Sunday, February 28, 2010

Perfect Onion Rings

We celebrated our son’s birthday last night. As is our tradition the honoree picks the menu. I knew onion rings would be one of the choices.

I pretty much have this down to a science but last night I sliced them as thin as possible without using a mandoline (besides, I play it poorly), or slicing any fingers. I used my small fan to blow the sulfuric fumes into the family room, interrupting Olympics watching and appetizer consumption.

I use mostly an Emeril recipe. I referred to this in an earlier January post so I thought I'd share it.

2 large onions sliced very thin, thinner than 1/8 inch

2 cups buttermilk

¼ cup hot sauce, any brand is fine

4 tablespoons Emeril’s Essence

2 cups flour

Candy thermometer

Canola oil (you can also use vegetable or peanut oil)

Mix the buttermilk, hot sauce and one tablespoon of Essence in a bowl.

Place the onions is a 9 by 13 inch pan or baking dish

Pour the buttermilk mixture over the onions, cover with foil and put in refrigerator for at least one hour.

Mix the flour and two tablespoons of Essence in a separate bowl.

Heat the oil in a tall stovetop pan to at least 360 degrees.

Working in batches, thoroughly coat onions in flour mixture and fry for about three minutes. Place each batch on paper towels. Season each batch with more Essence.

Keep a knife handy to fend off errant hands sneaking samples before dinner.

Filets were also on the menu last night. Crisp, thin, deep-fried onion rings are extraordinary on filets.

There are rarely leftovers but once when there were some I used a Ziploc and refrigerated them. Two days later I crisped them up in the oven. Almost as good as freshly fried.

If you have a deep fryer, the kind shown on cooking shows, go for it. I have been able to do French fries and onion rings in my tall stovetop pan.

Important safety tip—do not dispose of or strain the oil back into the container shortly after use. Something bad will happen. Wait until the next morning.

Still working on perfect French fries.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"It's Nice to See You Again, Oprah"

At the San Francisco Writer’s Conference two years ago one of the speakers suggested that the seven most powerful words in publishing were, “It’s nice to see you again, Oprah.” Too true unless your name is Sarah Palin.

At least I can say that I wrote my book.

I could count on one hand the number of authors who don’t fantasize sitting next to Oprah during one of her shows. I am no different. I also know that there are better odds for world peace than Oprah asking me to read my shortest chapter, “A Short History of Guys and the Kitchen.”

Will I send her show my book? Absolutely. Something about nothing ventured.

I was commiserating with a fellow self-published author yesterday (and fellow San Francisco Writer’s Conference attendee) over the daunting odds of selling books in today’s economy and during a downward spiral of people-who-read-books. No bloodletting but massive wringing of hands and primal groans. We are both casting about trying tactics that would have been unheard of even ten years ago.

My next book may be entitled Rogue Marketing for the Self-Published. But it would only see the light of day if I sell enough books to beat those daunting odds. At least those are better odds than appearing on Oprah.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Review Just In

I am expecting two reviews from book review services. The first one is in, from Reader Views.

Guy’s Guide to Domestic Engineering
Reviewed by William Phenn for Reader Views (02/10)

"This funny 269-page book covers every aspect of the stay-at-home man. The man, who has been laid off, fired, phased out or just plain quit his job and is now the homemaker. This book may also apply to the guy whose wife makes twice the money he makes, even when he is working. So rather than put her into a bigger tax bracket, he elects to stay home.

Conveniently broken down into forty exciting chapters, the book can be quickly referenced for answers to any domestic situation and more. From helpful hints on coping with the tragic layoff, to relaxing after dinner and enjoying a fine cigar, “Guy’s Guide to Domestic Engineering” is funny and informative. Since I enjoy cooking, I especially liked, “Recipes for Success.” This section, along with others like, “You’ve Been Jobbed, Separation Anxieties and Adjusting More Than Attitude,” were chapters I could sympathize with. Another favorite was, “BS.” This was the basic cooking chapter that I seriously needed to pay close attention to. “Blanching, Browning Meat and Cooking Steaks,” were just some of the topics covered that I needed to learn more about. “Channeling Your Handy-Manly Side” was still another chapter that I read with due diligence. Since my work in a past life was Automotive Engineering, I was not used to fixing things around the house, I left that to the experts - plumbers did not do engineering and I did not do plumbing.

The book is funny to say the least - a laugh on every page would be more like it. I have high hopes for this very funny volume of domestic duty. It is an easy read, keeps your attention and is very well written. The graphics are hilarious, they complement the book nicely and are placed at good strategic locations.

I highly recommend “Guy’s Guide to Domestic Engineering” by Keith Frohreich to all adults no matter what their situation. I say that because you can never tell when the inevitable can happen, “no one ever plans for it.” I gave it one of my highest ratings of an A and I would like to see every man in America read it because it makes sense while tickling your funny bone."

