Shake Shack moves out West

Great news everyone! If you've ever been to New York, then surely you must have tried the legendary burger at Shake Shack. Shake Shack, a fast-food type restaurant chain known for its burgers, fries, shakes, etc., has announced it will be moving out West. I just heard this on the radio this morning. Shake Shack is based out of New York, and I guess there was such a demand for it out here in California even though we already have In-N-Out Burger (which is an institution here in its own right). Unfortunately, they will be settling in Los Angeles which leaves the rest of the West Coast out to dry. But that doesn't mean that they won't be putting up more Shake Shacks in the rest of the state. Perhaps, they're putting one in LA first to test out the waters and if it's doing well, we'll see some pop up in the Bay Area as well - that's what I'm hoping for at least.

The original Shake Shack in Madison Square

Fun Food Fact: National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day

Today (April 12) happens to be the day honoring a classic American sandwich - the grilled cheese sandwich. Yes, today is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day. The grilled cheese sandwich in its simplest form consists of two pieces of sliced bread,a layer of cheese, and some butter as its base configuration. A little bit of butter is spread on the outside surface of the sandwich after the sandwich is formed. The sandwich is then grilled on both sides on a griddle so that the surface is slightly browned and lightly toasted which gives a nice crunch when biting into it. By the time both sides are toasted, the cheese in the middle is melted and forms a nice gooey layer to contrast the crunch from the bread. When cutting into it, it's always nice seeing the melted cheese ooze out. For me the grilled cheese sandwich is often associated with comfort food and is often a nice remedy the next day after a night of heavy drinking. Today grilled cheese sandwiches have become more "gourmet" with restaurants (ie The Melt) and food trucks specializing in this sandwich popping up all over the place. You'll see more ingredients in each sandwich - avocado, bacon, ham, various cheeses, and different kinds of bread (not just your standard white bread). For some reason the grilled cheese sandwich is often paired with tomato soup also. In honor of National Grilled Cheese Day, I think I may have to get myself a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch today.

April 12: National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day
April 12: National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day

Happy Pi(e) Day!

Happy Pi Day everybody! Today (March 14) is Pi day in honor of that famous mathematical constant (3.14). Although Pi day occurs once every year, this year it's extra special since it's 2015. The next 2 digits in the Pi sequence is 1 and 5 making it 3.1415, and today's date is 03/14/15. Isn't that cool? As children, we always had to memorize this number whenever we had to work with circles, but I actually didn't know what it meant until that movie Life of Pi came out. They mention that Pi is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. But if math and numbers just isn't your thing, then you can just think of pie as the dessert variety: apple, pumpkin, blueberry, cherry, etc. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and make it a la mode!

March 14, 2015: Happy Pi Day (3/14/15)
March 14, 2015: Happy Pi Day (3/14/15)

Quick Cooking Tip: Storing Root Vegetables

If you enjoy having fresh ingredients, then you might want to know how to properly store your root vegetables. It is important to know how to store these vegetables in order to prolong its freshness and to avoid having them go bad before you get a chance to use them. It will definitely be a waste if they do go bad. Root vegetables include carrots, potatoes, turnips, beets, etc.

Store potatoes in a cool, dark place

For potatoes you need to store them in a dark, dry, cool place. You can put them in a brown paper bag and store them in a lower shelf or cupboard. Keep in mind that you must remove the already spoiled potatoes from the batch in order to avoid having that bad potato contaminate the other potatoes.

Store carrots in your refrigerator drawer

Store turnips in your refrigerator drawer

Store beets in your refrigerator drawer
Carrots, beets, and turnips, on the other hand, should be stored in your refrigerator drawer. Now here is a tip that I wasn't aware of before: you must cut off the leafy green tops for these vegetables. The reason why you need to remove them is because if you don't, then your vegetables will dehydrate more quickly. You can, however, save those leafy greens for soups and salads, so they won't go to waste.

Divorce for Food Network's Giada De Laurentiis

Food Network chef and Everyday Italian host Giada De Laurentiis has announced on her website that her and her husband and fashion designer Todd Thompson will divorce after eleven years of marriage (they actually separated back in July of 2014):

This means that the very beautiful and lovable Giada, 44, is single again fellas! Not only is she cute as a button, but she is known for her Italian cooking on the Food Network with such dishes as chicken piccata and spaghetti with meatballs. Giada and Todd have one child, Jade Marie, together born in March 2008. Jade was named after her mom since the word "Giada" is Italian for "Jade". It is rumored that Giada cheated on her husband with Today Show anchor Matt Lauer (that guy is such a douche bag). On a side note, doesn't Giada kind of resemble Black Swan actress Natalie Portman? Check her out in a bikini below.

