Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Long Time Coming

Sorry to people who read my blog, I know it has been a minute since I have posted. I have been so busy with several events and my time has been occupied but the time is here for the post that at least I have been waiting for.

This last week and this weekend was the Bayou Bounty Festival where I put together the Bayou Beast Feast! The festival was all about showing off the gifts that nature can give and the diversity of the venue for many facets! So we camped out from Wednesday until this morning to truly get the whole experience! On the first day, I received a toy to play with for the entirety of the event.

Yes, that's right! One of my smokers for the event was a transformed Volkswagon Beetle. This thing was incredible, even though it took a bit to get the rhythm of logging to keep the heat regulated. Once that pattern came out, it was easy as pig!

Speaking of pig, how does a 17 hour slow and low smoked feral hog sound?

Who cares about the sound, even though the skin crackled oh so crisp; the taste was absolutely to die for! 140 pounds and it was gone to just bones in 4 hours. No better way to show success than people cracking open bones and sucking marrow because there was no more meat!

Many other animals went on at this event and they went even faster. In all, I smoked 1 sow, 6 wild rabbits, 4 nutria (about 18 lbs a piece), a handful of squirrel and dove, venison haunches and backstraps, and 2 suckling pigs! One long day of smoking to feed some very adventurous artists!

I went a bit overboard with one of the suckling pigs. And it was too fun to just type about so I'm going to add some visuals.

Everyone loves Hawaiian style pig so I figured... what the hell! Cavity stuffed with pineapple, lard, fresh ginger, onion, and garlic. On the outside ground ginger, black pepper, alae salt, and brown sugar.

Then more pineapple and to keep that in place, of course I wrapped the whole suckling pig in 4 pounds of bacon! What else you say?!

Stuff it all inside of a banana leaf pouch and smoke it! That pig was out of control awesome!

The event went amazing, everyone had a great time and romance sparked between a girl and a nutria!

It truly was love at first site. AND then love at first bite!

There is something about a girl who chomps a nutria cheek straight off the smoker that is kind of arousing! It is kind of like the girls with guns concept! Now if only I can find a girl into charcuterie and I can go ahead and settle down!

And I promise to everyone that I am back so you will not have to go so long without reading my corny writing and jokes. I am still working on adding instructional videos still, trying to get someone to come film... Continue to follow me on twitter as @ChefGrantKeaton or on Facebook and feel free to send me any suggestions of cuisines you want to adventure next with me. We shall see, until next time, FOLLOW THE FLAVOR!!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Different Venues

Recently I have been thinking about the different venues that a chef can take on throughout his or her career. Many people stick to the kitchen and maybe an on site kitchen, but few wander out into the world. Last week I was cooking on a team for a BBQ festival and that was "okay". Don't get me wrong, the food was amazing, and the reviews were even better. Sleeping on concrete in a parking lot or in a hot trailer is not exactly roughing it. No my friends, the even of a lifetime is coming up for adventurous chefs! Next month I will be participating in a Bayou Beast Feast! Located right here in Houston, Texas, we are cooking a whole feral hog, nutria, squirrel, rabbit, duck, pigeon, etc. Basically we are cooking any kind of meat that can be found around the Bayou! Of course the director of the event Travis and I will be taking creative culinary liberties on every dish to make it more appealing to the general public. Opening people's minds to new types of food is a huge part of what I do and what better to do that with than what a lot of people don't consider meat.

So past the food we need an area for this event so started yesterday building the Hobo Ampitheatre. Yes, that is right, an outdoor movie theatre/venue underneath a bridge on the Bayou! It is still a work in progress but we have built stairs down the entire hill with tiki torches to light the way at night...

A series of tires dug into the ground and a tire swing...

Not shown behind it are a series of 5 wooden swings staggered in between the columns. Also there is the pride of the theatre, the 30 foot tall screen. This thing took 5 tries to get up and my hands are still rope burned from working on this bad boy.

Hoisting this thing up 30 feet with the wind was no easy feat!

I will let you guys know what goes on with it next, it will be epic! I will be doing a play by play on this event so get ready for the excitement! FOLLOW THE FLAVOR!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day After Wine Night Jokes

So I enjoyed myself a bit too much last night and at Goody Goody's Liquor Store in Dallas I had a little too much fun again! So here is a picture blog with my comments because I'm still a little "not right" in the head!