Plumping Up With Polenta

One of my daily routines is to check in with Mark Bittman’s blog ( In keeping with his “keep it simple” casual cooking style he recently did a video about a polenta dish.

I watched it thinking I might be too hard-headed about such dishes like polenta, couscous and hummus. Hummus is not Hummer discharge, but pulverized chickpeas (garbanzo beans). As I write in my book, Guy’s Guide to Domestic Engineering, guys don’t do couscous or hummus. I was still reserving judgment about polenta.

Polenta is basically a mush made from cornmeal. Parmesan is frequently added. Bittman also added some Italian sausage, suggesting that polenta is very user-friendly. I rarely use cornmeal except for a blended coating with flour for a catfish recipe.

Part of my resistance to dishes like rice, polenta, couscous and hummus stems from a campaign to significantly reduce carbs consumption. PJ and I are not Atkins’ groupies, but Americans’ diets had gotten way out of whack with carb loading. Especially since most Americans don’t run marathons. Even today the infamous food pyramid suggests 300 grams of carb intake per day. Three hundred! Pack that on your thighs and tote it.

Most guys, if wanting the comfort of carbs, will do a half-gainer into a vat of garlicky, buttery mashed potatoes. And none of this girly couscous, hummus, polenta mush.

So with a wary eye I reviewed the cornmeal package. One quarter cup contains 100 calories and 24 grams of carbs. The dietary fiber is less than one gram. There is some dispute about whether cornmeal qualifies as a whole-grain, something PJ and I need to consume more of.

After reviewing the other whole-grain candidates: whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat flour, rolled oats (too much work because after you buy oats you have to drive your car over them), and popcorn, we going with the popcorn since it also fulfills another food group—guilty pleasures. But only after we soak it in butter or live on the edge by shaving some parmesan over it.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Canning Cans

Generally I try to avoid foodstuffs that come in a can. Fresh is always best. That said, it is pretty unavoidable.

The downside of using less canned goods is that I often forget that they are there. Yesterday PJ called late in the day to inform me that she was coming down with a bad cold. She wondered if we had any chicken soup in stock—as in the cupboard. I said yes, knowing that we had some tucked in and around the other cans.

After hanging up I researched the situation. Yes, there were two cans. Something made me look at the bottoms. (Generally guys are notorious bottom watchers.) Both had “use by” dates that probably would have made PJ’s cold seem like a minor itch. A more appropriate phrasing should be, “This will expire you if you don’t use by ____.” Now that these bottoms had my attention I began looking at all of them.

Full disclosure—awareness of canning dates had simply not stayed in any part of my memory depot. That train had left station.

Inventory completed, I threw out fourteen cans including vegetable soup, vegetable and beef broth, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, beef gravy, chicken noodle soup, cream of chicken soup (the texture of hard jello) and fancy crabmeat still left over from my crab cakes recipe creation five years earlier.

Not all canners put a “use by” or any sort of date on their cans, or if they do it is in code. I probably should toss them all.

Supermarket marketers love to temp us with two-for-ones or buying in larger quantities to “save money.” The problem is that you use one or two cans and the rest sit there, for years.

From now on I will buy as needed.

Today PJ took a sick day and once again asked about chicken and vegetable soup. Instead, I found a vegetable soup recipe on Food Network, adapted it, and tossed in a 12-ounce can of chicken breast, well within the date. I didn’t have any chicken breasts thawed.

Next up—it is time for my annual refrigerator cleaning. Yes, I said annual. Don’t look at me in that tone of voice. I’m pretty sure there are some cultures camped in there that would qualify as WMDs.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Following Directions

Over my birthday weekend, both PJ and I were guilty of abusing directions.

PJ volunteered to bake shortcake from scratch. I handed her my shortcake recipe, a Mark Bittman concoction. Most shortcake recipes have two degrees of separation between them.

PJ soldiered forth following the recipe religiously including making a portion much larger than our needs. Since she is math-challenged I felt it best to do it that way even if it meant tossing out the leftovers.

When it came time to portion the batter on the baking pan PJ decided to dollop out five sizeable portions so that our strawberry shortcake treat could be a double-deckers. We don’t do strawberry shortcake often but when we do we make a dessert mountain.

Once in the oven I checked it as it neared its suggested cooking time. Most of the dough was still quite soft and uncooked. I grabbed the recipe. Aha, it suggested using a heaping tablespoon to portion twelve cakes. I pulled the pan from the oven and scooped them onto another pan since they were beginning to char on the bottom. I put them back in the oven at a slightly reduced temperature and baked for another 7-8 minutes. Once cooled, I scrapped the charred bottoms.

