By Iron Chef Leftovers

Those who love me know of my man-crush on Alton Brown. Not only is he responsible igniting my interest in the science of food, he made the single best cooking show ever with Good Eats. I had the pleasure of meeting him several times over the years and he is a genuinely sincere and funny guy.

AB recently launched a web series that is a short bunch of how-to videos, like how to hard cook an egg in an oven (really useful if you need to cook a couple dozen eggs at once). His latest is how to make cat-poo flavored dog treats. I will admit, I am intrigued and am considering making them to try them out on friends’ dogs. The video is below and the link to the recipe is here. The bonus is that he shoots the short with his own dog, Sparky, guest-starring and calls the cat box the “stinky cheese shop.”

A Quick And Simple Cracker Recipe

by A.J. Coltrane

For future reference and before the notes evaporate — the cracker recipe for Iron Chef Leftovers’ big dinner party.

These crackers were served with three cheeses and three chocolates selected by ICL. I wanted to go for a cracker that would have good initial crispness but would have a small amount of chewiness as well. They also needed to taste good on their own but not compete with the cheese and chocolate. I think that overall the crackers fulfilled those goals.

This particular recipe is an amalgam of a bunch of different recipes that I looked through online. I ended up choosing this Alton Brown recipe as a loose template, though they’re still very different:

Ingredient This Recipe Alton Brown
AP Flour 8 oz 4-3/4 oz
Wheat Flour 1-1/2 oz 5 oz
Semolina Flour ½ oz
Table Salt 1-1/2 tsp
Kosher Salt 1-1/2 tsp
Aluminum Free Baking Powder 1-1/2 tsp 1-1/2 tsp
Olive Oil 3 TBP 3 TBP
Water 6 oz 6-1/2 oz
Poppy Seeds 1/3 cup
Sesame Seeds 1/3 cup

Instructions –

1. Knead until the dough *just* comes together and the flour is incorporated. (AB calls for kneading “4-5 times”.) Do NOT knead any further — the goal is develop as little gluten as possible. (More gluten = a chewy cracker, and not in a good way.)

2.  Rest 15 minutes. (So that the flour has a chance to hydrate.) Preheat oven to 450 F.

3.  Cut off 1/8 of the dough. Lightly dust the back of a sheet tray with semolina flour. Roll out the dough as thin as you can. Poke the dough all over with a fork. (So that it doesn’t puff up very much when baked.) Using a pizza wheel, cut the dough into cracker-sized pieces.

4.  Bake for 6 minutes on the first side. Rotate the pan and flip the crackers over. (Work quickly.) Bake 4-6 minutes on the 2nd side. Spread the crackers on a cooling rack to cool. Note that they’ll get crispier as they cool.

When we did these we used three sheet trays — one would be baking on the first side, one would be baking on the 2nd side, and one we’d vigorously wave around to cool it off, then prep the next dough to go into the oven.


Don’t overwork the dough.

Roll it out super duper thin.

Keep practicing. The recipe makes many batches. By the time you’re on the 5th batch some things will start making more sense and you’ll likely have an “aha!” moment. And then you’ll be done.

Even the less than ideal ones will still taste good.

Feel free to add sesame seeds or poppy seeds or cheese or coarse salt or spices or whatever to make them more interesting. Lightly sprinkle the “topping” over the dough when it’s rolled out and pat it in a little bit. Again, these crackers were intended to be complimentary and not try to hog attention from ICL’s dinner, they’d be somewhat “plain” as-is if eaten solo.

Have fun!

