Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Free Dinah's Fried Chicken and a Trim - Restaurant Review

Dinah's Fried Chicken is free for local residents through August! Just show your California drivers' license or local I.D. for a free 2-piece dinner, and be sure to say you are a "new customer." Family-owned and operated since 1967, this Chef ranks their bird among the best.

You get this deal one time only. If you are near San Fernando Boulevard in Glendale swing by and get one. You have a choice of a side with a dinner roll. Mashed potatoes, macaroni salad, mac and cheese, and pineapple coleslaw are some side selections. 

You can't go wrong with the coleslaw. Pineapple adds a sweetness to typical sour mayonnaise slaw. The dinner role is standard store-bought fare. But it is all about the chicken at Dinah's.

Dinah's fried chicken has a subtle citrus-flavored crust like orange marinated El Pollo Loco grilled chicken, a crispy dark brown fried batter that is less greasy than Kentucky Fried Chicken, and its white meat is as moist as roasted Zankou Chicken

The 99 Cent Chef lived near Dinah's Fried Chicken in Glendale, Ca. for many years. I cannot count the number of times I've had the pleasure of their poultry. I don't know why, but I like to order a two-piece dinner to go and sit in my car in the parking lot and eat. Am I too cheap to dine in and tip the waiter? Or is Public Radio playing a program on my car stereo too involving to walk away from?

Actually, they do not sell beer but the market across from the parking lot does, and a perfect accompaniment to fried chicken is iced tea or beer. You can probably figure out which I prefer.

I no longer live near Dinah's but my Armenian barber does. I have been going to him for over a decade now. When you find one you like, as with a woman or a car mechanic, you stay with them forever. Garoon Barber Shop is in a mini-mall like Dinah's. 

There are two barbers, Garoon and Kachik. Both are excellent and speak very little English. I walk in, grab a magazine -- Garoon asks "short or medium," I shake my head yes and let him decide.

Guys do not need to converse with their hairdressers; just give me a couple of barbershop men's magazines and I am happy (I am more of a Gourmet Magazine and The New Yorker subscriber, so reading GQ is a nice change of pace). 

And the price of a haircut is $10 including tip! They are quick and efficient, and local Armenian cable programs on the overhead TV give you an exotic ambiance. Women's hair is done next door at Kristine's Beauty Salon. They are open 7 days a week 9 AM - 7PM, and I always drop by Dinah's for fried chicken after my haircut.

Hey guys, how many cooking blogs recommend dining and a haircut! You only have through this weekend for free chicken, but you have plenty of time to visit my friends Garoon and Kachik for a cheap shave and a trim.

Dinah's Fried Chicken - Free through August for local new customers: two-piece dinner or substitutions of equal value. Dine-in or take-out.
Address: 4106 San Fernando Rd. Glendale, Ca. 91204 phone: 818) 244-4188
Hours: 11am - 9pm (dining room until 8:30pm).

Dinah's - original location: 6521 Sepulveda Blvd. L.A., Ca. phone: 310) 645-0456
Hours: 6am - 10pm

Garoon Barber Shop - 1015 1/2 E. Chevy Chase Dr. Glendale, Ca. 91205
phone: 818) 247-7210. Haircuts are $8 for adults, $7 for children.

99 Thanks to Paul and Danit at L.A. Decostified for the free chicken meal heads-up!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Black Bean & Corn Salad

My vegetarian neighbors Ben and Lisa were kind enough to invite The 99 Cent Chef over for an outdoor birthday party for their five-year-old son, Justin. The Chef always makes it a point to pay attention to their menu to pass on any entree that his vegetarian readers may enjoy.

One party entree included a tasty tomato sauced penne pasta salad, but the real stand-out was a Black Bean & Corn Salad. It was delicious, but needed a little work for my taste. First, the black beans still had sauce, so the bright yellow corn was muddy looking, and the flavor was underwhelming - some citrus juice and olive oil was needed to brighten things up. Minor tweaks really, and just a matter of taste.

I am always looking for an excuse to use black beans (check out my Ceviche & Black Beans recipe) and corn is an excellent pairing. I originally tried using defrosted frozen corn, but kept biting into tough, raw kernels (but fresh corn is a different matter and would be fine -- just cut shuck, slice off kernels, and quick-blanch.) So for this recipe, I'm sticking with canned corn. Corn and black beans are always on sale everywhere; I got mine from this 99c only Store. Fresh chopped sweet red bell pepper and red onion add more color, crunch and texture.