Shortcake salvaged. Dessert was a triumph.

Yours truly failed to read the Emeril recipe steps for leg of lamb. I thought I had selected it for its simplicity, though Emeril often uses more ingredients than the words in this blog. This time I didn’t care since on special occasions I spend more time. Duh, the recipe called for marinating the lamb for at least eight hours. This was problematic since I began preparing the rub around 4 PM. So I put the coated leg in the refrigerator at 4:30 and begin giving it deep-tissue massages. That was one relaxed leg of lamb.

I put it in the oven at 6 PM and made another mistake. Trying to make up time because I wanted to eat no later than 7:30, I increased the oven temperature from 400 degrees to 425 degrees. Then I failed to use the meat thermometer until 75 minutes later (for the math-challenged that is one hour and fifteen minutes.) By then the meat was nearly well-done, and with the suggested cooling time of 15 minutes (for you cooking cretins, the meat continues to cook), it was completely well-done by serving time. Our family likes our meat medium-rare. Still tasty, but disappointing.

The lesson is this—unless you are a chef, follow directions, at least the first time. This requires reading and comprehension. Pretty sure you and I had that course in high school.

Candidly, I believe cooking should be a required course in high school, and offered right after that reading and comprehension one.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Birthday Bashing

This weekend is my birthday weekend, though not my actual birthday. (DEG’s age will not be divulged.) As is our custom, when a birthday falls on a weekday we celebrate on the closest weekend.

Domestic Engineer Guys don’t get their birthday weekend off; unless you just won the lottery. If that were true you could hang up your apron and tool belt and hire a live-in chef and housekeeper.

Each year PJ gets to ask THE question: “What would you like to cook for yourself on your birthday?”

Since Friday is procurement day I just finished my menu planning.

Tonight is New York steaks with garlic, butter and thyme, roasted asparagus with dill hollandaise sauce, and fried onion rings. No dessert. The onion ring recipe is compliments of Emeril. You can find it on

Saturday is pesto, diced romas and pancetta on toasted bread (quartered), herb-encrusted roast leg of lamb with garlic roasted fingerling potatoes, pan-roasted broccoli with sliced almonds and garlic, and strawberry shortcake. The pesto is made from scratch, natch.

Sunday is roast chicken with root vegetables. The vegetable lineup includes leeks, carrots, red-skinned potatoes, rutabagas and turnips. They are all roasted together with the whole chicken—a meal in a roasting pan. That vegetable combo is amazing. I also just like saying, rutabaga. It’s a Thomas Keller recipe.

One of my stops today will be at the Wine Exchange in Orange, the best value wine merchant in SoCal. It will be a syrah Saturday, any which way you spell it.

The toasted bread for the Saturday night appetizer is not a canapĂ©. You have to remove the crust to earn that snooty label. Guys don’t do canapĂ©s, or the stilted conversation that goes with them.

PJ has volunteered to make the shortcake from scratch. We already have fresh strawberries here in SoCal. There is a roadside stand one mile from our house.

The one birthday benefit coming my way is a weekend without KP. There is also a one in four chance that our son will do KP one night. If so, I may take a picture for posterity.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Good Day

I know that many of you are sleeping restlessly at night pondering the question, “What does a domestic engineer guy do during the day?”

There are some days when at day’s end I have wondered the same. But yesterday was a good day.

6:30 Coffee.

6:45 Carried on semi-awake conversation with chirpy PJ and shipped her off to work with hug.

7:00 LA Times Crossword.

7:30 Browsed favorite Internet web sites and responded to emails. (I don't want to hear from anyone who did the crossword in fifteen minutes.)

8:30 Breakfast.

9:00 Loaded dishwasher (breakfast plus last night’s dinner dishes).

9:30 Booked a Guy’s Guide to Domestic Engineering advertising campaign, and on-air interview with Indiana hometown radio station.

10:00 Went to post office to mail book to on-air talent who will conduct the interview.

10:30 LA Fitness workout—500 calories burnt.

12:30 Shower.

1:00 Light lunch—leftover Pur-ty Coleslaw with Walnuts (recipe from book).

1:15 Loaded in first laundry load.

1:30 Began paying bills

2:00 Second laundry load, hung up first load.

2:30 Finished bill paying.

3:00 Last laundry load, hung up second load.

3:15 Napped.

3:45 Hung up last load.

4:00 Began drafting this blog.

5:00 Caught up on national news and had a cocktail.

6:00 Fixed dinner.

7:00 Loaded dinner dishes and ran dishwasher.

7:30 Final email check.

8:00 Shut down brain. Don’t need it anyway for network TV programming.

Pretty exciting, huh?

Tomorrow I am thinking of counting the new sprouts on the rose bushes.