Spicy Root Beer Pork Chops, an “experiment” in the kitchen

Pork Chop with Spicy Root Beer and Berry Reduction

I was at Whole Foods today which always ends up with me buying a lot of stuff and cooking tons of things in the kitchen. I love to go “hungry”, which may cost more but really gets my culinary creative juices flowing. So today there was a lovely, just the right size pork chop with my name in it.

I wondered what to do with it, I mean I could do a reduction of the Hitching Post Pinot Noir I just put into the cart, but then that meant I could not drink the whole bottle tonight (insert comments on that here…). Root Beer?…Would that work, I mean can you reduce it, its mostly flavorings and what not, but I make a mean Coke Pot Roast so I figured why the hell not…well, I went home, cranked open the bottle of Hitching Post and the following is the result.

Note: I was really impressed with the mellow sweetness of the root beer and will be using it in the future for kitchen experiments!

Brown Sugar Coated Pork Chop with a Spicy Root Beer and Berry Reduction.

By Chris Cognac

Reduction as follows:

In a small sauce pan over high heat put in 6 oz of A &W Root Beer, bring to boil and reduce by half. When reduced by half, add 2 strawberries and  several raspberries (frozen is fine). Continue to reduce till the amount is 4/5 of what you put in the sauce pan, then remove from heat and add 1 tbs of Srirachi (the Rooster red sauce) and incorporate into sauce. Let cool for a few mins, it will thicken to your liking, see below photo.

Close Up of the Root Beer Reduction
Spicy Root Beer Berry Reduction

Pork Chop:

Pat dry Pork Chop, drench in “essence” type spice…(You can buy at any store), then put into hot saute pan with a bit of bacon fat. Seer both side of the pork chop and remove from the pan. Coat with brown sugar and place under a hot broiler for approx 5 mins, until the brown sugar is bubbling…like the photo below.

Then remove from heat and let cool, the brown sugar will begin to harden, slice thin, plate and cover with sauce…its awesome, try it!

Brown Sugar bubbling under broiler

“Downtown Vegas” Cool: and the “Atomic Weekend:Rat Pack Night” video

Atomic Weekend: Rat Pack Night

I am a big fan of downtown Las Vegas…It’s what “Real Vegas” is as far as I am concerned. You can walk from casino to casino in min, without having to walk a half marathon through one casino and all its “spending opportunities”…The people are friendly, the limits are low and there is some pretty good food to be had, for cheap too!

I filmed the pilot of my Food Network show the Hungry Detective in Las Vegas and filmed at Binion’s Ranch Steakhouse (Chicken Fried Lobster) and at Mermaids, a “dive-cheesy” little slot machine casino with great $1.00 hot dogs and deep fried twinkies! The Chicken Fried Lobster is a “destination” dish…The deep fried twinkies…try em once…try em twice, you will end up in the cardiac care unit! Speaking of Binion’s, there is a bar in the back of the casino where you can get a huge (pretty decent) pizza and a pitcher of beer for around 10 bucks!

If you want a great dinner, with “Old Vegas” feel, for a really good price, check out The Flame” Steakhouse at the El Cortez Hotel Casino, its fantastic!  The 4 of us ate there and each got a wedge salad, French onion soup,  porterhouse steak (20 oz), huge baked potato, we split an amazing creamed corn and a creamed spinach, plus a bottle of wine….and the final tab…$56.00 per person….including a nice tip!

The Plaza Hotel and Casino is currently in the middle of a 30 million dollar renovation (buying all the furnishing at auction from the failed fountain blue project)  and will emerge from its cocoon as a symbol of its former downtown glory once again becoming the proper anchor hotel to the Freemont Street Experience. The Gold Spike, once the smoke and bum filled dump of the downtown Vegas scene, has been completely re-done from top to bottom and is really got a cool new “vibe” to it, and has got great room prices and a really good prime rib deal!

Do I even need to mention the Golden Nugget? Its new “Rush Tower” rooms are amazing, and they have the best pool downtown! If you are an “Opulence, I has it” kind of person, the Golden Nugget is for you! If you want a classy hotel, with lots of wood, old school feel and low limits (1$ roulette) check out the El Cortez.

So grab your own Rat Pack, dress up and head downtown,its a blast and a nice change from the “douchy strip”

Atomice Weekend: Part Deux

Well, I got around to making the second part of the movie covering the 1st evening of the legendary and epic “Atomic Weekend” in Las Vegas. This movie takes us to Hofbrauhaus with Chef Adam Sobel…we get our asses spanked…literally…drink a lot of stuff then find ourselves looking for a taxi at 330 am!…It was a great night….and I still have to make the movie about the 2nd night!

