Happy Valley Chow

gour-mand (noun): one who is excessively fond of eating and drinking

Filtering by Category: "Bacon"

Corn Chowder

Over the past few months I have had the great pleasure of working with some great companies and demoing their products. To me, the most important thing in the kitchen is the chef knife. If you find yourself asking "I want to become a better cook, what should I buy" the first thing I recommend is a good quality knife. Instead of spending $100+ on a mediocre knife set, take that money and buy one really good knife. Typically a good quality chef knife, like Henckel or Wusthof, is going start around the $100. Since Christmas is going to be here before you know it, why not ask for a new chef knife! If you are looking to upgrade your kitchen knife, then head over to Chef Knives To Go, they have the best knife selection bar none! They were kind enough to hook me up with the best knife I have ever used, a Takeda Gyuto AS 240mm and Takeda Hand Held Whetstone

Takeda Blacksmith was founded in 1920 and moved to Niimi, Okayama (Japan) in 1951 and produce hand-forged blades and tools such as kitchen knives, hoes, hatchets, etc. The third generation master blacksmith, Shosui Takeda has succeeded in forging blades from the high quality carbon steel, Aogami Super Steel (AS). The blades consist of "AS", forged in its entirety by hand, as it has been done for generations. Each blade holds its edge extraordinarily well and resharpens easily. All his knives have 50/50 edges and octagonal handles so they are good for either right handed or left handed users.

This knife is incredible, by far the best knife I have ever used. It cuts through anything like butter and makes your life so much easier in the kitchen. It honestly feels like the blade actually gets sharper every time I use it, which I didn't think was possible. The Aogami Super Steel has really high blade retention, you are spending less time on a whetstone trying to keep the edge. The build quality of the knife is superb and you can feel it when you use the knife. Check out this video of them making Takeda Knives:

The Takeda Hand Held Whetstone is very easy to use for home users or professionals. All you do is place a wood board or a cutting board diagonally to you and put the kitchen knife on it with the edge about 1 cm over the board. Then take the whetstone and after getting it wet, you move the stone over the knife back and forth over the entire blade. Flip the knife for double edged knives and repeat. The grey side is a medium grit stone and the white side is a fine grit stone for finishing. The wood stick in between is not for holding but rather to protect your wrist. Typically with a whetstone you lay it down on a work surface and slide the blade of your knife across. I am still trying to get used to this sharpening technique, especially trying to keep the angle right. But, like my saxophone professor always said, "It's not practice makes perfect...it's perfect practice makes perfect" and I'm sure I'll get the hang of it soon. So far, I love both products. Onto the recipe!

Corn Chowder

I figured the best way to really test my Takeda is to make a soup with a lot of vegetables and chopping. So here you go, a nice and hearty corn chowder. I also love going to Panera and getting their broccoli cheese soup in a bread bowl. So, I ran down to the local Panera and picked up some sourdough bread bowls. Enjoy!

  • 6 ears of corn, 4 cups frozen kernels
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 slices of bacon, chopped 
  • 1 1/4 cup onion, minced
  • 1 cup red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1/2 tsp garlic, minced
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 3 cups yellow potatoes, diced
  • 3 cups tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 4.5 oz canned chilles 
  • 1 cup monterey jack
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • tabasco sauce, to taste

In a blender or food processor, add the heavy cream and 3 1/4 cups corn kernels, puree the mixture until smooth. Reserve the other 3/4 cup of corn kernels. 

Heat a dutch oven over medium high heat and add in the chopped bacon. Cook until crisp, about 8 min. Add in the onion, red pepper, celery and garlic. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. 

Add in the chicken stock, potatoes, tomatoes, corn and chilies. Bring to a simmer, cover and let simmer until potatoes are fork tender. About 20 minutes. 

Add in the corn and cream mixture, tabasco, monterey jack, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for another 5 minutes until every thing is hot and.

Kitchen Word of the Day

A mirepoix can be a combination of celery, onions, and carrots. There are many regional mirepoix variations, which can sometimes be just one of these ingredients, or include additional spices. Mirepoix, raw, roasted or sautéed with butter or olive oil, is the flavor base for a wide variety of dishes, such as stocks, soups, stews and sauces. The three ingredients are commonly referred to as aromatics.
Similar combinations of vegetables are known as holy trinity in Creole cooking, refogado (braised onions, garlic and tomato) in Portuguese, soffritto (onions, garlic and celery) in Italian, sofrito in Spanish, suppengrün (soup greens) in German (usually purchased in bundles and consisting of a leek, a carrot and piece of celeriac), and włoszczyzna in Polish, and typically consists of carrots, parsnips, parsley root, celery root, leeks, cabbage leaves, and sometimes celery and flat-leaf parsley.

Father's Day Extravaganza

As most of you know, Father's Day is coming up here in a few weeks (June 17th if you forgot). Here are a few awesome gift idea's, plus recipes that you can use with these gifts. I recently just got two demo products from the kind people over at Molecule-R and SousVide Supreme that would be perfect for the Father who loves to cook. 

