Jiro Dreams of Sushi

The movie of the week:  http://www.magpictures.com/jirodreamsofsushi/

I can’t begin to explain how great this movie is.  If you are a person who appreciates what a person can do with their innate talents, those who just luck into a job and strive to become the utmost of what they do, this is one of those movies for you.

This movie tells the story of Jiro Ono, the owner of a 3 Michelin star restaurant in Tokyo, Japan.  He seeks to perfect his sushi preparation skills, and is considered a National Treasure of Japan. The film also touches upon his two sons, a former apprentice (who I get a feeling that he is downplaying the sons in a slightly smarmy way), his current apprentices, the tradespeople Jiro deals with on his daily basis, and a restaurant critic.

You’re shown how Jiro prepares sushi, some of the techniques he uses and his manner of presentation. Nothing is elaborate, simplicity is the main factor.  Freshness is a mainstay and highlighting the fish itself the goal.

I connected to this movie on both a personal and professional level.  I have attained much knowledge of cooking, and now I am trying to seek the minute details in cooking and am striving for the perfection of flavors/technique.

Jiro’s top five attributes/qualities for a chef:

  1. Take your job seriously to achieve the highest level.
  2. Constantly try to improve.
  3. Keep clean!
  4. Be impatient.
  5. Be passionate.

I saw this first in a theater, but it is also available on Amazon Prime. (And apparently on Netflix, too.  Watch it! (But try to pick a time when you won’t be distracted.)


Chili when it’s chilly

Recently, like in the last two weeks I have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to hear anything in my life…  This was after a long period of being shuffled around by doctors who thought I might have MS.  MS is a much scarier illness to me. I can, and will control this.  I’m also excited. I’ve been slowly working on reducing my portion sizes and reducing the fatty/fried foods from my diet.  I will miss french fries from McDonald’s (who BTW, need more options for sides besides fries or a side salad). In the past year I’ve lost 50 pounds and dropped two sizes (and I’m about to drop down one more). Leaner, healthier proteins, more vegetables, less salt, more herbs/spices. *Sigh* Less pasta, bread and potatoes.

So, this past weekend I decided to make chili.  Not a traditional Texas chili, this had beans. So more of a generic American-style chili.

Turkey chili

I grew up on ground beef with beans style chili.  Ha! Served with cheese and crackers.  I got addicted to Texas red when I lived in Austin. There are many styles inbetween and there’s one for everyone. Well, maybe. My boss M has been telling me of his vegetarian style chili, and sorry, that’s just soup. (Don’t tell him I said that). I do want to try it though.  I just feel that chili should be random cuts of meat (usually beef) slow cooked/braised with onion, garlic, peppers in a tomato sauce. Anything additional is up to the preparer.

Last Sunday I made Turkey Chili.  I added ground pork and a chorizio link.  I roasted jalapenos and a couple of Hatch chilies. I am really glad I have a gas stove now, for the first time in decades.

I love to roast the chilies on the fire…

You need to get them totally black then let them cool a bit and gently remove the blackened part. You can use running water (I try not to).

After that, I saute the garlic in a bit of olive oil, and then add the onion and diced roasted peppers.

I let the onions get a little translucent. Meanwhile in the crock pot, Dave was adding beans (kidney and great northern) and diced tomatoes with chilis and a can of tomato sauce.

To the onion mix I added the ground turkey, ground pork and the chorizo.

I admit it, I use a seasoning packet, Spices are expensive and I feel that too often when you buy spices they generally sit in the cupboard for long periods of time. One reason I love bulk spice sections at the markets for you can get smaller quantities.

Oh yeah, we added Beer, can’t have chili without beer.  This is one Dave picked out. [DAVE SAYS: It’s Newcastle Werewolf, a seasonal blood red ale, delicious and dark.]

To the crock pot we added a green bell pepper…I fee that adding the bell pepper this way slowly adds sweetness to the mix.

After that I added the meat mixture, mixed it well, covered it and let it simmer while I went to sleep  Dave added a couple tablespoons of Ancho chili powder for some more flavor/heat. [DAVE SAYS: Because when I tasted the broth after an hour or two it was flavorful but weak. Three tablespoons of hot chili powder definitely did the trick.] We had it that night with a nice blend of Mexican cheeses and some chips. The next day I had it i with some diced avocado, heaven!

Had to show this again, totally the best chili I have ever made. (Well, out of like three tries).

Meat & Potatoes

This past year Dave and I discovered a new place in town called Meat & Potatoes.  It’s a gastropub located in the theater district in downtown Pittsburgh.  It is small, kinda dark, and has a huge central bar, but it’s still comfy.  When you walk into the actual restaurant you immediately see the bar in front of you, a small private dining room to your left and, to your right, a curved wall of mirrors and small tables with chairs on one side and benches on the other. There’s additional seating on the other side of the bar and outside. The decor is subtle and the music is loud but not enough to cover the conversation of the table next to you (if you feel the need to eavesdrop).