Atomic Weekend: Las Vegas Part-1

I love Las Vegas, I love the food, the dive bars, the low roller casino’s…all of it, except the stuck up “douchy”  “I am a VIP, let me pay 500 bucks for “bottle service” kind of Vegas….anyway, last year 3 of my buddies and I did the most epic Vegas trip ever. The 1st night was “Low Roller” Night….it started off at Frankie’s Tiki Room and ended at 330 am wandering the street looking for a cab after the last drink at the Peppermill….in between, we hooked up with some amazing chefs, drank “ass juice”, got spanked by hot chicks, did the chicken dance, stumbled down the strip, talking like Hanz and Franz after leaving the Hofbrau Haus…it was Epic…and that was just the first night….The second night was Tuxedo’s, Steak, Martini’s and all class!  So  here is “Part 1” of the adventure…I am working on “part duex” now…Oh for you Hungry Detective fans, you will see some familiar faces and places from the Vegas show as well as the L.A. Show!

Organic Beef and Chili Recipe

Organic Grass Fed Beef Chili

I do not post many of the releases I get, but some like this  from Organic Prairie are pretty good…this chili looks great! Give it a try!

So the football game may be a little brutal, but at least your Super Bowl chili’s made with humanely-raised beef … Organic Prairie’s online store makes it easy to serve Super Bowl dishes you can appreciate for more than just their flavor.

Portand, Ore. (January 11, 2011) – Yes, you are a conscious eater.  Yes, you do pay attention to how your meat is raised.  But hey, you’re also a Super Bowl traditionalist — you need your classic football fare, like chili, tacos, and nachos to serve for the big game.

Organic Prairie, the meat division of Organic Valley, makes it easy to have your football chili and feel good about it too.  Their new online store — www.organicprairie.com — offers USDA-certified organic beef, pork, and poultry – including grass-fed organic ground beef — making it easy and convenient to access meat that meets all of your high standards and delivers great taste in the process.

It’s simple: go online, order your organic grass-fed ground beef (and check out the great steaks, too), then in a few days you’ll be ready to cook up a spread that shows that you care about what you eat, about animal welfare, and about the planet … all while you’re rooting for your team to annihilate the opposition.  Life is complicated!

Here’s a fantastic Super Bowl chili recipe to showcase Organic Prairie’s grass-fed beef, or to make with your own favorite well-sourced meat.  Everything tastes better when you make it with meat that matters.

For more great recipes, including Chef Michel Nischan’s meatloaf recipe, go to www.organicprairie.com

About Organic Prairie. Organic Prairie meats are produced by an independent cooperative of organic family farms. We are pioneers of the organic meat industry, who began producing our delicious meats—without the use of antibiotics, synthetic hormones, or pesticides—back in 1996. We insisted on third-party organic meat certification long before federal organic standards were established. We were the first in the industry to ban animal by-products from our cattle’s diet. And we played a vital role in shaping federal organic meat certification standards—the strictest in the industry. To learn more about our cooperative, please visit www.organicvalley.coop, and look for us on Facebookwww.facebook.com/OrganicPrairie.

* * *

Grass-fed Beef and Black Bean Chili with Avocado and Chipotle Sour Cream

Makes 4 to 6 servings


¼ cup olive oil

¼ pound Organic Prairie bacon, finely chopped or ground (to grind, cut into chunks, freeze until firm, then pulse in a food processor)

2 pounds Organic Prairie grass-fed ground beef

1½ tablespoons kosher salt or 1 tablespoon table salt, more to taste

2 cups chopped onion

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons mild chili powder

1 tablespoon smoked paprika (optional)

1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes (not tomato puree)

2 4-ounce cans mild roasted green chiles

2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1 cup low-sodium beef or chicken broth

2 tablespoons molasses (optional)

Hot sauce, to taste


1 ripe avocado, diced and tossed with a little lime juice and salt

1/2 cup sour cream mixed with 1 teaspoon adobo sauce from a can of chipotle chiles (freeze the leftovers)

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until most of the fat is rendered and the bacon pieces are golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Pour off all but around 2 tablespoons of the fat.

Add the beef to the pan, sprinkle on about 2 teaspoons of the salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes, but don’t let the meat get brown and crusty. Scrape the meat from the pan into a bowl; set aside.

Add the rest of the oil to the pan, add the onion and 1 more teaspoon salt. Turn down the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and lightly golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic, chili powder, smoked paprika (if using), cumin, and coriander and cook another minute, stirring and scraping so the spices fry slightly in the oil.