Let's just say there were a lot of jokes to choose from... 1 of 12 aisles

So we all know about the 7 deadly sins and of course, the wine, 7 Deadly Zins...

But now we have two of the sins as well!

AND CAN I GET A "________ _________ " The answer would be...

Actually sir, to get to Woop Woop you need a boarding pass!

Christmas time comes around at the office; need a gift for the brownnoser? How about a nice bottle of Chardonnay!

Or how about for the loose woman of the office?!

Or for the Japanese businessmen in town?

Yeah... I know... I know, too soon! Sorry, like I said, not right in the head today!

My friends wife and I were joking since he can't have red wine we should get this next bottle so we could have a drunken three way (the good kind, not devil's)

The bottle got purchased, though nothing past sharing a bottle will happen haha.

Umm let's see, what else? Oh yes, the wine for the lazy orderer or the snarky restaurateur

Some wine bottles have names like 70s movies...

And others are like movie stars...

They also had a bottle of her nude, but it was 200 bucks for the bottle and 5 dollars per photo!

Yeah, wine labels are fun haha. I'll be back with a street food blog real soon! I PROMISE! Thinking of adding instructional videos still, trying to get someone to come film... Continue to follow me on twitter as @ChefGrantKeaton or on Facebook and feel free to send me any suggestions of cuisines you want to adventure next with me. We shall see, until next time, FOLLOW THE FLAVOR!!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

National Pig Day!!

So, it's the greatest day of the year; no, I am not speaking of Christmas, Halloween or even St. Patrick's Day (a close second). My friends I am speaking of National Pig Day, a tradition that has been going on for the last 39 years! Today is the day we look at our portly friends with eyes not only filled with hunger but also admiration. So brothers and sisters with our universal bacon bond, let us reflect on the perfection that is the pig!

I personally am no stranger to the pig and I show my obvious obsession broadly across my hands!

Our un-kosher friend is frowned upon in some cultures and there is only one thing I can say to them; MORE FOR ME! I have sat down with several chefs throughout the years and a common conversation that almost always comes up is the glorification of the pig. So what makes the pig so perfect of a vessel for the culinary universe? I am going to hit three major areas; versatility, flavor, and cost.

To begin with, the pig, like most animals has the major primal cut areas that produce the best products know to the universe, in my mind anyways. Take a look at this diagram:

Yes I drew it myself but that just adds to the fun!

We have:
1)Chine/Neck, 2)Shoulder, 3)Foreleg, 4)Cutlet/Loin, 5)Forerib/Lean Meat, 6)Belly, 7)Ham/Hind Quarter, 8)Hindleg

There are a few more areas such as the jowl, cheek, feet, ears, etc, all with edible areas but mainly I just wanted to show the many different cuts that can be taken from a pig. Some of the choicest areas have to be the shoulder, loin, and belly! The shoulder is traditionally slow smoked, braised, roasted, pretty much the works to create beautiful pulled or chopped pork found in BBQ, no matter what kind your preference (This chef lives for Carolina BBQ). The belly can be cured and turned into beautiful home fresh bacon as well as used in stews, pretty much anything that can render its beautiful amount of fat content. And of course the loin, which everyone considers the king of cuts, can be cooked in almost any way and unless you are just inexperienced, will come out juicy and delicious. These different cuts have such a variety of flavors that the pig is a universal tool in the kitchen, especially in good southern food the way my Granny used to make it. There is a world of difference in taste from a pork chop to a ham slice, as bacon is to pig's cheek. With different textures, tastes, and fat contents, the pig can pretty much be paired with anything else to enhance a dish! PLUS pork products generally cost less than most cuts of meat, such as beef, venison, and veal.

The pig is truly the king of meats in my mind, hell I butchered a pig today just in honor of the day. So think about your other white meat friend today and partake in some of its offerings! Continue to follow me on Twitter @ChefGrantKeaton and on Facebook, and stay tuned for more blogs. Until then readers, FOLLOW THE FLAVOR!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Chefs vs Critics: The Torture Experience

So tonight I was sitting around with my roommate and we were trying to figure out exactly what to watch. And it hit him, we should watch Bitter Feast; a movie I had no recollection of prior to him saying he acquired it a few weeks back. From what he described, it is a horror film involving a chef and a food critic. I know many chefs who would KILL, pun intended, for an opportunity to get revenge on someone who has sullied their reputation and name, especially if only to be spiteful. In this case, the chef does get that golden wish and man does it intrigue. Honestly, I have to say the movie is not the best food related movie I have seen, in fact it is far behind many, but it has that brilliant theme that kept me watching the entire movie.