Divorce for Food Network chef Giada De Laurentiis
Food Network Chef Giada De Laurentiis

Sexy and lovely Giada de Laurentiis in a skimpy bikini in Bora Bora
Giada in Paradise (Bora Bora)

America's Test Kitchen: New York Thin Crust Pizza

[scroll down to view recipe and video]

America's Test Kitchen: New York Thin Crust Pizza
America's Test Kitchen: New York Thin Crust Pizza
Pizza is one of my favorite dishes to eat as a kid and in fact I'm sure many kids across America would agree with me on that statement. You can find many of them having pizza parties at such establishments as Chuck E. Cheese, Round Table, Pizza Hut, Toto's, Straw Hat, or Papa John's or maybe even having it delivered to your door or ordered to pick up at Dominoes, Papa Murphy's (take and bake), and Little Caesars. There are many different kinds of pizzas out there. There is Chicago style deep dish pizza, Sicilian Pizza, flatbread pizza, New Haven style pizza, and Neapolitan pizza (of which you can find Margherita pizza). Among all the different kinds of pizzas out there, my favorite is the New York style thin crust pizza. New York style pizza was popularized by pizzerias like Di Fara (Dom De Marco), Grimaldi's, John’s of Bleecker Street, and Lombardi's (of Gennaro Lombardi) popping up all around New York. In the America's Test Kitchen episode "New York-Style Pizza at Home" (season 12, episode 8), the test kitchen shows us how to properly make a New York-Style Thin-Crust Pizza.

Thinness of a slice of New York style pizza
See how thin a New York style pizza turns out.
What I like about New York style thin crust pizza is simply because it's thin. Thicker pizzas tend to be doughy and with each bite you would get a disproportionate amount of bread to everything else (pizza, sauce, toppings). A lot of pizzerias in New York have a special commercial oven to bake these pizza pies. These ovens can reach up to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit in temperature which would fully bake a pizza in minutes if not seconds. I unfortunately do not have a commercial oven nor a wood burning oven in my home, so you would think that making a New York thin style pizza is next to impossible at home. But no. That is until you see the technique that ATK utilizes. They put a pizza stone on the very top rack of the pizza and preheat it for up to an hour to mimic the ovens they use in pizzerias. Once the pizza stone is properly preheated, the top portion of the oven where the pizza will go will be hot enough to cook a pizza.

Another technique which I have never seen before until now is how they make the dough. They make the dough and then run it through a food processor. You're probably wondering why would you use a food processor since you don't intend to puree the dough. The thing is, when making bread dough, you must knead it in order for it to develop gluten which will give the dough structure and allow it to rise again. The trapped the gases from the yeast give your bread flavor and the gluten gives the bread a chewy texture. Back in the day, people would simply knead the dough by hand which could take a long time. You can also knead the dough with an electric mixer with the proper dough hook attachment which could still take a few minutes. The food processor, however, can knead the dough in a mere seconds saving you a whole lot of time. Be aware that if you plan to use a food processor to knead your pizza dough, be sure it's powerful enough for dough. When I first tried this recipe, I used a food processor that wasn't strong enough for the dough that the dough made the food processor stop in its tracks. As a result, I ended up just getting the same exact food processor that Bridget Lancaster uses in the video since I already knew that that model of food processor could do the job.

You want a bit of char on the bottom
The bottom of a New York style thin crust pizza turns golden brown and charred.
When you have your dough ready, you have to roll out the dough into a 14 inch circle. I had trouble doing this because the dough tended to be sticky even if I properly floured the rolling pin and my marble board. I found it easier to stretch the dough by hand the way they do it in pizzerias. You can look up videos on YouTube to see how to do it, but the premise is simple. You press the dough into a disc. Then, you drape the dough on the tops of your hands (specifically the kuckles) because you don't want your fingers to puncture the dough. Once the dough is resting on your hands, you pull your hands away from each other and, thereby, stretch it. Once that portion of dough is stretched, you shift over to the next portion and stretch that and so on and so forth. You do this until you get to your desired thickness. For me this method was easier than using a rolling pin, but if the rolling pin technique works for you, then definitely go with that. Once you have your dough rolled out, add the pizza sauce, cheese, and any other toppings you wish.

