Saturday, May 23, 2009

Ed Helms Quote of the Day

Lots of Ed probably this week and next - "The Hangover" is soon!! I heart his use of the words "azure" and "oasis."

Ed Helms, also known as Andy Bernard on "The Office," was at the Ritz in Boston yesterday to promote his new buddy comedy, "The Hangover," which hits theaters June 5. We were the last of about 200 interviews Helms (left) did to hype the film, so he challenged us to ask him something he'd never been asked before. Our question? "When shooting 'The Hangover,' did you ever get lost in costar Bradley Cooper's eyes?' Helms, who was admittedly surprised by the question, quickly answered yes. "His eyes are crazy. It's like a little azure oasis in a desert of beautiful skin tone." Helms added, "To be clear, I'm straight." Helms also took a moment to make it clear that he's not a professional banjo player. He's read some biographies of himself that imply he's a "world-class" banjoist - but really, it's just a hobby. "I can hold my own, but I have friends who are insane banjo players." Helms went on to say that he's a big fan of the Boston bluegrass scene. When he visited his sister in Brookline last Christmas, he spent an evening at the Cantab Lounge to check out a jam session. He's also a devoted follower of the local act Crooked Still. "Those guys are . . . insane." Helms knows plenty about music and life in these parts. Not only is his sister a local, most of his "Office" castmates (including Mindy Kaling, B.J. Novak, and Steve Carell) have Boston roots. Helms said they bring a nice "Yankee smugness" to "The Office" set. That said, Helms was quick to make it clear that his favorite Bay-State-bred pal is Rob Corddry. The two worked together when Helms was a correspondent on "The Daily Show."

Friday, May 22, 2009

Ed Helms Post of the Day - "The Hangover" Update 2

Oh, so much goodness - many videos of Ed promoting "The Hangover." So, so many. Also good new - Bradley Cooper's there, too, BW, a little something just for you!

Ed Helms interview here.

Ed, Zach, and Bradley interview here and here.

Mike Tyson (and Ed) here:

I'm so excited to go see this when it come out in two weeks, it's not even funny.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Things I'm Excited About: "Top Chef Masters"

So, without weekly recaps of the happenings at Bravo's "Top Chef," there's very little for me to write about on AbS these days, since I haven't been on any exciting adventures recently, or cooked anything extraordinary recently. I promise I will soon - I'm headed to DC over Memorial Day weekend Boston the weekend after that, so I'm sure I'll have some fascinating things for the two people who follow my blog to read! Hopefully dinner at Jaleo and a trip to the National Portrait Gallery are in store for DC, and we're definitely headed to Fenway for a game in Boston, which I am incredibly excited about, having never been to a game at Fenway (I have been to Fenway before, though, which is a whole different story, one involving Bernie Williams and a very flammable VW Jetta). Luckily, mostly for you guys, Bravo knew I had a dearth of things to rant about and developed a fantastic show about which I will subject you to weekly musings: "Top Chef Masters." It premiers Wednesday, June 10 at 10 pm on Bravo and will clearly be the fourth best thing to watch over the summer (behind 1. "Burn Notice," 2. "Psych," and 3. "Leverage") and probably the best thing on Wednesday nights (aside from Yankees games).

The show is basically "Top Chef," but with already established, arguably very famous, chefs. One difference, I'm assuming due to the logistics of using chefs with restaurants and other obligations, is that the competition is set up in stages, with six sets of four chefs competing, each group on one day for six weeks. The six winners will then compete over the remaining four weeks, I assume with one chef eliminated over the first three weeks, then a three-way finale showdown. This is clearly necessary with this group of people, but it seems some chefs could be really screwed over, based on the group in which they are placed. We'll see.

The format otherwise is the same, with the exception of the Quickfire challenge being judged BLINDLY (interesting) and focusing on testing the basic skills of these master chefs. I like the blind judgment, honestly, so the judges will not be influenced by whose food they're tasting, since, with this group of chefs, bias is a huge factor. I'm also a huge, huge fan of testing the basic skills of the chefs, as many of them have probably not shopped an onion in a restaurant for YEARS, yet how can you be a great chef if you're missing, or have lost, that basic skill set? A test of these skills is a great way to see which chefs are both fundamentally sound and also creatively gifted, which are, in my opinion, the two most important qualities in a master chef. As far as the Elimination Challenge goes, it seems to be similar to regular Top Chef, per the Bravo website:

The second challenge is a more involved elimination challenge designed to test the versatility and invention of the chefs as they take on unique culinary trials such as working with unusual and exotic foods or catering for demanding clients.

