Sunday, April 23, 2017

Fried Mozzarella Sliders with Marinara

     Fried Mozzarella Sliders!
     Gourmet sliders are still a popular food trend that is going strong.  Gourmet sliders of every kind are offered these days.  Sometimes it is hard to draw the line between what is a slider and what really is a mini sandwich.  
     The classic definition of a slider is a cooked mini burger patty made with any kind of ground meat on a mini roll.  By this standard, anything else is really just a mini sandwich.  By modern standards, the definition of a slider is a bit looser.  Modern sliders are made with pork belly, pulled pork barbecue, blackened tuna, beef tenderloin, prime rib, veggie patties, crab cakes and even fried fish.  Much to the dismay of traditionalists, as long as a featured item is hot and it fits on a tiny roll, then it can be called a slider in modern times.            
     A few years ago, I attended the San Gennaro Feast in Las Vegas.  Attending that event gave me a chance to catch up on new Italian American food trends.  I posted photographs of some nice tasting Meatball Sliders that I sampled that day.  The little Meatball Sandwiches were tasty and it was a good Italian slider idea.  I also saw Mozzarella Sliders on the menu at one of the other vender stands.  This was another good Italian slider idea!
     Making Meatball Sliders is fairly easy to do.  Making Fried Mozzarella Sliders does require a little bit more skill.  I used to make Mozzarella en Carrozza (Pan Fried Breaded Mozzarella) at an Italian restaurant during my first apprenticeship.  The trick part is frying the breaded mozzarella just long enough to soften the cheese.  Frying just a few seconds too long will result in soft melted cheese that easily leaks out of the breadcrumb coating.  When done just right, Fried Mozzarella Sliders are a sheer pleasure to eat, especially when they are topped off with a good Marinara Sauce!  

     Shiny Hamburger and Slider Rolls:
     Follow the link to the recipe in this website.

     Marinara Sauce:
     Follow the link to the recipe in this website.
     • Classic Marinara Sauce 
     About 1/3 cup of Marinara will be needed to garnish 3 Fried Mozzarella Sliders.  Gently warm a portion of the Marinara sauce in a sauce pot over low heat as needed.   
     Fried Mozzarella Sliders with Marinara:
     This recipe yields 3 sliders.  (1 portion)
     Chilling or partially freezing the breaded mozzarella before frying will provide a few extra seconds before the cheese becomes soft.   
     Step 1:  Select a ball of Fresh Mozzarella Cheese that is 3" to 3 1/2" diameter.
     Cut 3 slices that are about 3/8" thick.  (Each slice of Fresh Mozzarella should be the same size as a Slider Burger Patty.) 
     Step 2:  Place 2 cups of fine plain Italian breadcrumbs in a mixing bowl.
     Lightly seasoned with sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of oregano.
     Mix the breading ingredients together.
     Step 3:  Place 1/2 cup of flour in a small mixing bowl and set it aside.
     Step 4:  Place 1 large egg in a mixing bowl.
     Whisk till blended.
     Set the egg wash aside.
     Step 5:  Dredge the 3 slices of Fresh Mozzarella in the flour. 
     Dip 1 floured cheese slice at a time in the egg wash and make sure it is completely coated. 
     Dredge each egg washed cheese slice in in the seasoned breadcrumbs.
     Step 6:  Place the Breaded Mozzarella slices on a parchment paper lined platter.
     Chill in a refrigerator or freezer to 35ºF.
     Step 7:   *It is best to get the slider rolls and sauce ready, before frying the cheese.  
     Cut 3 warm Shiny Slider Rolls in half.
     Place the rolls on a plate and set it aside.
     Heat about 1/3 cup of Marinara Sauce in a small sauce pot over very low heat.
     Step 8:  Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat.  
     Add enough blended olive oil, so the oil is about 3/8" deep in the pan.
     Adjust the temperature, so the oil is 350ºF.
     Step 9:  *Breaded mozzarella cheese fries very quickly!  Be ready to flip the mozzarella over when halfway done and be ready to remove it from the hot oil before it overcooks.  Do not fry for too much time, because the cheese will melt and leak out of the breading.
     Place the 3 Breaded Mozzarella Slices side by side in the hot oil. 
     Fry till the bottom side is light golden brown.
     Use a slotted spatula to turn each Breaded Mozzarella over.
     Fry the other side till it is light golden brown.
     Step 9:  Use a slotted spatula to remove the 3 Fried Mozzarella from the hot oil.
     Place the 3 Fried Mozzarella Slices on the Shiny Slider Rolls.
     Spoon about 2 tablespoon of Marinara Sauce on top of each Fried Mozzarella Slider.
     Lean the tops of the Shiny Slider Rolls against the sliders.
     Garnish the plate with Italian Parsley sprigs and pickles of your choice.