So far we have dined there three times, twice for dinner and once for brunch.  Service all three times has been, well, pretty awesome.  Odd requests, bar or food, do not bother the waitrons or bartenders.  The bar… they sell absinthe.  I have yet to try it.  They have a Bloody Mary bar on Sundays and although I love Bloody Marys, I just haven’t been in the mood for them.

Oh, the drinks. Yum.  What more can you say? I kinda forget what drink is which. The bartenders are damn good.

The appetizers were great. The mushroom risotto was creamy and divine.  The toast with jam and goat butter was sweet and salty and crunchy. The fried pickles were more addictive than I was prepared to believe. (I don’t like dill pickles, and yet these still made me feel happy if slightly unclean). The pate with toast, meh. Plain and simple MEH.  The flat bread pizza was really good. I enjoyed the confit duck with the greens, onions and goat cheese. A great combination.

The first time we went to M&P we had the steak for two. A monster for sure, but a complete and filling meal without being toooo much. Grilled steak with sauteed mushrooms, roasted potato and a bone marrow butter for the sauce. That’s the bone you see there with the nicely piped out bone marrow butter on it.  I gave the bone to my mom’s dog (five stars from him).

The top one is a corned beef eggs benedict with the best side of house made pickles!!! The bottom was a lamb hash. Delish.

A good roast beef sandwich with a cheesy Jarlsberg spread.  I had the gnocchi with mushrooms and peas.

I really love this place.  The menu is a good mix, the specials compliment to the menu without being too far off in taste to be questionable. The service is excellent.  I would come up with a rating system if I felt I needed one. Frankly, if I didn’t like a place, or it was just average I wouldn’t even mention it (unless it was truly horrific).  There are times I wish the pictures tasted as good as the meal. Damn, that risotto was kickass.

Odd Craft Project

A few years go I was married to this Texas Guy, call him O.D. Now O.D. is a great chef. His folks were into cooking too — his mom cooked and his dad ate. She was insecure about her cooking, but it was great! I don’t think she could ever run a restaurant more complicated than a pizza joint or fast food place, but she had skills. Before they passed away, they gave O.D. their Kitchen Aid stand mixer. It had been rebuilt at least twice, and was barely squeeking by when O.D. and I split. He took the stand mixer. I miss that Kitchen Aid mixer, I loved the attachments (even though I only used the sausage one).

Before we split, I did do one crafty thing to that mixer that I knew O.D. would not mind. I painted it.

My Old Kitchen Aid Mixer


You can paint your old mixers too. I used to do glass painting and knew Michael’s arts and crafts stores sold paints to use on porcelain or enamel. It took about a day to paint and dry, and from what O.D. tells me it is still running and looks great.

I still miss making my own sausage.

The Beginning

Lately I’ve been thinking of blogging about my experiences being a chef… specifically a female chef. I love my career and though it hasn’t brought me fame and success (yet), it has introduced me to some pretty awesome folks, served me life-changing meals and allowed me to travel around the country.

I’ll be focusing on the three aspects of food that intrigue me the most: cooking, food in the media, and dining out. I think about all three of these things on a daily basis.

When it comes to cooking I can be strict about certain aspects of the recipes and terminology I use. For instance, a Peach Melba is traditionally a base of vanilla ice cream topped with peaches and a raspberry puree. You could reinvent the Peach Melba in many ways: roasting or grilling the peaches,  doctoring the raspberry puree with spices and seasonings (chipotles, oranges, booze), etc. When I deviate from the standard recipe, I will explain how and why. There are specific reasons why you use certain ingredients for certain dishes and why others should not even be considered. I’ll show you some tips and tricks on preparing dishes successfully and how to tweak recipes if needs be.

Books, movies and music are all parts of the culinary industry. I love to collect pre-1970s cookbooks and I plan to share my choicest finds with you. I’ll also talk about movies, old and new, usually focusing food in the movie and how the characters interact with it. Music is also a part of cooking. Old school chefs prefer a quiet kitchen where the loudest noises come from food preparation, though the current trend seems to be loud kitchens where the staff yells at each other. I’ve worked in both types of kitchens. For some chefs music helps: by knowing how long a song is, you can time your cooking. For other chefs it’s just a distraction.

Dining out is one of my favorite things (I hate doing dishes). I love to see what foods are trending (bacon) and how they filter down from professional chefs to home cooks and amateurs. I love interacting with restaurant staff, both in the front and back of the house.  I’ll talk about how restaurants create specials, what you need to look out for when dining out, and compensation (a big pet peeve of mine). You want something that’s not on the menu? It can be done! Just slip the cook a buck or two! (More on that later.)

I don’t plan on posting on a set schedule, but you can be sure that any given day I’ll experience food in one of these three ways I also like to take food pictures, and just got a video camera to try out too! Suggestions and comments are always welcome.