always possible, but so far, this is the one!” But I digress. . .point being, they really really liked it.

And I know why.

I’ve tried searing the meat, not searing the meat, cutting the roast into pieces, leaving it whole, using flour to dredge the meat, leaving the meat undredged, using no seasoning other than salt and pepper, using a variety of different seasonings, using boiling water, using boiling beef broth, adding tomato, not adding tomato, cooking in the oven, cooking on the stovetop, cooking with X-ray lasers. OK, I’m lying about the X-ray lasers, but wouldn’t it be cool?? Read the rest of this entry »

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