Another part of making a pizza at home which proved to be challenging was sliding the pizza onto the baking stone from the pizza peel. I know they mentioned to use a lot of cornmeal which would allow you to easily transfer the pizza, but they always seem to make it look easier on tv than in reality. Whenever I tried sliding the pizza from the peel, the pizza would stick to the peel and the toppings would fly off as I'm trying to transfer the pizza. As an alternative, I formed the pizza on an oiled metal pizza sheet. I used 1 tablespoon of canola oil on the pizza sheet and put the stretched out dough on the sheet and prepared the pizza on that. I then put both the pizza and the pizza sheet in the oven to bake for a few minutes. What's great about this method is that the oil on the baking sheet allows the bottom of the pizza to fry a bit which gives good flavor. Half way through the baking process, you can then slide easily slide the pizza off from the pan directly on the baking stone since the dough is cooked enough that it no longer sticks to the pan.

Fresh baked NY Style Pizza
Homemade pizza fresh out of the oven.
I really like this recipe for New York style thin crust pizza at your home. What's great is that you can prepare several batches of pizza dough, pizza sauce, and cheese and make a pizza bar with a wide variety of toppings anytime you have guests over or have a social gathering. This is a great idea if you're hosting a Super Bowl party for example. You can allow your guests to customize their own pizza pie using whatever ingredients and toppings they like since baking the pizza doesn't take too long. If you read my post on Chicago style deep dish pizza, then you'd know that I like my pizza with pepperoni, green bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms. I sometimes like adding cooked Italian sausage and olives as well, but those do not normally come standard on my customized pizza.

FlavorFool's Notes

  • I didn't use the red wine vinegar. I'm pretty sure NY pizzerias don't use this ingredient either.
  • I don't like rolling out the dough with a rolling pin. I prefer to use my hands and form the pie in that fashion.
  • I do like to add some bits of basil into the tomato sauce.
  • I coat a pizza pan with some oil and I bake the pizza on a pizza pan for the first few minutes so that the bottom fries and then I transfer the pizza onto the stone. I found it difficult transferring an unbaked pizza from the peel onto the stone even if I use a lot of cornmeal or flour.
  • New York-Style Thin-Crust Pizza Recipe

    America's Test Kitchen - season 12, episode 8, New York-Style Pizza at Home
    Makes two 13 inch pizzas


    1 1/3 cups ice water (about 10.5 oz)
    3 cups (16 1/2 ounces) bread flour, plus more for dusting work surface
    1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus more for work surface
    .5 tsp instant or rapid-rise yeast
    1.5 tsp salt
    2 tsp sugar

    1 (28 oz) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and liquid discarded
    1 tsp red wine vinegar [I left this out]
    1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
    2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 tsp)
    1 tsp dried oregano
    .25 tsp ground black pepper
    1 tsp salt

    8 oz whole milk mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
    1 oz finely grated Parmesan cheese (about .5 cup)


    1. FOR THE DOUGH: In food processor fitted with metal blade, process sugar, yeast, and flour until combined, about 2 seconds. With machine running, slowly add water through feed tube; process until dough is just combined and no dry flour remains, about 10 seconds. Let dough stand 10 min.

    2. Add salt and oil to dough and process until dough forms satiny, sticky ball that clears sides of workbowl, 30-60 seconds. Remove dough from bowl and knead briefly on lightly oiled countertop until smooth, about 1 min. Shape dough into tight ball and place in large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hrs and up to 3 days.

    3. FOR THE SAUCE: Process all ingredients in food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds. Transfer to medium bowl or container and refrigerate until ready to use.

    4. TO BAKE THE PIZZA: 1 hr before baking pizza, adjust oven rack to second highest position (rack should be about 4 to 5 inches below broiler), set pizza stone on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator and divide in half. Shape each half into smooth, tight ball. Place on lightly oiled baking sheet, spacing them at least 3 inches apart; cover loosely with plastic wrap coated with nonstick cooking spray; let stand for 1 hr.