Even More Over the Top Mac and Cheese

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Well, time to revisit the recipe since a number of people asked for it at a New Year’s Eve party we attended at Domanico Cellars. The original recipe is here, but this is the one I specifically made on NYE

The Software

1/2 lb of elbow macaroni

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 lb. good quality bacon, preferably thick cut

1 1/2 tablespoon powdered mustard

3 cups whole milk

1/2 cup onion, minced (about 3/4 of a medium onion)

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 large egg (lightly beaten)

12 oz Sharp Cheddar  shredded

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Black pepper to taste

The Recipe

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Shred the cheese and separate into 2 parts, one containing 1/4 of the cheese and 1 containing 3/4 of the cheese.
  • Cook the bacon, reserving the fat. Mince into 1/4 inch pieces when cooled.
  • Mince the onion. Add to the pan that you cooked the bacon in with 1 tsp of bacon fat and cook over medium heat until browned and slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil in a 4 qt pan.
  • Add pasta and cook for about 5 minutes to al dente and drain.
  • While the water is coming to a boil, melt the butter in a 3 qt pan over medium heat.
  • Whisk in the flour and cook until pale blond (about 3 minutes) stirring about every minute.
  • Whisk in onion, paprika and mustard until combined (about 1 minute)
  • Slowly add the milk and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until slightly thickened, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Slowly add 2 ladles full of the milk mixture to the egg, whisking as you add it. This will temper the egg to keep it from cooking and turning into scrambled eggs. I usually do this in a measuring cup. If there are any lumps (i.e. cooked egg), start over with another egg.
  • Add the egg mixture into the pot and stir a couple of times to combine.
  • Add 3/4 of the cheese to the sauce and stir until the cheese is melted, 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the pasta to the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add the bacon to the pasta and combine.
  • In the pan that you cooked the onions, add one tablespoon of bacon fat over medium high heat. Add the breadcrumbs and toss. Cook until they become golden brown, about 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Put pasta and sauce in a 4 qt casserole dish, cover with the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs and bake in the over for 20 minutes.
  • Let stand for 5 minutes and serve with your favorite hot sauce (or not)

IMPORTANT – don’t fully cook the pasta – it will finish cooking in the oven and it will be completely mushy if you cook it fully on the stove. Also, don’t rinse the pasta after you drain it.

Notes Timing is important on this recipe, so I highly suggest preparing all of your ingredients before you start cooking – it really makes the job much easier when you are not trying to measure something while watching something else. I also highly recommend freezing the cheese for about 10 minutes prior to shredding – it makes it much easier. The shredding can be done in a food processor or using a box grater. Don’t buy the pre-shredded cheese, it really doesn’t taste the same and shredding yourself will take you 2 or 3 minutes extra and it will be worth it. I really like Beecher’s Flagship Cheese in this recipe, but if you aren’t local to Seattle, you probably won’t be able to find it, so just use your favorite cheddar.  I really like Skagit River Ranch’s bacon for this recipe, but any good quality bacon will work. The pasta and sauce can be made in advance and then put in the oven later – just put it in the casserole dish, covered in the fridge and when you are ready to cook it, remove it from the fridge, uncover and let it sit at room temp for 15 minutes while you warm the oven. The leftovers also make really good fried mac and cheese the next day, that is, if there is any left.


AB’s Quick and Easy Pasta Dough

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Homemade pasta is one of those things that is insanely easy (with the right recipe) and will impress the crap out of your guests if you make it. It also comes in handy because you can make it with a few ingredients you have at home. I have made pasta completely by hand and it is hard work – mixing and kneading the dough and rolling it out. Taste-wise it is outstanding, but time wise, it isn’t worth it. A few years back, Alton Brown came out with a recipe that significantly cuts back on the time – all of the mixing is done in a food processor. It takes about 3 minutes to make the dough with this process, so you could actually make fresh pasta for a Tuesday night dinner rather than a special occasion.


The Software

10 oz. All Purpose Flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

3 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon olive oil


The Recipe

In the bowl of the food processor combine the salt and flour and pulse for 2 seconds to combine. In a measuring cup, combine all of the remaining ingredients and beat lightly. Turn on the food processor and slowly stream the liquid into the bowl, until all of the liquid is incorporated or the dough just begins to pull away from the side of the mixer bowl. If you have used all of the liquid, slowly stream in 1 tablespoon of water at a time until dough is ready (It should feel slightly tacky, but not wet or sticky). Remove from the bowl, give it about 10 seconds of kneading to bring it together and wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours (the longer you refrigerate, the easier it is to work with).