Molecule-R is a Canadian based company with the purpose of bringing the molecular gastronomy world into the home kitchen. In recent years, molecular gastronomy has revolutionized the world of haute cuisine by pushing back the boundaries of creativity. Up to now, creating avant-garde dishes was reserved for a small culinary elite as amateur cooks simply did not have access to these types of  products. Be sure to check out their website for great gift kits!

SousVide Supreme has quickly evolved into a leading culinary brand for sous vide cooking, for both home cooks and culinary professionals, offering a full range of affordable water ovens, vacuum sealers, sous vide accessories and cookbooks. The products have received rave reviews from users around the world; the SousVide Supreme water oven itself was awarded "Best in Category for Cooking Electrics" at the 2011 Housewares Design Awards and was named a 2010 Best of What's New product by Popular Science Magazine. Be sure to check out their website for great gift ideas! 

Molecular Burger

Sous-Vide Burger Ingredients 
  •  24 ounces freshly ground beef
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves thinly sliced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 slices cheese
  • 4 hamburger buns
  • Ketchup & Mustard Spheres, recipe follows
Preheat SousVide Supreme to desired final temperature (120 degrees for rare, 130 degrees for medium rare, or 140 degrees for medium). 

Divide meat into four equal 6-ounce portions and gently shape each into a patty. Season generously with salt, pepper, and lay slices of garlic on top of each patty. Place patties in individual sandwich-sized zip-lock bags. Seal bags, leaving one-inch open at top corner. Slowly lower bags one at a time into pot of water by holding onto the open corner. Press air out of bag as it is submerged. Seal bag just before last corner is submerged. This is also known as water displacement method. You don't want to vacuum seal the patties because it will compress the meat to much. Add the burgers to the SousVide Supreme and cook for at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours (do not cook burgers longer than 4 hours if your temperature is below 130 degrees).

Remove burgers from bags and carefully dry on paper towels. Season again with salt and pepper. Heat 12-inch cast iron skillet over high heat with vegetable oil until oil begins to smoke. Add patties and cook until well browned on first side, about 45 seconds. Flip patties (add cheese as desired) and cook until second side is well browned, about 45 seconds longer. Place patties on buns, top with condiments as desired and serve. 

Ketchup & Mustard Spheres Ingredients
  • 2/3 cup ketchup 
  • 2/3 cup mustard
  • 1/2 cup water, divided 
  • 2 sachets of Agar Agar, from Molcule-R Culinary Revolution Kit
  • 3 cups of vegetable oil, divided 
Divide vegetable oil (1.5 cups each) into separate containers, I used drinking cups. Place in freezer for 30 min.
You will need two small sauce pans, one for the mustard and one for the ketchup. In the first sauce pan place the Ketchup, 1/4 cup of water and 1 sachet of Agar Agar, whisk and bring to a boil. Repeat process for mustard. Make sure you whisk them to remove any clumps of Agar Agar. Once boiling, remove from heat. 

Remove vegetable oil from freezer. Using the pipette provided by the Molecule-R Culinary Kit, pipe up some of the ketchup mustard and add drops of the ketchup to the cold vegetable oil. The droplets will slowly sink through the oil and encapsulate. Using the provided slotted spoon, gently remove the ketchup spheres from the oil and put into a water bath to rinse. Repeat steps with remained Ketchup and Mustard. When dropping the mixtures into the oil, drop them from from a distance. This will help the spheres break the surface tension and drop to the bottom. Depending on how many sphere's you make, you might have to change the water bath. I found that residual oil gathered on the water surface make the spheres clump together when removing. Remove from water bath, drain as much water off as you can with the slotted spoon and use as needed.

Molecular "Egg Sandwich"
If your Father and/or Husband is a Nerd and loves to cook, he's going to love this and the Molecule-R Kits
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 slices thick cut bacon
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 Sodium Alginate sachet
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 Agar Agar sachet
  • 2/3 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 1 1/4 cup Mango, diced
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp calcium lactate
  • 4 slices marble pound cake (I got mine at Starbucks)

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F. Line a broiler pan with aluminium foil, and position broiler rack on top of pan. Lightly coat the rack with the vegetable oil. 

Combine the brown sugar and cayenne in a shallow dish, stirring to incorporate. Press 1 side of each slice of bacon firmly into the spiced sugar to coat well. Arrange the slices of bacon on top of the broiler rack in a single layer, sugar-side up. If there is any sugar remaining in the dish, sprinkle it on top of the bacon slices evenly. Bake until the bacon is crisp and bubbly, 20-30 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain briefly, then to a plate to cool. After bacon has cooled, transfer to a cutting board and large dice the bacon. Set aside, you can make this several hours in advance and serve either warm or at room temperature. 