This is a fine and hearty side dish to serve at a picnic or party; just open a bag of tortilla chips to stretch it out. Pull out this recipe for your next barbecue -- it pairs well with chicken and fish. The 99 Cent Chef's Black Bean & Corn Salad is one quick, cheap and filling veggie accompaniment.

Ingredients (about 4 servings)
  • Black Beans - large 1 1/2 lb. or 2 1/2 cups, rinsed and drained.
  • Corn - Two 8 oz. cans or 2 cups, drained.
  • 1 cup chopped bell pepper - red, yellow or green (optional)
  • 1 cup chopped onion - red, white or yellow (optional)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil - optional
  • 2 tbsp. lemon or lime juice - fresh squeezed or bottled, ok to substitute vinegar.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Drain and rinse canned black beans, then place in a large bowl. Add drained corn. Chop bell pepper and onion. Mix into bowl of black beans and corn. Finally, blend in olive oil and lime or lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste. Allow to sit for half an hour to marinate at room temperature. Serve with tortilla chips or just as a side for your birthday party!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Julia Child Birthday Recipe - Crepes Suzette Video

Food lovers are celebrating Julia Child's birthday today. And in her honor, the 99 Cent Chef's new palate-pleasing video, "Julian & Julia," introduces Julia Child's nephew, Julian Child. He's a real chip off the cutting board and a chef worthy of sauteing with Aunt Julia's copper-bottomed pot!

I had the good fortune to run into Julian Child at the Hollywood Farmers Market this last Sunday. We chatted about his "Aunt Julia" and the movie "Julie & Julia."

As we walked through fresh and fragrant stalls of produce Julian stopped at a stack of organic oranges and reminisced about his childhood summers in Paris, France, and how he would tug at Julia Child's apron and beg for his favorite dish: Crepe Suzette in an Orange Butter Sauce.

Aunt Julia eventually grew tired of always preparing it and soon taught it to her nephew, a budding chef. I seized the opportunity to invite Julian to The 99 Cent Chef's kitchen to cook his Aunt Julia's Crepe Suzette for everyone!

A delicious and decadent dessert made with loads of butter, this French classic is easy and of course, cheap to make. Flour, eggs, milk, orange juice, butter, and a 99-cent airline bottle of cognac make up the main ingredients. (You can leave out half the butter, but then it would not be a true Julia Child culinary experience. Try it this way at least once!
Julian & Julia - VIDEO

Play it here. The video runs 6 minutes, 20 seconds.

Click here to view or embed video from YouTube.

Ingredients (about 6 crepes)
  • 1 cup of Flour
  • 3/4 cup of Milk
  • 3/4 cup of Water
  • 2 to 3 Eggs
  • 2 tbsp. Butter
  • 1/4 tsp. of Vanilla - optional.
  • Pinch of Salt
              Orange Butter Sauce
              • 1/2 cup of Orange Juice - freshly squeezed or store-bought pasteurized.
              • Zest of 1/2 Orange - optional.
              • 1/2 cup of Sugar
              • 1 stick of Butter - OK to use less.
              • Airline bottle of Cognac (or Brandy) - about 1/4 cup.

                          Directions for Crepes
                        In a large bowl mix together flour, milk, water, salt, eggs, and 1 tablespoon of melted or soft butter. Whisk until well blended, about 2 minutes.

                         Heat your medium (about 8 inches) non-stick omelet pan and coat with 1 pat of butter or oil. 

                        When butter is melted, add 1/4 cup of Crêpe batter - enough to just cover the bottom of the pan.
                        Hold up the pan and swirl to coat the pan evenly. It is better to have too much batter than too little - a thin Crêpe will tear when turning. 

                        Cook the Crêpe for a minute, then loosen around the edges and continue cooking for another minute. Peek before turning to see if the Crêpe is starting to brown. Carefully turn the Crêpe over and cook for another half minute. 

                        As my video shows, the first Crêpe may stick and be unusable. Instead of throwing it away, you might as well taste it to see how tender the crêpe turned out.