Right? That's basically old school Top Chef. I cannot wait to see what these guys come up with - I imagine we'll be in for a treat, getting to see what all these great chefs come up with on the fly. Additionally, they're each competing for a charity of their choosing, which is fantastic, but, clearly, the drama with that many egos in one room will be the star of the show.

Speaking of the chefs, who are they? Well, the list is here, but I'll give you a few highlights:

Anita Lo - Her restaurant, Annisa, is on my list of places to go in NYC and any recipes I've seen of hers have been amazing. Oh, and also, Rickshaw Dumpling Bar. How can that be bad?

Wylie Dufresne - arguably the most well known Top Chef Masters contestant, with the increased interest on molecular gastronomy over the past few years, Wylie and his restaurant, WD-50 have become more popular. I'm kind of torn about actually visiting his restaurant (another long story, one not involving Bernie Williams or a flammable Jetta), but I'm leaning more towards going for the experience. I do, however, really like Wylie, and his previous work as a judge on "Top Chef" has led me to regard him as thoughtful and fair, plus, I'm so interested to see what kind of stuff he comes up with for the challenges, more so than any other chef.

Rick Bayless - yes, there was some drama surrounding Rick Bayless involving the sponsorship of a certain Burger King sandwich. Yes, that made him lose some of his foodie street cred. Did it make a worse chef? No. Is his restaurant, Frontera Grill, awesome? Oh, yes it is. I ate there in Chicago a few years ago and it was fantastic. Also fantastic? The fact that I saw Rick Bayless, in the kitchen and in the dining room, wearing chef whites. Was he actually cooking? I don't know, but he was in his restaurant, which is more than I can say for most chefs the general public is familiar with.

Michael Chiarello - maybe he's the most well known chef, because of his show on Food Network a few years ago? I like Michael Chiarello a lot. I liked his show on FN and his style of cooking. It's very similar to mine, simple, good ingredients, lots of wine. I'm probably going to root for him to win, although maybe seeing him on TV will change my mind, we'll see. Regardless, I'm very interested to see what he makes when the producers make the chefs cook a four star meal from a vending machine (come in, you KNOW that's going to be one of the first challenges!).

As far as the judges go, I don't know what to say. I haven't heard of any of them, except Gael Greene, of whom I'm not a fan. There's also this guy (Jay Rayner):

who, as BW put it, kind of looks like a pirate, which should make blogging about him interesting (be prepared for a lot of "arrrrrrrs" thrown in after any quotes by him.

There are some videos posted on Bravo's website, if you want to get to know the chefs before the show starts, you know, while you're bored at work or whatever. Also, expect witty and biting commentary from me, every Thursday after the show airs. Or you know, a recap with me drooling over the food.

"Top Chef Masters" Wednesday nights at 10 pm on Bravo, starting June 10.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Ed Helms Post of the Day

From Office Tally:

The writers of "The Office" really need to find more ways to work the cast's musical talents into the show. Especially Ed and his awesome banjo! And Ed singing. And Ed dancing. And Ed playing the sitar. And Creed, just being Creed.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Braised Pork Tacos

(This is really old. I've been hanging onto these pictures for a few months now, and I finally figured it was time to write a post about them. Also, I really want this book, which just came out, and seeing it reminded me to post about tacos.)

After reading a bunch of posts on Serious Eats on a Saturday morning a few months ago, I had a craving for pulled pork tacos, so, it was off to Wegman's to get the ingredients:

Pork Shoulder
Canned tomatoes with green chilis
Assorted spices and herbs
Chicken stock
Corn tortillas
Assorted toppings and sides (you'll see them, but the sides are another whole post in themselves).

Once back home, I immediately marinated the pork shoulder:

It was a while back, but I think I see lime juice, lime zest, whole hunks of lime (I like limes), cilantro, chili powder (a secret blend), cumin, olive oil, and black pepper. I probably threw some chopped garlic in there, too. If I liked things spicy, I'd put in a few fresh chilis, but I don't really like the heat, so I left them out. You guys can add them, though.

