The Perfect Stir Fry

The Perfect Stir Fry

Believe it or not, I’m convinced that the base you are about to become privy to…is in fact, the perfect base for any stir fry. In this recipe, I’m going to focus on a seafood version. However, I’ve used this base for chicken, rib-eye, hot Italian sausage and all kinds of creative endeavors when it comes to stir fry. Out of all the types of food I make, the wok is the most awesome tool for making simple, yet elegant dishes. I know that Sam Betty thinks he’s the real talent and he may be right in many ways but my Asian flare style of cooking is most likely unbeatable. I’ve even used this base when it comes to coconut curry dishes. It’s all about making sure you layer your flavors and this base is so flavorful that when you layer it with pad Thai or green curry the end result is nothing less than mouth watering.

For the base you will need some very basic ingredients:

1. Rice Vinegar
2. Soy Sauce
3. Fish Sauce
4. Sugar
5. Freeze Dried Shrimp (It just gives it that unique salty flavor – however for those of you that are allergic to shrimp…the first 4 ingredients will do).

We’ll do this dish for 2 people, so the breakdown goes like this.

1 part fish sauce to
1.5 part Vinegar to
5 part soy to
5 part sugar

Let’s make each part a table spoon, for ease. However, the measurements will change depending on the end result of the stir fry. For curries, you will want to break down the table spoon to a teaspoon. Not that you will end up with a disaster otherwise, however you break down the measurements….but keep in mind that the volume of each ingredient in the base should stay consistent with the above mentioned formula.

So, about this seafood stir fry. The seafood ingredients are mussels, shrimp and tilapia. Other ingredients would be chili garlic sauce, freshly minced garlic, onions, Tony Chachere’s Cajun Seasoning and a few vegetables of choice. Also, in this dish we have carrots, asparagus and broccoli. A quick word about the freshly minced garlic. I know that you can buy a jar of minced garlic. And if I said I didn’t have one of those jars in my fridge I’d be lying. However, I roll my eyes whenever I use it. There is nothing that can replace freshly minced garlic. I know it’s a pain in the tush but the end result is much more desirable.

1 quarter pound mussel and shrimp and Tilapia
1 pound of vegetables mixed

I’d say the more garlic the better. So, for two people I’d mince a half clove of garlic (fresh that is). Then about a half an onion…julienne style.

1. 3 table spoons of Olive Oil in a wok.
2. Let it warm and then toss in the beautiful freshly minced garlic.
3. After a few minutes put the onions in.
4. Start spicing it baby. Put some seasonings on the garlic and onion as they sizzle. Again this is about preference but a nice salty flavor is the desired result. If you so chose to use some freeze dried shrimp then this is the time and place as well. You would only need a few ounces….8 little shrimps or so.
5. After the aroma starts to waft about the kitchen (5 minutes) start thinking about your vegetables. Depending on which ones you’ve chosen some will take longer to cook than others, you have to cook them in order. In this dish we are using carrots, asparagus and broccoli. The carrots would take the longest so they go first. Let them cook for about 5 more minutes and then broccoli. After 3 minutes of the broccoli then the asparagus. Keep in mind, when you cook in the wok you must constantly whip the food around in order to get an even cook. You can’t just sit around the house and stir it up every so often, this is an action dish.
6. Now comes the base. We decided that early on we would make this based on table spoons. So, 1 table spoon of fish sauce, 1.5 table spoons of vinegar, 5 table spoons of soy sauce and 5 table spoons of sugar. Mix it up nicely. The flavors will begin to meld.
7. Cook the base into the vegetables for about 5 minutes.
8. Seafood cooks fast. And of the 3 ingredients we are using, Tilapia will need the longest time to cook…but not by much. So toss in the fish. Cook it for about 3 minutes and then the mussels. Again for about 3 minutes and now the shrimp. Once the shrimp are done, so will everything else be done.

Congratulations on one fantastic dish! If you are making this for you lady friend…it’s on tonight!