                        Don't worry, it takes a couple of Crêpe to get it right. Your crêpes may not be perfect, but with a sweet Orange Butter Sauce, no one will be complaining about its appearance. Set aside your cooked Crêpes to add to the Orange Butter Sauce.

                        Directions for Orange Butter Sauce
                        Use a large enough pan to dip a whole crepe into. Melt butter, then add orange juice, zest, and sugar in the pan, over medium/high heat. Cook until sauce is reduced by half and thickened, about 5 minutes.

                        Cooking Crepes Suzette
                        Reduce heat and add a Crêpe. Notice my use of a spoon and fork, in the video, to fold Crêpe into the sauce. Fold in half once, then fold one more time and push the Crêpe to the edge of the pan to make room for more. 

                        I managed to fit about 3 Crêpes at a time into my pan. Allow crêpes to heat through for a minute.

                        When the sauce and Crêpes are warm, pour in half the cognac and bring to the table. 

                        Now the fun part - Cognac Flambé! Have a long-handled match ready. This is when you want an audience. 

                        Your table should be set and the lights dimmed so you can serve the flaming Crêpes Suzettes with a flourish! Place before your dazzled guest and strike a match, lighting the sauce...oh my!

                        Be careful, the cognac will flame up, so you don't want flammable items nearby (overhead curtains, paper, etc.), and your kids should not attempt this! 

                        Serve this first batch of Crêpes with a spoonful of sauce.

                        Finish saucing the other Crêpes, then Flambé, and repeat. Bon Appetit!

                        If you are not familiar with the culinary icon, Julia Child, here is a scene from "Julie & Julia." Meryl Streep "chews" the scenery as larger-than-life Julia Child.

                        The other half of the movie is about Julie Powell blogging and cooking her way through, in one year, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" co-written by Julia Child. Both stories resonated with this Chef.

                        And the movie's Paris locale is intoxicating. You will find yourself leaving the theater with the booming voice of Julia Child in your head and your utterances will have her cadence. She is so fun to mimic you cannot help but bellow "Bon Appetit" every chance you get!

                        And 99 Thanks to Bob McGinness for his creative camerawork!

                        Monday, August 10, 2009

                        Zankou Chicken & The Hollywood Bowl - 2 Videos

                        Sorry ladies, but The 99 Cent Chef is one cheap date -- just ask his wife! A favorite thrifty accompaniment to a beautiful sunset over the Hollywood Bowl is tender and succulent roasted bird from local legendary Lebanese poultry purveyor, Zankou Chicken. It's just shy of $10 dollars for a whole chicken -- that includes two pitas and two addictive and decadent garlic dips. I don't know the exact ingredients, but their garlic spread is so "crack" good you'll want to order a couple of extras (recipe here).

                        Make sure to ask to have the chicken cut for easier eating. Usually I get a couple extra pitas for 25 cents each. Bring some sliced tomato, onion and avocado and you can assemble your own delicious roast chicken pitas (a large plastic container for the chicken keeps things less messy when dining on Hollywood Bowl benches).

                        While satellite restaurants (really, just mini-mall formica settings) are popping up all over town, The Chef makes it a point to hit the Hollywood location, on Sunset and Normandie, a couple of times each summer during jaunts to Hollywood's musical mecca.

                        This bargain night out is the best summer deal in town. And you can bring your own picnic (some lease event nights exempted); just notice all the various spreads on the walk to your cheap seats -- everything from crusty baguette sandwiches from Patina and salads from Whole Foods to bottles of Trader Joe's "Two Buck Chuck" Chardonnay. Were else can you wine and dine enveloped in beautiful sunsets, listening to a full orchestra playing to a star-studded Broadway-quality performance of "Guys and Dolls" for 10 bucks! What a relief not having to budget in $9 watery draft beer or $8 soggy-bun hot dogs.

                        As for the "V,W, Z" cheap seats, yeah, it's a long way off, and your ears may "pop" on the way up. There are large projection screens, but I go to listen to the music, not to watch the show! The Hollywood Bowl acoustics are excellent anywhere you plant yourself.

                        Now parking is not cheap, upwards of $15-$30 bucks for "stacked parking", but you can take a "park & ride" bus or park at Hollywood/Highland and take a shuttle for a few bucks.