It is hard to describe exactly what the dough should feel like, so you will probably have to experiment a bit with it. Sometimes you need to add a tablespoon or two of additional water, other times you will not end up using all of your liquid, so there is really no exact way to do this. Some fun additions to pasta – a couple of tablespoons of minced spinach or stinging nettles (just make sure you remove as much water as possible), fresh herbs, lemon zest and pepper or hot pepper flakes. Just add them in with the flour salt and pulse to combine.

Chocolate Tofu Cheesecake Revisited

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I recently got asked for this recipe again and realized that I have made a few tweaks to it from the original. Basically, make a graham cracker crust rather than using a pie crust if you want this to actually look like a cheesecake. It is easy if you have a spring-form pan. I also updated the recipe to use a single type of chocolate rather than the blend that I was originally using.


The Software

13 oz Chocolate – roughly chopped (Dark Chocolate, somewhere around 70% works the best

1/3 cup coffee liqueur or strong coffee

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 pound Silken Tofu (extra firm) drained

1 tablespoon honey

1 9 inch graham cracker crust or pie crust


The Pie

Pre-bake your crust (if necessary) and let cool. If you need to know how to make a graham cracker crust, check here (just leave out the sugar, you won’t need it). Melt the chocolate, liqueur or coffee and vanilla in a bowl over a sauce pan of simmering water, stirring often. (This can also be done in a microwave, but be careful of burning the chocolate). In a blender or food processor, combine the tofu, honey and chocolate and spin until smooth, about 1 minute. Pour the filling into the crust and refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm. That’s it. You have dessert. Serve with whipped cream, chocolate sauce, or just eat it as is.



I personally use a good single origin, 70% chocolate, but if you don’t have access to a really good chocolate shop, you can use pretty good chocolate like Callebaut or Schaffen-Berger, which are available just about everywhere these days (read – most mega marts carry them). Just remember, chocolate is the dominant flavor in this dessert, so go with one that you like the taste of.  If you like it sweeter, add more honey, but I would recommend waiting until after everything is combined and tasted. This will set into the consistency of something resembling a dense cheesecake. If you want something more pudding like, I would recommend using a less firm silken tofu.

Dessert Island Cookbooks

By Iron Chef Lefotvers

I recently saw a list of the top 10 selling cookbooks for 2012 and it is a rather disappointing list, led by the Barefoot Contessa’s new tome. It got me thinking, if I were stranded on a dessert island (no that is not a typo, I really would love to be stranded on a dessert island; a desert island just doesn’t seem like it would be all that much fun) and could only have 10 cookbooks/food related books with me, what would they be? Let’s just assume that I, for some reason, have a fully stocked kitchen and pantry (just don’t ask me how).

Here is my list, in reverse order:

If you were to own just one book on cooking, this should be it.
If you were to own just one book on cooking, this should be it.

10 – Silver Spoon – it is generally considered to be the most complete Italian cookbook ever created and didn’t exist in an English translation until about 10 years ago. If you are serious about Italian cooking, you should own this monster.

9 – Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman. If you watch No Reservations, you know who Ruhlman is. This is a survival guide to curing meats which would come in handy in a stranded situation. It is also an in depth read about the how and why of charcuterie.

8 & 7 – I’m Just Here for the Food / I’m Just Here for More Food by Alton Brown. More useful for why and how things work with cooking than for recipes, I can pretty much assure you that if you ever had a recipe fail, you can find out exactly why here. Be careful, these books are a gateway drug into the world of molecular gastronomy.