Seafoo Stir Fry

Seafoo Stir Fry

Plated Seafood Stir Fry

Plated Seafood Stir Fry

Red Wine Spaghetti Sauce with Pan Fried Grouper

I like this dish very much. You can make it with Fish, shrimp, mussels or just about any shell fish and chicken. The basic ingredients are Red Wine, soy sauce, fish sauce, some sort of red sauce like tomato paste or in my case – chili garlic, sugar some veggies (I like asparagus and mushrooms), onions and garlic. It’s simple and extremely tasty.

Once it if finished you could serve it over pasta or as is. I like the red wine spaghetti sauce over pasta. It’s a treat and even the kids will like it if you can get them to taste it! Enjoy!

Grouper with mushrooms and asparagus Sautee asparagus Grouper with Veggies

What a New Year

We are almost two weeks into the New Year. I am finally getting around to posting the recipe that changed the world from that night. We made several things, but nothing topped the “rotissified” chicken. You guessed it, we took a whole chicken and then used the rotisserie attachment on me grill to make this amazing dish.

Any meat slow cooked is fantastic. The key to this dish was the baste itself. Started off with a healthy portion of Jack Daniels, then added brown sugar, chili garlic, honey, freshly chopped oregano and rosemary, added some of my favorite seasonings and away we went. Rotissified on low for about 3 hours and then basted every 20 minutes or so…basically in between drinks.

The Jack, sugar and honey created a glaze that sealed the fowl air tight and then it crisped the skin like a champ. But before it sealed the juices in the chicken and because of the frequent basting, the flavor of the baste actually cooked directly down into the chicken meat. After the skin was charred the juicy chicken just absorbed the glaze for a few hours. It was truly a great way to go.

Thanksgiving…what a great Holiday!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. One, because the commercialization of it is primarily about food. It’s a day when family and friends get together and catch-up on all the happenings in our busy lives. Most businesses are closed and it ends up being a slow day. Wherever you go for the feast you stick around for seconds, maybe thirds and then wait for the desserts to be served up. Growing up, we always had Thanksgiving at my grandma’s house. Family grudges and gossip were held to a minimum because Gramamma was putting on a show and she was always happy about it. Her smile was infectious. One couldn’t help but to walk into this warm environment and feel the love. The guys would chit chat about politics and the upcoming football games over a few beers, or in my case – honey wine. The women would be in the kitchen getting the grub in order. Lots of smile and lots of memories. We all knew that whatever our lives might be, come the following Monday that there was so much to be thankful for. Then she would say it….Gramamma would exclaim, come and get it. My uncle Adam was given the honor of the prayer. We would hold hands as family and friends and offer thanks for the wonders that God had given us.

Years later I was reading about Thanksgiving and came across the official proclamation making it a national Holiday. The proclamation was issued by George Washington in his first term as President. Boy did he get it right. You can read it here. Life has moved on and my Gramamma is no longer with us in this life. This was my first year to step up and put on a show. I got to cook the turkey and 3 main dishes. Plus, I got to carve the turkey (my first turkey and my first carving). My 3 main dishes consisted of a ground lamb, mint and vegetable dish with sauteed apples and topped with goat cheese, a variation of my coconut, carrot curry soup seen in episode 6 of The Common Chef and a “poor man’s” quiche type of dish. But the turkey was my masterpiece for the day. It was juicy and cooked to perfection. Here is what I done!

First, used a turkey roaster instead of the oven. Though it could work nicely in an oven also. I wanted it covered the whole time as to keep it juicy. I stuffed it with all fruit, tangerines, oranges, grapes, cranberries, apples, pineapples all mixed with a good dose of honey and then placed it in the roaster. It was a 20 pound bird, so I used 42 ounces of chicken broth in the bottom of the roaster. Then surrounded the turkey with thick cut pieces of potatoes, onion and garlic. Rubbed some olive oil on the turkey and seasoned it with some of my favorite seasonings and fresh rosemary. Then I cooked it at 300 degrees for the first 2 hours. I wanted it slow cooked. A few times throughout the day I would baste it with a light olive oil (only after the first coat of seasonings had grafted into the skin. You don’t want to wash those away. After the second and third coat of light olive oil, just dust the skin with your favorite seasonings again.

After 2 hours at 300, turn it up to 350 degrees for about another 2.5 hours. There is nothing more I can say but – Shazzaam!