Basically here is the plot in a nutshell: Celebrity chef has a TV show and restaurant, loses both because of his pompous attitude and inability to deal with the needs of the public but blames it all on the terrible reviews from the dastardly critic. His profanity flinging former boss, Mario Batali (seriously, no joke, he is in this movie! What a career change from Food Network!), kicks him to the curb and his show is canceled. So he kidnaps the critic and tortures him with his old reviews. THIS IS THE PART I THOUGHT WAS CLEVER!

The chef would give the critic culinary tasks such as making eggs over easy and cooking a medium rare steak that which at one point and time the critic had said chefs could not achieve in his reviews. If not done correctly, he did not get to eat! The chef even has a poisoned dish test involving an open faced ravioli with mulberries and a wild rabbit ragout. One had canned mulberries, the others were fresh. This palate test was to prove that the critic didn't know a damn thing about what he was talking about.

Overall, the movie is not that good but it brought up the concept of testing our critics. Kidnapping, torturing, and brutalizing a critic may seem ideal to some people but for humanities sake, should be avoided... well as best as possible! But why can't we take these critics and put them to the test like they do with us everyday they come into our restaurants, sit at our chef's tables, every time they try to pass judgement on our fares. A critic can make or break someone in this industry, so why can't we make or break them, metaphorically of course.

A TEST! I believe that all food critics should have to pass a test every few years just like anyone in the kitchen does with a servSAFE certification or food handlers license. Who says their palates are not slipping? And with this test, an oath to stay unbiased should be upheld by every blogger, newspaper columnist, and wanna be critic in the industry! So chefs, I have to say keep those knives in the kitchen and not at throats of those who pass judgement, though a reality check once or twice to the critics can change the culinary world.

I'll be back with a street food blog real soon! Thinking of adding instructional videos as well. Continue to follow me on twitter as @ChefGrantKeaton or on Facebook and feel free to send me any suggestions of cuisines you want to adventure next with me. We shall see, until next time, FOLLOW THE FLAVOR!!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Thai Street Curry w/ Recipe

So after my last visit to the Asian market, I was compelled to do the most important task any man or woman has when they have a fresh haul of perfectly fresh Thai basil, palm sugar, and ginger root, make a curry. Curries, especially in Thai food, can be the perfect thing to awaken your senses and allow you to see the true beauty in layers of spice and flavor. I have dreamt about curries some nights just because I know I have the stuff to execute the perfect curry! Well today I am going to share a simple curry recipe that will bring as much joy to you as it has from me. Every bite I take reminds me of the Thai curries that I can get while shopping in the markets, touch of sweet with a kick in the back of the throat spice that brings you to your knees. So put on some kneepads because we are going to cook some curry!


You are going to need:
¼ cup Coconut cream
2 Tbs Red Curry Paste
½ cup Dutch Potatoes
1 cup Thai Eggplant
¼ cup Carrot
1 ¾ cup Coconut milk
2 ½ Tbs fish sauce
1 Tbs grated Palm Sugar
1 Tbs grated Ginger
6 Kaffir lime leaves
Thai basil for garnish
1 fresh Thai chili, seeded

I like to steam my diced potatoes before I make the curry, so get your steamer going with some boiling water and have them cook for about 10 minutes, then add the diced eggplant and carrot for another 5. Steaming the veggies before you make the curry gets them at the perfect doneness and does not risk you over cooking your curry.


Okay so first you are going to put the coconut cream in a medium to large sauce pan and simmer over medium heat until the cream separates just a tad and you can see a thin layer of oil on the top of the cream, about 5-6 minutes. Now take the curry paste and put it in the cream and cook until it becomes fragrant and you can tell that this is going to be one hell of a curry.

I prefer to use Maesri Red Curry Paste when I do not make it from scratch and it is a great go to for the avid lover who does not have the time! Once fragrant, add almost all the coconut milk, minus a quarter of a cup, to the cream and paste. You are shooting for a texture and color like this.