                        The Hollywood Bowl's website gives you excellent parking tips. The Chef used to live in off Franklin Ave. in Hollywood, so he knows a few side streets that are not restricted for free parking -- although it can be a long trek when loaded down with ice-packed chilled bottles of wine and other provisions.

                        During these mild warm nights, August is the best month for a Hollywood Bowl picnic. So come along for a date with The 99 Cent Chef. His new video shepherds you down L.A. thoroughfares into Hollywood's Zankou Chicken Restaurant, then speeds through Hollywood backstreets for a quick scenic walk into The Hollywood Bowl. You will feel like you are there, and you should be! You have a couple of months left to enjoy this festive L.A. summer destination that comes highly recommended by The 99 Cent Chef.

                        Zankou Chicken & The Hollywood Bowl - Video

                        Play it here. The video runs 4 minutes, 21 seconds.

                        It's all about the music at The Hollywood Bowl as my video featurette below will attest. It would be 2 hours long if I put in a 15 second clip of every concert I've enjoyed there. Everyone from New Waver's ABC (favorite lyric: "I've seen the future, I can't afford it") to Rufus Wainwright drag-channeling Judy Garland singing "Come on Get Happy" (nice gams Rufus)! The programmers for The Bowl come up with great theme nights all summer long, like the recent movie showing of Koyaanisqatsi with a soundtrack performed live by the Philip Glass Ensemble with the L.A. Philharmonic. So check out The Chef's own video musical medley featuring half a dozen 15-second favorites!

                        Hollywood Bowl Medley - Video
                        Play it here. The video runs 4 minutes, 19 seconds. 

                        Do you have some favorite Hollywood Bowl picnic cuisine ideas to share, or a favorite show you attended? Do leave a comment.

                        Zankou Chicken & The Hollywood Bowl video: Click here to embed or view video on youtube. 
                        Hollywood Bowl Medley video: Click here to embed or view video on youtube.

                        Tuesday, August 4, 2009

                        Snow Peas & Scallops Stir Fry

                        Delicate fresh snow peas on sale make a healthy stir fry. Cook them shell and all with your protein of choice. I found small 4 oz. packs of frozen scallops at the Hollywood 99c only Store. I've also seen them at regular chain groceries in one dollar packs. The price of 4 oz. for one dollar equals out to four dollars per pound, not a bad deal -- plus, small portions of protein force you to eat all of your veggies! If snow peas are not available, scallops combine with any seasonal vegetable, including asparagus, string beans or leeks.

                        Sweet snow peas pair perfectly with delectable tender scallops. It makes for one of the quickest stir frys -- snow peas are tasty enough to eat raw and only need to be heated through; while scallops are done in just a minute (you can also substitute scallops with shrimp).

                        Make your own Oriental sauce by combining oyster and soy sauces with a little honey. If you have some sweet/sour sauce, use that instead.

                        Including seafood in your entree does not need to break the bank when you stretch it by combining with your favorite seasonal vegetables.

                        Ingredients (2 servings)
                        • 1 pint of snow peas - about 4 cups loosely packed.
                        • O.K. to substitute and/or combine any seasonal veggies including asparagus, stringbeans, zucchini, leeks, etc.
                        • 4 oz. package of 99.99c bay scallops
                        • 1 tbsp. cornstarch or flour
                        • 2 tbsp. of oil for stir frying
                        • 1 tbsp. chopped garlic - fresh or jar
                        • Salt and pepper to taste

                        Oriental Stir Fry Sauce

                        • 2 tbsp. oyster sauce
                        • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
                        • 1 tsp. honey or sugar
                        • 1 tsp. fresh chopped or powered ginger - optional
                        • 1/4 cup of water or broth
                        • O.K. to substitute sweet and sour sauce for oyster sauce (leave out honey/sugar)
                        Tear off stems from snow peas if necessary; a tough string will sometimes come off with them as well. Rinse and drain scallops and add 1 tbsp. of cornstarch, or flour, to scallops - mix well in a bowl. Mix all ingredients of Oriental Stir Fry Sauce in separate bowl and set aside.
                        Heat 1 tbsp. oil in medium/hot wok, or large pan. Stir fry snow peas quickly for a minute. They do not need to cook through yet. Clear middle area of wok and add 1 tbsp. of oil, then saute scallops. Stir fry for a minute until they go from semi-transparent to opaque white. Pour in Oriental Sauce and mix well. Allow to cook for a couple minutes until sauce thickens, this will finish cooking scallops and snow peas. Ready to eat; accompany rice or noodles.
                        *Substituting asparagus or other seasonal veggies make take a longer cooking time, usually 5 minutes or so -- shrimp may take an extra minute or two; it still makes for one quick stir fry.