As we ate and enjoyed each other’s company. I thought of my Gramamma. She would have been proud. I miss her. But she was there, along with her smile.

Fire Shrimp

First let me thank all of you who came out to Culinary Combat. We raised over 20K for the Shriners Hospitals for Children. That’s just cool!

This turned out as an impromptu dish. I had gone to the Ocala Farm Market and picked up 2 pounds of gorgeous large shrimp from Captain Tim. So my mind started racing about all the awesome things that could be done. I still didn’t know exactly what I was going to do until after the shrimp were cleaned. It was so delicious that we may have to do a variation of this in the next episode.

2 pounds of shrimp
6 jalepenos
2 tomatoes
3 red peppers
2 limes
1 lemon
5 garlic cloves
1 onion
4 to 5 tablespoons of olive oil
and a generous portion of sriracha…

Just put it in the food processor. Except for the limes and lemon, you’ll want to juice them and then add to the mixture. Puree everything. Then marinade the shrimp. The puree should be fairly thick.

When you are ready to grill, skewer the shrimp. Then baste both sides of the shrimp and put on the grill with medium heat. You may want to drizzle some olive oil on in order to glaze the fire sauce onto the shrimp. Now, here is the kicker – on top of the fire sauce while on the grill, baste the shrimp with a honey barbeque sauce. The sweet sauce mixed with the fire sauce will leave you with an unforgettable flavor.

Some of the pictures have bacon and steak as well. We were in a barbeque mood. But the highlight was the Fire Shrimp. I imagine you could do this same thing with pork loins, chicken and even steak.

Pasta Fagioli – without the pasta

This ended up being more like a bean and chicken soup but it could be made with so many different combinations. The main protein could be Italian Sausage, Chicken, Beef, Pork…you decide. The following is an account of one night in which I didn’t want to make an elaborate meal and there was slim pickings as far as food in the house. This literally took a half hour, prep and all. The following amounts should feed 4 and leave with some leftover for lunch the next day….cause you’re going to want it!

2 lbs of meat (your choice)
3 cans of beans (I used kidney, garbanzo, black beans)
2 diced tomatoes
3 quartered zucchini
1/2 package of portabella mushrooms
1/2 diced onion
2 garlic cloves – minced
a few dashes of some heat (I used chili garlic sauce)
a few tablespoons of soy sauce and honey
20 ounces of chicken broth
1 can of tomato soup
Fresh herbs from your garden (you are growing your own spices. . . right?) – oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary (finely chopped)

I absolutely love to cook in a Wok. I think it’s the most versatile cookware one could have. Easy to use, large volume of food and when you think about it. . . is there anything you can’t cook in a Wok? Anyway, in my Wok some olive oil and then the garlic and the onion. Get them going and then put the shrooms, zucchini, diced tomatoes, fresh herbs, chili garlic, soy, honey and chicken in. Don’t put them all in at once. Slow, deliberate and one at a time. You won’t want to cook it all the way down. Right now, it’s simply a matter of getting the flavor mixture on the veggies and meat before you put the liquid in. You could also season with some salt and pepper if you like. At this point, your dish should look something like this:
Pasta Fagioli





After sautéing this mixture for about 6 to 7 minutes, basically when the chicken or meat starts to cook through, add in the chicken broth and tomato soup. Dump your rinsed beans in now to give the soup a diverse texture. Now you simply stew everything until it’s done. Heat on medium high for about 12 to 15 minutes. Fantastic flavor and very easy to make. I think this dish ended up being my daughter’s favorite dish over the summer.
Chicken vegetable bean soup

Red Snapper Delight

So I was at the local Ocala Farm Market on the downtown square. As I toured the variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, spices, herbs, fish, meat etc… it occurred to me that I should invent a recipe to savor the concept of local fresh quality. So here is what I done. First, the meat. I’m trying to trim a few pounds since the last webisode of The Common Chef, “Curry Up and Wine”. After seeing the fact that I’ve been eating way too much good food and thus 20 pounds heavier than I should be it became obvious that watching what I cook was in order. With that aside out of the way I decided on fresh fish. Captain Tim was there and he had fresh red snapper filets on ice. Ahaaa, Snapper it was. I’m a huge, huge fan of red snapper. Sure, I could have pan seared it or grilled it but since I was creating a dish, original thought was in order. So I picked up some extremely sweet peaches and plums. Then came across this gal who had this really nice salsa type of creation made with garlic, lemons and oranges. My mind began to race. How about some sort of fruit relish (by the end of the evening we were calling it fruit chutney)? Before leaving the market I purchased some bee pollen and a Thai basil herb plant. Here follows the account of Mr. PC’s Red Snapper Delight.