Using either a blender or hand blender combine the 2 cups of water and sodium alginate sachet and blend. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for 15 min. In a small sauce pan whisk the milk and agar agar together and bring to a boil. Place the yogurt and milk mixture in a liquid measuring cup (with a spout) and mix together to incorporate. On a large, flate plate or baking sheet. Pour a thing layer of the yogurt and milk mixture into the center of a large circular cookie cutter. Repeat this until you have 4 even circles. You may need to pick up the plate and tip it to make an even layer for the "egg white." Refrigerate for 2-3 minutes until set. Remove from fridge and add a second smaller circle in the middle of the larger, you're trying to get that egg white look with the raised center. Refrigerate until ready to use. 

Place the mango, sugar and calcium lactate into a blender and puree until smooth. Remove the sodium alginate bath from the fridge and spoon 1 Tbsp of the mango mixture into the bath. Be gentle and try to make them look like an egg yolk. Repeat this to get 4 mango yolks. Turn the yolks making sure it is coated with the sodium alginate and let in bath for 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, gently remove the mango yolks from the SA bath and transfer them to a water bath. Swoosh them around to remove the excess sodium alginate.

Take your same large cookie cutter that you used for the yogurt egg whites and cut out the circular pieces of pound cake. Plate the pound cake, using a pastry spatula gently transfer the yogurt egg whites onto the top of the pound cake, then add your mango egg yolk on top and sprinkle with the candied bacon. Serve and impress!

Song of the Recipe

Being a Father's Day themed post, I figured this would be an appropriate song. I love this version with James Brown and Luciano Pavarotti. Two amazing talents, but completely different. 

Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignon

As most of you know, this has been a very emotionally draining week in Happy Valley. So what better way to lift our spirits than some soul food! Food that no matter what is going wrong in our life will make us forget for a brief amount of time what's going on in the outside world. This is definitely one of those dishes. A beautiful piece of filet mignon, wrapped in bacon, nestled in creamy smoked cheddar grits, topped with a spicy cajun hollandaise sauce. Bon Appétit!


For the Grits

  • 3 cups Water
  • Salt
  • 3/4 cups quick cooking or old-fashioned grits (not instant!)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 ounces grated smoked white Cheddar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
For the Filet Mignon
  • 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
  • 2 Filet Mignons (4-6 ounces); at room temperature
  • Salt, Pepper & Garlic Powder to taste
  • 2 Slices of bacon
For Cajun Hollandaise Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Spanish paprika
  • 2 teaspoons New mexican chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon chile de arbol
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, clarified and melted
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Dash Worcestershire sauce


Preheat oven to 400°F

In a saucepan bring the water to a boil. Add a generous teaspoon of salt and the grits and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. When grits thicken, add the milk, cream and butter and return to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, partially cover the sauce pan and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until grits are very tender, smooth, and creamy-thick. Add the Cheddar, season with black pepper, and stir until cheese is melted.

While your Smoked Cheddar Grits are simmering, heat 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil in a medium sauté pan. Generously season your filet mignon with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Next we want to wrap the strips of bacon around the outside of the filets. You want to wrap the bacon fairly snug around the filet in order to give the it a nice cylinder shape. The ends of the bacon should over lap and adhere to each other enough that it won’t come apart. If the bacon doesn’t stick together, slide a tooth pick in or wrap a piece of butchers twine around to keep it in place. Once your oil is nice and hot, we want to sear both sides of the filet until it’s nice and caramelized, about 2 min per side. Place steaks on a broiler pan and bake until internal temperature is 130° (Medium Rare). Please, for the love of god, don’t cook these beautiful pieces of meat to well done.

Filet's brought to Room Temperature

Filet's seasoned and wrapped in bacon

Filet's post sear

Stir together the paprika, chile powder, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, oregano, chile de arbol, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Place the egg yolks and lemon juice in a medium stainless steel bowl, set over a pot of simmering water not touching the bottom of the bowl. Whisk the yolks until pale yellow and fluffy. Slowly add the clarified melted butter, a few tablespoons at a time and whisk until thickened. Season the sauce with 2 teaspoons of the spice mixture, salt, and pepper, and a dash Worcestershire sauce. Keep warm until ready to use. Hollandaise Sauce is a challenging sauce to make and does take some practice. If you are having trouble, refer to this video to aid in visualizing the techniques: Hollandaise Sauce Video

Kitchen Word of the Day

Tempering To bring to a desired consistency, texture, hardness, or other physical condition by or as if by blending, admixing, or kneading. 

In the case of this recipe we are talking about the temperature of the Filet Mignon. In general, tempering is very important when cooking any meat. Before we sear, bake, broil, sauté, fry any meat it is important that we bring it to room temperature. Think about it, in every cooking method we are setting the device to a certain temperature. If we add a cold or frozen piece of meat to that pre-heated device, we will in fact lower the temperature. Tempering your meat before cooking aids in lowering the cooking time and cooking your protein evenly. 

<script type="text/javascript" charset="utf-8">

                        var disqus_forum_url = 'happyvalleychow';


                    <script type="text/javascript" src="http://mediacdn.disqus.com/1364932970/embed/squarespace.js"></script>

                    <script type="text/javascript" src="http://disqus.com/forums/happyvalleychow/embed.js"></script>