                        Saturday, August 1, 2009

                        Almost Tandoori Chicken & Pineapple

                        A whole pineapple, chicken and India spices for around a dollar, plus a bbq grill, equals another 99 Cent Chef delicious budget entree. Looking through my spice rack and refrigerator yogurt selection turns up enough ingredients to almost make an India-style tandoori marinade -- although, short a few spices, it will still be tasty! No coriander or cardamon but plenty of cumin, ginger, clove and garlic powder; and no clay oven for baking tandoori chicken, but a barbecue grill will suffice.

                        And pairing smoky spicy chicken with grilled sweet and tangy fresh pineapple on sale is a killer combination for a hot summer dish.
                        The Chef tries to keep a full spice rack, but sometimes they get used up, or -- like India garam masala -- they're harder to find. Individual select India spices are easy to get on sale; you just need to make a mix.

                        I've found powdered cumin, ginger, cloves and many other Middle Eastern spices at Latin markets, 99c only Stores and regular discount markets. I am lucky to have a few small India mom-and-pops close at hand in Culver City to make up the difference. If you have all the tandoori spices on hand, then go for it, but don't worry about leaving out a few, it will still taste great.

                        Yogurt binds these spices together and you only need a small carton - I get the type with fruit on the bottom because it is usually on sale; just leave the fruit out. Coat the chicken pieces with the Chef's "almost tandoori" marinade and let it refrigerate covered for an hour or two, if possible.

                        I was lucky to run across fresh pineapple at sale at 3 pounds for a dollar at my local Latin market and a whole pineapple for 99.99 cents at this 99c only Store. Fresh pineapple flavors are more intensely sweet and citrus sour -- grilling tones down the sour and increases the sweetness. Of course, regular canned sliced pineapple can be used; I have grilled it and it works fine. If you have any left over, make a breakfast smoothie the next day.

                        Be sure to use up fresh pineapple quickly, as it turns brown in 24 hours (drizzle with lemon juice to prolong) compared to pasteurized canned. Pineapple generally cooks faster than chicken, so I add it later when one side of the chicken is brown.

                        A ripe pineapple is not all green; it should be turning yellow, but not brown and soft. Peeling a whole pineapple is messy, but worth it. Just chop off the top and bottom and slice off the skin as you would an apple -- cut deep enough to remove all the tough scales. Lastly, half the pineapple lengthwise to slice out the tough core. The core is like fresh-peeled sugar cane and a sweet chew!

                        The Chef's Almost Tandoori Chicken & Pineapple recipe can be converted into a shish kabob: just cut ingredients into smaller pieces -- try adding slices of yellow/red bell pepper and onion, too. You can also bake this entree in a regular oven (about 45 minutes at 350 degrees).
                        *Please note that The Chef used budget ingredients from 4 different stores! Pick up your discount foodstuffs when you see them on sale and store it!

                        Ingredients for Tandoori Coating (about 4 chicken pieces)
                        • Mix and match whatever Indian style spices you have on hand - it will taste delish!
                        • 6 oz. yogurt (plain or with fruit on the bottom - leave out fruit)
                        • 1 tbsp. ground cumin
                        • 1 tsp. ground ginger or fresh minced
                        • 1 tsp. garlic - fresh chopped or powder
                        • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
                        • Other tandoori spices include: teaspoon each of ground cardamom, coriander, garam masala and cinnamon.

                        Mix tandoori ingredients into yogurt (leave out fruit on the bottom}. Coat 4 pieces of chicken and allow to marinate covered in the refrigerator an hour or two. Prepare pineapple by cutting into large slices for grilling. Heat grill and brown chicken on one side then add pineapple to grill. Check on pineapple often as it will brown faster because of its high sugar content. Add extra marinade to chicken during grilling. Chicken is done when juices run clear when pierced in thickest part. I had chicken pieces with both skin-on and off - both taste delish. My gas grill cooked chicken in about 20-30 minutes on low heat.

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