Red Snapper Filet Fruit Chutney

Feeds 4 to 5:

  • 3 gorgeous red snapper filets
  • 4 deliciously ripe plums
  • 3 sweet peaches (I’m a huge fan of peaches as well)
  • about 6 ounces of the citrus, garlic concoction (which could be made from scratch – olive oil, garlic, orange and lemon or lime juice with some nice seasonings)
  • A handful of mint leaves out of your fresh herb garden (basil would be better)
  • a handful of grapes
  • chili garlic sauce (or your preferred heat, I also would have liked some sriracha)
  • A package of asparagus used as a bed between the snapper and the bottom of the casserole dish
  • Some honey (few squirts)
  • Balsamic (few dashes)
  • Soy Sauce (few splashes)

Prep is not so bad. First, cut the fruit into small chunks. Muddle the grapes and mint leaves and mix all the ingredients into a bowl save the snapper and asparagus. Cut the bottom ends of the asparagus and create a layer of asparagus at the bottom of a casserole dish. Then lay out those snapper filets on the top of the asparagus and finally top the whole thing with the fruit chutney. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes and finish with a 5 minute broil to crisp up the chutney. I also made a side of basmati rice with carrots and sliced almonds.

Red Snapper Delight Let's Eat

It did end up being a really nice dish. In retrospect I think the chutney would end up being even better over a more hearty meat. I’m thinking about using it as a marinade for chicken and grilling it next time. And yes. . . it was an uncommon taste.


Honey Chicken Grilled Fajita Stuff

Honey Chicken Fajitas

Honey Chicken Fajita Thingies

One of the coolest things about being a common chef is the ability to look at to cupboard and come up with an awesome dish that keeps folks coming back for more. This happened last night. I had about 2 pounds of chicken breast and my lady asked me what I was thinking about making. After observing my repertoire of spices and sauces (even though I already know what I have….it’s always fun to look all over again), I thought about that fancy dancy grill on the porch and then my mind unlocked a fabulous concept. After making the dish I can honestly say that only one thing could improve it and you must already know what that is….Bacon!

So anyway, this would be an incredible start for a fajita dish but there were no tortillas last eve so this is how it rolled. Let’s call it: Fancy Dancy Grilled Chicken (Feeds 2 and a half)

2 pounds chicken
1 Red Pepper
Half an Onion
Minced Garlic (As much or as little as you like – I like a lot)
1 Apple

Seasonings Used:

Sriracha (Was there any doubt?)
Olive Oil – 2 Oz.
Honey – 2 Oz.
Teriyaki Glaze – 2 Oz.
Soy Sauce – 2 Oz.
2 Limes – Freshly Squeezed
Cajun Seasoning – As desired but don’t be shy
Krazy Salt – Same as Cajun seasoning


1. Cut the chicken down into bite sized pieces
2. Julienne the Pepper and Onion
3. Mince the Garlic
4. Cube the Apple into bite sized pieces
5. Put everything into a large bowl and dump in the seasonings and sauces, lime juice.
6. Mix is all around with your hands; make sure everything has good coverage.
7. Now to cook food bites on a grill you’ll need some sort of a basket or pan with slots or holes to put the food on. That’s exactly what you’ll do. Put the food in the basket.
8. Grill at a medium heat. You’ll want to pay close attention to this one because the food at the bottom of the basket will cook and char faster than the food on top. So you’ll need to rotate and move the ingredients around. However, by the nature of things some of the vegetables and apples will caramelize….and that’s just fine. Enjoy!

Honey Chicken Fajitas

Imagine this with some Jalapeno's