Thursday, September 20, 2012

The beginning of the end for Chili's

Chili's used to be a fun place that had consistently good food, Texas style. The nachos were made like a Texan would make them: big sturdy chips individually smeared with refried beans, meat, jalapeƱos and topped with grated cheddar. The margaritas tasted like they actually contained a good percentage of tequila. The baby-back ribs were tender and well-spiced, never slopped with a ton of sauce. They had some trendy items, sure (Awesome Blossom, anyone?), but you could always be sure of getting a good meal.

Somewhere along the line, and many out-of-state restaurants later, all that changed. The nachos began to look more like ballpark nachos. The offerings increased, but they weren't better. It seemed like they were more and more becoming a TGIF or Applebee's clone.

And now has come the kiss of death. Chili's is starting to offer pizza.

I've been to Italian/Mexican restaurants and I can tell you this: They either do good Italian and bad Mexican (usually) or good Mexican and bad Italian (sometimes). Most often it's a 50-50 split and both cuisines aren't very authentic or good.

I wish Chili's well, but pizza won't be bringing me back into one.

Photo from Nation's Restaurant News

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Thank cod

Cod is an underappreciated fish, mostly because it's been inexpensive and plentiful in our lifetime. It has been close to being overfished, however, since it's the main ingredient in McDonald's Filet-O-Fish sandwich and the favorite fish of fish and chips.

For a fast dinner, it can't be beat, and you don't need to go out to get that speed, either.

For instance, including the prep time, last night's dinner didn't even take 30 minutes.

You will need:
Panko bread crumbs (Progresso makes them now, or use a Japanese brand)
Mas Guapo seasoning (, or use Lawry's seasoning salt)
Cod fillets (3/4 pound for two people)
Vegetable oil
Two ears corn
1 can artichoke bottoms (about 6)
Italian seasoning
Parmesan cheese (the kind in the can is OK)
Butter, salt and pepper to taste

The drill:

Heat oven or toaster oven to 450 degrees.

Wash and pat the fish dry. Spread out the breadcrumbs and sprinkle with seasoning. Dredge the fish in the crumbs until it is well covered.

Put the oil in a pan big enough to hold the fillets without touching. Heat to medium hot (about 375 degrees), then put the fish in, largest piece first. In another minute or two, put in the other piece.

Put the artichoke bottoms bowl side up in a broiler proof pan. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning, then Parmesan. Put in the oven.

Chop off the ends of the cobs. At least one row of kernels should come off the end. Do not shuck.

After 5 minutes, turn the large piece of fish. Put the corn in the microwave and set to cook for 5 minutes. Turn the other piece of fish.

About a minute before the corn and fish are ready, pull out the artichokes and turn the oven to broil. Put the artichokes back in.

When the timer goes off, take the fish out of the skillet and drain on paper towels. Take the corn out of the microwave, grab by the silks end and shake out the cob (if the corn is fresh, all the silks will be gone, too). Take the artichokes out of the oven and serve.

You will have to use a bigger skillet if you are cooking for 4 or more, but no extra time; add 2 minutes for each extra ear of corn, more if the corn isn't that fresh.

Any questions? Leave a comment below.