Stir in the crushed tomatoes, green chiles, black beans, chopped cilantro, beef broth, molasses and remaining teaspoon salt, plus as many shakes of hot sauce as you like. Turn the heat to low, and cook, uncovered, until thickened and rich tasting, 45 minutes to an hour. Add back the bacon and beef and simmer another 15 minutes. Taste and add more salt or hot sauce as needed.

Serve the chili in bowls with some avocado piled on top and a generous drizzle of the chipotle cream.

Cook’s Tip:

Grass-fed beef is generally leaner than conventional beef, which means that you need to take care not to overcook it or it may seem dry, especially if you’re cooking a steak, roast or hamburger. For the ground beef in this chili recipe, drying out isn’t a worry because you’re simmering it with so many moist ingredients – including olive oil and bacon!

Some great deals at Fleming’s, one of my Favorite places!

Mmmmm...Steak Porn!

I don’t know if I have mentioned it lately but did I mention that I am a huge fan of Fleming’s Steakhouse? they always have a killer wine list, and you can get a flight of 3 wines served in a really cool vertical “holder thingy”.

Fleming’s has what I consider the best happy hour value around in it’s 5-6-7 program…with a cajun butter shrimp dish that will put you in a butter coma. Good Steaks are few and far between, but at Fleming’s you can count on a great meal and fantastic service. I had some of the best service ever at the L.A. Live Fleming’s a few weeks ago… Fantastic!

I got a press release today about a great new bargain from Fleming’s. Its a 3 course menu for $39 bucks….its a great deal and you can take a date to a nice dinner and not break the back….see the details below, and trust me, you can’t go wrong with this!…I know I sound like a  commercial for Fleming’s but I am not, its just a great steak for a great price!
WHAT:             Fleming’s Winter Prix Fixe Menu:  Three Courses for $39.95

Fleming’s Executive Chef Russell Skall has created an innovative 3-course dinner  with bold and flavorful offerings. The new Winter Prix Fixe menu offers a choice of appetizer, two entrées and dessert.

WHEN:             Available nightly now through March 29, 2011

WHERE:          Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
Please visit FlemingsSteakhouse.com for your closest restaurant. Locations in Southern California include Newport Beach, El Segundo and Rancho Mirage.

COST:             $39.95 per person (tax, gratuity, and suggested wines not included)

MENU:             Choice of one of two entrées and the option of Hearty Mushroom Soup or Roasted Pear and Candied Walnut Salad, and dessert.

To take the guesswork out of the dining experience, Director of Wine Marian Jansen op de Haar provides full-bodied wine selections for each entree.

Bistro Steak: flavorful and tender; ratatouille and cabernet butter sauce
Suggested wine: Chateau Greysac, Medoc France, 2005/2006

Crackling Pork Shank: mashed sweet potatoes with Asian barbecue glaze, drizzled with cilantro oil
Suggested wine: Von Buhl, Riesling Pfalz Medium-Dry Jazz Germany, 2008

Dessert: Chocolate Mousse Cake, Almond brittle and crème anglaise
Suggested wine: Fonseca, Reserve Porto Bin 27 Portugal NV

“Hoppin John” for the New Year

Hoppin John (Black Eyed Peas)

A New Years day tradition that my Alabama/California family continues to follow is the serving of “Hoppin John” on New Years Day . Its said that if you eat Hoppin John on New Years Day you will have good luck all year. Well I have eaten it pretty much every New Years Day that I could remember except in 1991…and I went to war Feb 23rd 1991, so you be the judge!

Its very easy to make, just follow this recipe to serve 10 small servings and you will be lucky all year long!

2 bags frozen black eyed peas

2 small smoked ham hocks

1 white onion diced

3 cans chicken stock

2 tbs dried parsley

1 tbs black pepper

Put everything into a crock pot and cook for 6-10 hrs on low….if you don’t have a crock pot or the time, use a cast iron pot and saute the onions first, then bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 2-3 hrs.

Serve with cornbread and rice….use hot sauce to taste and good luck!!

My Cuban mother in law’s “killer” Xmas Lechon Asado recipe

Lechon Asado Con Basulto Amore

My mother in law Marta Bilbao (Basulto) is an amazing woman from Cuba…every year she makes the most amazing roast pork for Christmas Eve…I always destroy it (last night included)! I was doing a demo at the PA Farm show in Harrisburg PA and needed a pork dish to make on stage. Well I bugged her and bugged her, then she cracked like an egg and gave the recipe up. It was a huge hit for everyone at the Farm Show and the Amish people in the audience tore it up! So, here it is, its easy to make and a fantastic way to cook a pork shoulder or butt!

