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Mack's Corner

This Week


Anytime I go out of town you can bet I'm going out to eat. I almost won't go unless there's someplace good to eat. It doesn't matter who I'm with or if they want to go or if I'm by myself, I'm going. I'll catch a cab, walk, dress up, whatever it takes. So when I was in Chicago in a few years ago you know what was on my mind. The hard part was picking the place. People go to New York, Chicago, San Francisco, New Orleans and ask me "Mack, what's a good place to eat?" I usually write down 20 places for them and they end up at some tourist place with all-you-can-eat pop-corn shrimp... I was there on a Monday and Tuesday night so some places were closed, that narrowed it down to 10. I had always wanted to eat at a place that did "molecular food" like Alinea or Moto in Chicago or WD-50 in New York. Alinea was closed= easy choice. The Chef was Homaro Cantu.… I rode the "L" and walked 8 blocks to the restaurant. The whole area was a little strange. Several nice restaurants on one side of the street and what looks like several trucking companies on the other… loading docks, forklifts, 25 trucks backed in, old buildings.. I walked in the restaurant. All the waiters and front desk girls are wearing black suits, black shirts and black ties. The inside is very modern, lots of stainless steel, oak on all of the walls with the grain running sideways. Everything is square. They had called me that morning to ask if I was having the 10 course menu or the 20 course menu. That was the only choice I had. I figured I could get the whole experience in 10 courses… The first thing they bring you is the Menu. It's printed on a piece of flat bread with some pesto on the plate.. you eat the menu… The menu reads: Snow man(cheviche with lime foam that looked like a snowman and orange sauce) , White Steel, Maitake & Pork (this was great, one of the best things I've ever tasted, braised pork belly with a caramel Asian sauce), Quail with Cracker Jack(real cracker jacks), Rabbit maki, Reuben lasagna(5 layer Reuben about an inch square), Mexican cannoli(braised pork in a cannoli), Strawberry & Lavender(dessert #1), Cherry yogurt(dessert #2), Tuber melanosporum(dessert #3)…. They added a few other things in between, things that had smoke coming out of the top of a beaker and other strange things  …. I was sitting there by myself so I was watching the waiters between courses. They were doing things that I had seen at The French Laundry  7 years earlier. Things like having 4 waiters bring 4 plates to a table with 4 people and the lead waiter nodding when it was time to put the plates down all at once. Then the lead waiter would announce the dish while the others left. They changed the silverware after every course. If you ever got up they would come fold your napkin and put everything back like it was before you ever got there. As the restaurant began to fill up I started trying to guess what the waiters were going to do. It was very entertaining .. When I left I emailed a Chef buddy of mine and told him how much the service was like his restaurant from 7 years ago. He only had one question: "How was the food?" He didn't care about anything else, the service, the building, the plates, all of that was just details. He knew the Chef and the restaurant, he wanted to know about the food. He didn't care if I was eating in a truck stop or in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel, he wanted to know what I thought about the food. Nothing else was important ..

God's like that: He doesn't care how you dress or what church you go to. He doesn't care if you talk a lot about being a Christian or keep it to yourself. He doesn't care about what you've done in the past to screw up your life or if you were raised in a Christian home. All of that is details. Here's his only question: "How's your Faith?" .. do you believe what God tells you? Do you trust your life to him? … How's your Faith? Nothing else is important …

How was the food? Great! And not as strange as I thought it would be … I think I'll have Cracker Jacks and Foie Gras with prune foam for lunch today … yum!

Cooking 220 - 2 pans, 2 burners, 20 minutes:

Cooking at Home Continued …

Here's another great summer recipe from Stephan Pyles' cookbook "New Tastes From Texas".

Tomato salad with mozzarella and garlic-chile croutons.

For the salad:

1 cup of mixed greens

1 medium red tomato cut in to 1 inch pieces (cubes)

1 medium yellow tomato (this is just for looks. 2 red tomatoes is fine) cut in to in inch pieces (cubes)

1 small red onion diced and blanched in boiling water for 30 seconds. (cut it up then throw it in some boiling water for 30 seconds. Then pour it all through a strainer.. keep the onions .

1 1/2 cups fresh mozzarella cut in to 1 inch cubes

Salt to taste

For the Garlic-Chile croutons:

4 slices of french or sourdough bread

3 tbsp olive oil

Salt to taste

1 tbsp roasted garlic puree (4 cloves of unpeeled garlic, 1 tsp olive oil, salt & pepper wrapped in foil. Place in a 300 degree oven for 45 minutes. Squeeze the garlic out of the skin.)

2 tsp chile powder

For the vinaigrette:

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup red wine

3 tbsp chopped fresh basil

1 cup olive oil

Salt to taste

For Molasses-balsamic glaze:

1 cup balsamic vinegar

1 cup molasses

For the Molasses-balsamic glaze: combine in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil and reduce by half. Let it cool ..

For the vinaigrette: whisk together the vinegar, red wine and basil in a small bowl. Slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking (you can also do this in a blender, food processor, mixer or put it all in a big jar and shake till it all combines)… season with salt

For the croutons: Preheat you oven to 350 …Slice the bread in to 1 inch cubes. Combine olive oil, salt, and garlic in a large bowl. Add the bread cubes, mixing thoroughly. Place the seasoned bread on a cookie sheet and bake until they are golden brown - 5 to 7 min … Place the crouton in a bowl and sprinkle with chile powder and toss.

To finish: combine the greens, tomatoes, onion, croutons and mozzarella in a large bowl and toss with the Vinaigrette. Season with salt.

Place 1/4 of the salad in the center of each plate. Spoon the Molasses-balsamic glaze around the outside of the salad… Pepper to taste.  Serve quickly so the croutons don't get soggy…

The croutons, vinaigrette(leave out the basil and add it at the last minute or skip it all together)  and glaze are all things you could make way ahead or, do what I do and just keep it on-hand all the time, it will keep for days (vinaigrette & glaze in the fridge). Then any time you want a great salad rip up some lettuce, slice some tomatoes, add some cheese and you're done… 2 minutes, really healthy and way better than that frozen thing you were going to eat!!! …



Posted by Mack Oates at 10:06