6 – On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee. The book is incredibly long (800+ pages), very technical in parts and is not a quick read (it took me over a year to read it cover to cover), but it is probably the single most important book on food ever written. It covers pretty much every aspect of food and food science and you should have it on your bookshelf as reference even if you never read it cover to cover. I doubt there has been a food book written in the last 20 years that has not cited this one as a reference in its bibliography.

5 – Modernist Cuisine at Home. Another book that is more science than recipes, it is another one that you should own, even if you aren’t into the molecular gastronomy thing. Reading this book will make you a better cook even if you never try anything from the book.

However, if you were to own just two books on food, this should be the other one.
However, if you were to own just two books on food, this should be the other one.

4 & 3 & 2 – Bones / Fat / Odd Bits – by Jennifer McLagan. These books are really essential for understanding and cooking the rest of the animal and should really be looked at as 3 parts of a single book; the ultimate in utility – you realize after reading them, everything is useable. They really fill in the gap for all of the stuff that most other cook books don’t address. It doesn’t hurt the descriptions are well written and the anecdotes are funny.

1 – Joy of Cooking – there should be a law that every home cook should have this book on their shelves since it pretty much has a recipe for everything in it. It has been updated about 14 times over its 75+ years in existence, but have some fun and get an edition that is printed before the 1960’s just to see how cooking has changed.

AB’s Instant Chocolate Pudding

By Iron Chef Leftovers

So I am going to show you want to do with the instant pudding recipe. I have modified the original recipe and that change will be described in the notes. This is fairly quick to make and tastes so good when it is done.

The Software
1 ¾ cups of pudding mix
4 cups of whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

The Recipe
Combine the mix and milk in a medium sauce pan. Whisk together until combined. Heat over medium heat until mixture begins to boil (7-10 minutes) constantly whisking gently. When boil is reached, reduce heat to low and simmer for 4 minutes, whisking constantly. Remove heat and whisk in vanilla. Transfer mixture to a single bowl or individual serving bowls. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding if you don’t want a skin to form. Refrigerate or just eat it warm. Using your finger or a spatula, remove any chocolate pudding still in the pot and consume.

The original recipe called for 2 cups of heavy cream and 2 cups of milk. I replaced the cream with the milk and did not really notice much difference in the texture or flavor. I need to try it with replacing some of the whole milk with skim milk to see how that affects the product. I also tried doubling the recipe. It increased the cooking time from 10 minutes to almost 30 since there was much more cold milk to bring up to temperature.

Stuff You Should Have In Your Pantry: Instant Chocolate Pudding Mix

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I like simple desserts. I am not a baker and I don’t like spending a ton of time putting things together if I don’t have to, but I do like chocolate and specifically chocolate pudding. Yes, you can buy it premade (which tastes like crap) or the instant pudding mix in the store but really, do you want all of the chemicals and stabilizers in it? Here is the ingredients list for Jell-O Chocolate Pudding:


They actually add food dye to chocolate pudding? Sheesh. What if I told you that you could make your own instant pudding mix at home with a handful of ingredients and have it taste about 100 times better than any box mix that you can get? Well, thanks to the culinary genius that is Alton Brown, you can.

The Software
4 oz. Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder
2 oz. Cornstarch
6 oz. Powdered Sugar
1 ½ oz. Non-Fat Dry Milk Powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt

The Recipe
Take all the ingredients and combine them in a large bowl or container with a lid. Cover and shake until completely combined. That is it. You are done. That took about 2 minutes. Store covered in the fridge for 3 months.

I actually increased the amount of cocoa in this recipe by 1 oz. (it originally called for 3 oz.) because I wanted to. A teaspoon of espresso powder added to this mix would throw this totally over the top. Use a really good cocoa powder, it is your dominant flavor and you want the best you can get. I suppose you want the recipe for making pudding, huh? Well, you will just have to wait a few days for my next post to get that one.