    5. Coat 1 ball of dough generously with flour and place on well-floured countertop. Using fingertips, gently flatten into 8 inch disk, leaving 1 inch of outer edge slightly thicker than center. Using hands, gently stretch disk into 12 inch round, working along edges and giving disk quarter turns as you stretch. Transfer dough to well-floured peel and stretch into 13 inch round. Using back of spoon or ladle, spread .5 cup tomato sauce in thin layer over surface of dough, leaving 1/4-inch border around edge. Sprinkle 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese evenly over sauce, followed by 1 cup mozzarella. Slide pizza carefully onto stone and bake until crust is well browned and cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown, 10-12 mins, rotating pizza halfway through. Remove pizza and place on wire rack for 5 mins before slicing and serving. Repeat step 5 to shape, top, and bake second pizza.

    TOPPING TIPS: We like our Thin-Crust Pizza simply dressed with tomato sauce and handfuls of shredded mozzarella and Parmesan, but additional toppings are always an option - provided they're prepared correctly and added judiciously. (An overloaded pie will bake up soggy.) Here are a few guidelines for how to handle different types of toppings:

    MEATS Proteins (no more than 4 oz per pie) should be precooked and drained to remove excess fat. We like to poach meats like sausage (broken up into 1/2-inch chunks), pepperoni, or ground beef for 4 to 5 mins in a wide skillet along with 1/4 cup of water, which helps to render the fat while keeping the meat moist.

    DELICATE VEGETABLES AND HERBS Leafy greens and herbs like basil and spinach are best placed beneath the cheese to protect them or added raw to the fully cooked pizza.

    HEARTY VEGETABLES Aim for a maximum of 6 oz per pie, spread out in a single layer. Vegetables such as mushrooms, peppers, and onions should be thinly sliced and lightly sautéed (or microwaved for a minute or two along with a little olive oil) before using.

    ATK Chef Bridget Lancaster shows Chris Kimball how to make a New York style thin crust pizza at home.

    America's Test Kitchen: Indoor Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwich

    [Scroll down to view recipe and video]

    When people think of bbq, they often think of ribs, brisket, beer can chicken, etc. One of my favorites when it comes to bbq is pulled pork which is not to be confused with carnitas (Mexican pulled pork). Eating pulled pork sandwiches with some tangy bbq sauce is just heaven for me. Who doesn't like a pulled pork sandwich? You don't even need to be from Texas, Memphis, or Kansas City to make some good bbq either.

    America's Test Kitchen Indoor Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwich
    Classic BBQ: Pulled Pork Sandwich served with a pickle
    I especially love it when one of my coworkers would bring pulled pork for us whenever we have a potluck in the office. He is lucky enough to have one of those big green eggs which he uses to smoke the pork shoulder for several hours. The smoking process cooks the meat low and slow so that it cooks properly and the collagen has time to break down making the meat moist and tender. Not only that, but the pulled pork has an added smoky flavor to it. The problem with smoking is properly maintaining a low enough temperature since you don't want the temperature too high which would overcook your meat. Also, most likely you'd be smoking it outside for several hours. This could be a problem for some people since winter is just around the corner and grilling/bbqing/smoking is just not as fun when the weather isn't warm. I know the Neelys (from the Food Network show Down Home with the Neelys and known for their good bbq) have a pretty good recipe for pulled pork, but it's a good thing America's Test Kitchen (season 11, episode 11: Southern Fare: Reinvented) shows us that we can still make some good pulled pork in the comfort of our own home. What's great is that we can still obtain the smoky flavor without the smoking process with the use of liquid smoke. I mut say that that liquid smoke is a great invention.

    If you don't know, pulled pork usually comes from pork shoulder or pork butt (often called Boston butt). And no, the pork butt is NOT the same as the pig's butt if you were wondering. It's a completely different cut altogether that comes from the upper portion of the shoulder. It's an inexpensive cut, but when cooked properly (usually low and slow), it can turn out to be quite flavorful, tasty, and tender. I ended up using a three pound boneless pork shoulder when making this recipe. I think 3 pounds is considered small when it comes to pork shoulders, but I would definitely use a bigger cut anytime I had to make this for a party or family get together.