12-15lbs Pork Leg

2 1/2 cups of sour orange juice (2/3 orange juice, 1/3 lime juice if sour orange unavailable)

3 heads of garlic, finely chopped

2 1/2 tablespoons of oregano

2 1/2 teaspoons of cumin

2 1/2 cups of white cooking wine

sea salt to taste

Poke holes in leg and insert garlic, rub with salt

Mix remaining ingredients in bag

Place roast in bag and marinate over night (turning to coat several times)

Remove roast roast from marinade

Preheat oven to 350 degress

Place covered in oven for 5-6 hours, remove and baste several times during the process.

Remove from oven and sprinkle a dash of chopped parsley for color

Serve with Rice and Black beans or Boiled Yuca, spoon the juice over meat and yucca

Hmmmm …worstpizza.com puts out a top 10 list of “best” pizza in the U.S.

Burt was "Robbed" by not being on the list....

I get a lot of “press releases” being the food guy that I am…most of them are crap, but this one caught my eye…not because it was about Pizza, a subject so close to my heart but by what it contained….its a “top 10” list from the folks at worst pizza, which is an interesting name if you want to talk about the “best” pizza…so maybe I will start “food that tastes like shit”. com so my foodie friends and I can discuss the latest and greatest foodie finds around the country…

Anyway, I do give this a bit of credit cause its not the usual places in NYC or Chicago….there are places like Boca Raton Florida…I mean, shit when I think of Boca Raton Florida I think Pizza…and retired Jewish people….making really really good Pizza…so here it is, I am sure Burt from Burts in Chicago is emotionally traumatized by not being on the list….his Pizza is fantastic, a bunch of Chicago foodies took me there a few years ago….its “off the hook” as a certain over hyped douch-bag would say…

I know I am being a smart ass with this blog…but I do this this list credibility as the dude appears to have a real passion for Pizza….but that means someone else will come in, steal his idea and become rich and famous…and he will just get fat and high cholesterol.

Boca Raton – (December 20, 2010) – Where do you start when trying to find the best pizza in your local area? In the past year, “The Pizza Expert” ate his way through 25 states, tried his favorite recipes that included a Grandma and Upside Down pizza, and reviewed over 500 pizza restaurants, all in the search of finding the best pizza. This year, WorstPizza.com, the ultimate resource for pizza reviews and recipes, highlights their first top 10 list of pizza parlors in the U.S for 2010.
The list is compiled each year by “The Pizza Expert” and his team of professional pizza reviewers on WorstPizza.com. Contrary to the name Worst Pizza, the website critiques, entertains and gives thoughtful reviews of pizza and the restaurants that sell it. This year’s list ranges from little-known pizzeria’s in Mount Vernon, NY, to the kings of pizza in New Haven, CT, to cities that are world-renowned for their pizza’s like Brooklyn and Long Island, NY. Through his website, the top 10 list changes and gets updated each year based upon the preparation and ingredients used by the pizza makers.
“You can tell when restaurants use high-quality products like Grande Cheese with a little Pecorino, Caputo Flour and San Marzano Tomato Sauce,” said Craig Agranoff, founder of WorstPizza.com. “It’s about quality in, quality out,” Agranoff further states.

Here is the Top 10 List of Best Pizza Restaurants in the US:
Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix, AZ
Johnny’s Pizza,  Mount Vernon, NY
Sally’s Apizza, New Haven, CT
Tacconelli’s Pizza, Philadelphia, PA
Great Lake Pizza, Chicago, IL
Lucali’s Pizza, Brooklyn, NY
L&B Spumoni Gardens, Brooklyn, NY
Buddy’s Pizza, Detroit, MI
Frank Pepe’s Pizza, New Haven, CT
Tucci’s Pizza, Boca Raton, FL

Established in 2006, WorstPizza.com is dedicated to finding the best pizza places by sifting through the worst. Unlike other pizza review sites that only look for good, we also expose those with poor quality. Worstpizza.com has appeared as an expert on pizza with CBS, FOX, NBC, Wine Library TV, as well as in Slice, Thrillist, Sun-Sentinel and Palm Beach Post. Worstpizza.com is owned and operated by The Pizza Experts LLC, who also brought the first http://www.pizzatweetup.com to the masses.

About the Pizza Expert
The Pizza Expert is known as “Lapp” and his goal is to travel the world in search of the best pizza.  He shares what he finds when he’s had a slice on WorstPizza.com.  Growing up in the New York Metro area, he learned what some of the best and worst pizza are like.  Going beyond the “college dorm box pizza,” he looks for real, restaurant pizza with high standards of quality.