Gumbo File

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I love gumbo but it can be really hard to find one with a good balance of flavor and heat in a restaurant. Most of the ones that I have had around Seattle have been too soupy or bland, so I decided to make one recently that was basically a modification of Alton Brown’s recipe from Good Eats.

The biggest problem with making gumbo is getting the roux dark enough – the roux is the foundation for the flavor of the dish and traditionally it requires at least an hour of cooking on the stovetop with constant stirring. Alton Brown devised a short cut method, which does not reduce the cooking time, but it does reduce the need to stir it constantly by cooking the roux in the oven instead of on the stove top. The other thing I like about this recipe is that it uses file powder instead of okra. I am not a fan of okra, but you need it to thicken the dish. File powder does this.

The Software
* 4 ounces vegetable oil
* 4 ounces all-purpose flour
* 1 1/2 pounds raw, unpeeled medium-sized (31-50 count) shrimp
* 2 quarts water
* 3 chicken thighs, skin on, bone in (Optional)
* 3/4 cup chicken stock (if not using the chicken in the dish)
* 1 cup diced onion
* 1/2 cup diced celery
* 1/2 cup diced green peppers
* 2 tablespoons minced garlic
* 1/2 cup peeled, seeded and chopped tomato
* 1 tablespoon kosher salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
* 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 2 bay leaves
* 1/2 pound andouille sausage, cut into 1/4-inch pieces and browned
* 1 tablespoon file powder

The Recipe

The Roux
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the vegetable oil and flour into a 5 to 6-quart Dutch oven and whisk together to combine. Place on the middle shelf of the oven, uncovered, and bake for 1 1/2 hours, whisking 2 to 3 times throughout the cooking process. The roux will come out dark brown, almost brick red when it is done.

The Stock
While the roux is baking, de-head, peel and devein the shrimp. Place the shrimp in a bowl and set in the refrigerator. Place the heads and shells in a 4-quart saucepan along with the 2 quarts of water, set over high heat and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour or until the liquid has reduced to 1-quart. Remove from the heat and strain the liquid into a container, discarding the solids.

If including the chicken – In a separate pot add 2 cups of cold water, a pinch of salt and the chicken. Bring to a boil and then reduce to medium-low and cover. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour, until very tender. Remove the chicken to a plate to let cool and de-fat the cooking liquid in a fat separator, reserving 3/4 cup. Removed the chicken and shred when it is cool enough to handle.

The Gumbo
Brown the sausage on both sides over medium-high heat and remove to a bowl. Add the shrimp and cook for about 1 on each side (don’t worry about cooking them completely, they will finish cooking in the gumbo). Deglaze the pan with the reserved cooking liquid from the chicken or the chicken stock, scraping up the brown bits. Once the brown bits are scrape up, add the liquid to the shrimp stock.

Once the roux is done, carefully remove it from the oven and set over medium-high heat. Gently add the onions, celery, green peppers and garlic and cook, moving constantly for 7 to 8 minutes or until the onions begin to turn translucent. Add the tomatoes, salt, black pepper, thyme, cayenne pepper, and bay leaves and stir to combine. Gradually add the shrimp broth and chicken stock while whisking continually. Decrease the heat to low, cover and cook for 35 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the shrimp, chicken and sausage and stir to combine. Add the file powder while stirring constantly. Cover and allow to sit for 10 minutes prior to serving. Serve over rice to a happy public.

If the gumbo is not thick enough for your liking, you can add additional file powder after serving.

The recipe is really hands off compared to most other ones I have seen. You can eliminate the chicken and chicken stock and replace it with vegetable stock if you are so inclined, but I am not sure if there is a way to make this vegetarian. The heat is pretty tame in this recipe, if you like more heat, increase the cayanne, or just add some hot sauce when serving. Traditionally this is served with rice, but would also work with pasta. You can also add more or less of the meats in it, depending on what your preferences are.

File powder can be found at any good spice shop and most mega marts.