Now add all the veggies in the curry and get them nice and coated with the mixture, about 3 minutes. Add the Kaffir lime leaves, and the fish sauce on top of the veggies and paste and let it simmer for about 5 minutes. Now add the grated palm sugar and ginger and let the whole thing marry as low as you can go for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. While the curry is simmering, make a nice chiffonade of the Thai basil and cut the red chili into small strips as well for garnish. Remove the Kaffir lime leaves before serving!! BIG STEP!! When plating, drizzle a little bit of that saved coconut milk on top to bring out the fresh flavor!

The curry is done after 45 minutes of work, including the steam time for the veggies! Simple, easy and amazing! Serve over rice, vermicelli, PUT IT IN A TACO! This stuff can go on pretty much anything, just keep it away from the eyes! I love how so many simple flavors can come together to make something layered perfectly with sweet, spice, and everything nice. The whole meal feeds 4 hungry customers and comes out to be under 10 bucks! I definitely had my fix and I hope you get yours soon too. Continue to follow me on twitter as @ChefGrantKeaton or on Facebook and feel free to send me any suggestions of cuisines you want to adventure next with me. We shall see, until next time, FOLLOW THE FLAVOR!!

PS I took this to the streets and it was a big hit!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Thai Street Food

I remember the very first time I got a taste of Thai food; my instant reaction, “holy #@$! that’s HOT!!” It’s a lot to take on when you are seven years old but as you mature so does your palette, and what was once your idea of a fireball is now a complex symphony of flavors! Don’t get me wrong, not all Thai food is hot, in fact only certain dishes traditionally are, but there is just something about awakening those endorphins and letting loose on a level 5 Panang curry.
Sadly so far in my travels I have not made it across the Pacific Ocean to Thailand, though it is on my agenda. I joke most of the time, saying the only thing stopping me is the fear of being impaled to death by a falling durian, but really the only thing holding me back is time. One beautiful thing I love about going around the States is that you can find little sub cultures for just about anyone… except the Inuits, I just can’t find any Inuits. Thai neighborhoods exist in Houston and I frequent them often, especially to the Asian markets to get the real deal food. Yeah you can go find a Thai place in any suburban shopping center that will be “okay” but if you want to enjoy the food as well as the experience, you have to go to the source. I know when I’m in the right place when I am one of maybe 10 white people in the entire megaplex.

I like to focus in this blog about how street food can bring so much joy to someone and help eaters understand the culture by submersing themselves into the experience. Sit down restaurants are my passion and I by no mean will ever stop working in professional kitchens but there is something to being on the move, interacting with people and creating memories. This industry is intangible and what better way to take something home from it than a truly remarkable experience! Whether it stopping for a drink made out of Chrysanthemum or choosing between which fantastic looking Satay you are going to be feasting on like a Thai corndog, you are taking those new things and creating a memory. In a Thai street market, you can find 28, yes that’s right, 28 different kinds of bananas! If I weren’t afraid of a Potassium overdose I would try them all in one sitting!

Even past the simple dishes, these Thai markets offer Pad Thai (stir fried egg noodles with eggs, fish sauce, and tamarind plus whatever protein you care) and Hoi Tod (Fried Mussels with sprouts) in a flash right before your eyes. The masterful cook balancing a two pronged approach toward making the Pad Thai, one hand with a label the other a spatula, whizzing across the cast iron kettle top making the food “exist”. 50 seconds and you are in heaven! And the Hoi Tod, oh the Hoi Tod! Mussels dredged in garlic, spring onion, tapioca flour and parsley quick fried like the Pad Thai on a kettle top, hands never stopping the constant tossing of the mussels unless to add more oil or the sprouts. The crisp, flavorful morsels of mollusks cannot be beaten by anything in a restaurant!

My personal favorite Thai street food has to be the curry. Simple and easy, powerful and majestic, it can be taken on the go or enjoyed sat on a bench while people watching. It is now decided that the red Thai curry is going to be my next adventure on my path to street food enlightenment! Continue to follow me on Twitter @ChefGrantKeaton and on Facebook, and stay tuned for more blogs. Until then readers, FOLLOW THE FLAVOR!