After the pork marinated for a bit (I think like 3 or 4 hours, you could definitely marinate it for longer though, but I'd cut back on the acid if you're marinating overnight), I took the pork out of the fridge and brought it up to room temperature. Then, I browned it in my awesome 5 1/2 quart Le Creuset french Oven:

After shot:

First, please ignore my filthy stove, I've since cleaned it. Second, as you can see, there was some burning of the spices at the bottom of the oven - no worries, just take the pork out, rinse out your pot, and start browning your onions (you do NOT want that burned chili powder taste in your tacos, believe me):

Notice the pork resting patiently before it's bath on the side.

Once the onions were browned, I added a few cracked cloves of garlic and some tomato paste and cooked that for about 1 minute. Then I added the pork back in, along with some chicken stock and a 14-oz can of tomatoes with green chilis, enough liquid to come about 2/3 of the way up the side of the pork.

Next, I brought the whole mixture up to a simmer on the stove, skimmed off the excess fat and foamy stuff that came to the surface, turned the heat way, way down and covered the pot. I braised it until the pork was falling apart (I have no idea how long, as I no longer remember what size pork shoulder I bought, but it was probably in the neighborhood of 3 -4 hours). I periodically skimmed the braising liquid and kept the liquid at a very low simmer. Once the pork was done, I shredded it up and placed it neatly on a plate along with some other taco toppings, cheese, cilantro, and a chimichurri-like sauce:

I guess it's hard to be neat with a big mass of shredded pork.

Then, I made up a nice plate for myself, two tacos, some black beans, and some corn:

DE-lish. I think I had some wine, but this would be even better with some freshly made margaritas. You can get a head start on the drinking while the pork is braising. It makes the 4 hours go by even more quickly.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Happy Birthday to Stephen Colbert!

Happy Birthday, Stephen! For more Stephen, visit the delightful or Colbert Nation. In honor of Stephen's day, please watch this amazing clip of his dancing ability:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Rain Dance-Off
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorGay Marriage

It's almost as good as the Andrew Bernard clip from last week's episode of "The Office."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Pizza: Before and After




After After:
I didn't' take a picture, but imagine and empty cutting board, with only the faintest traces of pizza having been there - a few crumbs, a bit of cheese...

Basic Margarita Pizza:
1 ball of Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (from Whole Foods, I'm sorry - I hate making my own pizza dough, or anything made with flour, in general. I hate the way flour feels against your hands as you knead dough and I especially HATE how it gets everywhere in your kitchen. Seriously, I make one batch of cookies and I have to clean flour off my counters and from behind random crevices for like a week. It sucks).
About 5 Campari Tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 large ball of Fresh Mozzerella
Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese to taste
About 5 large Basil Leaves
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Press the dough out to a large rectangle on a lightly greased cookie sheet (I used PAM to grease it, mostly because I had some left over from making these delicious cookies for Christmas).

Top dough with slices of mozzarella, tomato, and basil.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Grate Parmesan cheese over the top.

Drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the top and bake for around 15 minutes.

Take out of oven, place on cutting board and cut into squares.

Take plates and silverware out of cabinet and open a bottle of wine.

Ignore plates, silverware, and wine and eat the entire pizza while standing over the cutting board.

Have the bottle of wine for dessert.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ed Helms Post of the Day - "The Hangover" Update

Have I mentioned how excited I am to see this? I don't think I's like, "Dude, Where's My Car," only infinitely better because it contains Ed Helms, Mike Tyson punching bitches, and a tiger. Oh, and Bradley Cooper, even though he looks like a sleaze-bag in this movie.

Trailer 1:

Here's an interview with Ed about the movie. Some highlights:

No, I'm not tight with Nick Cannon the way Zach is. Zach and Nick go way back. I think Nick is one of Zach's biggest comedy influences. Plus. there's a lot of tension. I had a really rough breakup with Mariah Carey. Awkward.


You know what? Yeah. I think I'm pretty nerdy in real life. I've had glasses since second grade.

Trailer 2:

I'm trying so, so hard to find the trailer on You Tube with Ed singing, but I can't find it anywhere!! If someone else sees it, please let me know so I can post it. Hilarious!

Also, here's another interview with Ed, for the penultimate episode of "The Office" this season:

Essentially Michael has another terrible idea on how to let off some steam in the office and the concept of a café disco emerges, which is a dancing situation that involves coffee. I'm not a good dancer, but I try really, really hard, and I'm not talking about Andy Bernard, I'm talking about Ed Helms.

I think he's being far too modest. Judge for yourself (because it needs to be shown over and over and over again):

Pure brilliance. Is there anything Ed can't do?