    Shredded BBQ Pulled Pork
    Pork after being pulled and ready to be eaten.
    The bbq sauce that goes with the pulled pork is actually pretty good because you're using the juices that came from the pork as a base for the sauce. When following this recipe, I hate to admit it, but sometimes I don't make the corresponding bbq sauce. I'm not going to lie - I get extra lazy sometimes. On those occasions when I don't make the bbq sauce, I just use a bottle of my favorite store bought bbq sauce which is Sweet Baby Ray's (KC Masterpiece and Bull's-Eye are good too). I like Sweet Baby Ray's because it doesn't have that "medicine" and artificial flavor that other barbecue sauces have. Whether you made bbq sauce or are using a bottle of sauce from the grocery store, I definitely use a lot of it and a little bit more when adding it to the pulled pork. I like my pulled pork sandwiches to be very juicy and slathered in bbq sauce. It's a pulled pork sandwich. It's supposed to be messy!

    I do like adding sliced pickles to the pulled pork sandwich or eating a pickle on the side with the sandwich. I also like coleslaw in my sandwich or at least some cornbread, baked beans, mac & cheese, or collared greens on the side. I find the crunch from the cabbage to be a nice contrast to the tenderness of the pork. I usually just buy coleslaw from the store deli if I'm making pulled pork sandwiches since I haven't found a good slaw recipe that works for me unless there's someone out there that has a good recommendation. Anyone know of a good coleslaw recipe? Anyone? Bueller? Lastly, bread selection is key to a good pulled pork sandwich. I've tried hamburger buns, brioche buns, and sliced bread (I prefer wheat bread over white bread though) which work well. I don't like the hard, crusty breads like ciabatta because it's too heavy/doughy and I like a softer bread for a pulled pork sandwich. I do, however, like using King's Hawaiian bread rolls for pulled pork sliders. I find that King's Hawaiian rolls have a sweet flavor that really complements the bbq sauce. These sliders work well for tailgating if you prepare the meat the night before the big game. Basically, just choose a bread that you like and whichever bread you do choose, toast it on the side where it was cut if using a roll or hamburger bun. I like bread toasted in this fashion - it's toasted on the side where the pork is and it is still soft on the other.

    FlavorFool's Notes

  • Sometimes I don't bother making the homemade barbecue sauce if I'm short on time. I end up using Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce instead.
  • I like using King's Hawaiian rolls to make pulled pork sliders.
  • I used another recipe for the gravy since it has been in the family for decades.
  • I like using Tapatio hot sauce.
  • Indoor Pulled Pork with Sweet and Tangy Barbecue Sauce

    America's Test Kitchen - season 11, episode 11, Southern Fare: Reinvented
    serves 6 to 8


    1 boneless pork butt (about 5 lbs), cut in half horizontally
    .5 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
    1 cup plus 2 tsp table salt
    .25 cup yellow mustard
    3 tbsp plus 2 tsp liquid smoke
    1 tsp cayenne pepper
    2 tbsp smoked paprika
    2 tbsp ground black pepper

    Sweet and Tangy Barbecue Sauce
    .25 cup light or mild molasses
    1.5 cups ketchup
    1 tbsp hot sauce [I like using Tapatio hot sauce]
    2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
    .5 tsp ground black pepper
    .5 tsp table salt


    1. FOR THE PORK: Dissolve 3 tbsp liquid smoke, .5 cup sugar, and 1 cup salt in 4 quarts cold water in a large container. Submerge pork in brine, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hrs.

    2. While pork brines, combine remaining 2 tsp liquid smoke and mustard in small bowl; set aside. Combine paprika, black pepper, cayenne, remaining 2 tsp salt, and remaining 2 tbsp sugar in second small bowl; set aside. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees.

    3. Remove pork from brine and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Rub mustard mixture over entire surface of each piece of pork. Sprinkle entire surface of each piece with spice mixture. Place pork on wire rack set inside foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Place piece of parchment paper over pork, then cover with sheet of aluminum foil, sealing edges to prevent moisture from escaping. Roast pork for 3 hrs.

    4. Remove pork from oven; remove and discard parchment and foil. Carefully pour off liquid in bottom of baking sheet into fat separator and reserve for sauce. Return pork to oven and cook, uncovered, until well browned, tender, and internal temperature registers 200 degrees on instant-read thermometer, about 1.5 hrs. Transfer pork to serving dish, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 20 mins.

    5. FOR THE SAUCE: While pork rests, pour .5 cup of defatted cooking liquid from fat separator into medium bowl; whisk in sauce ingredients.

    6. TO SERVE: Using 2 forks, shred pork into bite-sized pieces. Toss with 1 cup sauce and season with pepper and salt. Serve, passing remaining sauce separately.

    Video: America's Test Kitchen Indoor Pulled Pork