     Gooey Fried Mozzarella with Marinara on Shiny Rolls is the best Italian munch you never had! 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Classic Marinara Sauce

     Classic Marinara!
     Marina Sauce originated in the galleys of Italian merchant ships and fishing vessels.  The way that Marinara Sauce is made is similar to how meals were quickly put together for fishermen returning from sea back in the old days, before radio communications.  Fishermen worked at sea till the job was done or the weather started getting rough and there was no time schedule.  Home cooks ashore often had to wait till the boats could be seen returning to port, before getting the meal started.  Home cooks in fishing villages developed great recipes that take very little time to prepare.
     The same can be said about meals prepared at sea.  Less than 100 years ago, a galley cook performed far more duties on a fishing boat than just preparing meals for the crew.  If repairs or hauling in a catch needed to be done, the task took priority over preparing a meal.  Often a galley cook was faced with preparing a meal for a hungry crew in short order and this is where Marinara Sauce fits in.
     Depending on the quality of the canned tomatoes, Marinara Sauce can be made in a matter of minutes or it can be simmered for forty minutes,.  In the old fishing boat days, the time that that it took to make Marinara also depended on how hungry the crew was!  It was never a good idea to keep temperamental fishermen hungry for too long, especially if the crew depended on the Vitamin C in tomatoes for preventing scurvy.
     Marinara can also be made with peeled, seeded overripe fresh tomato filets.  I once worked with an Italian chef in Florida that went to a tomato packing plant just to get boxes of overripe fresh tomatoes that were unfit for shipping.  Tomato shippers prefer to pack only unripe fresh tomatoes, because they are more durable when boxed and shipped.  A tomato packing plant usually gives the overripe tomatoes away for free to farmers that need livestock feed or to anybody that wants them.  Since the Italian chef got the overripe tomatoes at no cost, his restaurant food cost percentage was very low!
     Classic Marinara Sauce: 
     This recipe yields 3 to 4 portions of sauce.  (about 3 to 3 1/3 cups) 
     • The proportion of olive oil in a marinara sauce is about 20%.  Olive oil is the key to cooking this classic tomato sauce.  Without enough olive oil, a marinara will turn out to be "flat" like stewed tomatoes.
     • Only the best imported canned Italian tomatoes should be used to make Marinara Sauce.  This is because Marinara has evolved from a simple quickly made sauce to a sauce that shows off the best tomatoes in the house.
     • Canned whole peeled seeded San Marzano Tomatoes packed in their own juices are the best choice.  Another good choice is canned Italian peeled seeded plum tomatoes packed in their own juices.  If the imported can of Italian tomatoes also says "Con Basilico" (packed with basil leaves) on the label then that is good too, because basil sweetens tomatoes.  
     Step 1:  Place a 28 ounce can of imported Italian peeled seeded San Marzano Tomatoes packed in their own juices in a mixing bowl.   (Or use canned Italian peeled seeded plum tomatoes packed in their own juices.)
     Crush and squeeze the tomatoes by hand till no large chunks remain.
     Set the prepared tomatoes aside.
     Step 2:  Heat 3/4 cup of pomace olive oil in a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 8 thin sliced garlic cloves.
     Fry the garlic in the oil, till it cooks to a light golden brown color.
     Step 3:  Immediately add the reserved prepared tomatoes and their juices.
     Add about 12 whole fresh basil leaves.  (medium to medium large size leaves)
     Add 3 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 4:  Bring the sauce to a gentle boil, while stirring often.  (Do not over heat this sauce!)
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to medium low/low heat.
     Gently simmer the sauce and stir the olive oil into the sauce once every five minutes.
     *The olive oil must be stirred into the sauce regularly, so the olive oil combines with the tomatoes and juices!
     Simmer the marinara for up to 40 minutes, till the excess tomato juices have reduced and the sauce becomes a medium thin tomato sauce consistency.
     Step 6:  Add 2 tablespoons of minced Italian Parsley.
     Remove the pot of Marinara Sauce from the heat.
     *Marinara is never kept warm.  Marinara Sauce is always reheated to order!

     This is the way that I was taught to make Marinara during my first Italian apprenticeship.  As one can see, it only takes a few select ingredients and good cooking techniques to make a great Marinara Sauce!  

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Classic Italian Sub

     An Old School Italian Sub Sandwich!
     The best Sub Sandwiches can be found at an Italian delicatessen or Italian sub shop.  Italian chefs take great pride in traditional meats and cheese from the old country.  Local Italian artisan deli meats and cheese in big cities, like Chicago or New York City are also made with the same high quality standards.  Local Italian bakeries always have the best Sub Sandwich Bread.  With a combination of Italian food resources like this, it is easy to see why an Italian Sub Sandwich tastes so great in a big city.
     When making an Italian Sub Sandwich, settling for second rate lunch meats and cheese simply will not do.  National brand lunch meats and cheese always make concessions in quality to suit the mass production process.  Selecting average national brand lunch meats and cheese at an average grocery store will result in an average tasting Italian Sub Sandwich that will be only slightly better than those found at a fast food sub shop chain restaurant that only cares about high volume sales.  When it comes to Italian Sub Sandwiches, the word "average" simply is not good enough!
     Fast food sub shop chain restaurants are another thing to avoid, if you have quality in mind.  Fast
     There is no substitute for the real thing, as far as making an Italian Sub Sandwich goes.  When I made the Italian Sub photo example for today's recipe, I travelled 20 miles across town to a great Italian deli on the other side of Chicago just to get the lunch meats, cheese and bread.  I chose local Italian crafted Spicy Capicola, imported Italian Volpi Prosciutto, Italian artisan crafted Toscano Salami and imported Italian Mortadella with pistachios mortadella.  A locally crafted Aged Sharp Provolone and a fresh large Italian Sub Roll from a local bakery topped off the shopping list at the Italian delicatessen.  Everything was professionally packaged and wrapped with deli paper, just like back in the old days.  The quality and aroma of the Italian deli products guaranteed that the Italian Sub Sandwich would be great!

     Italian Sub Vinaigrette: 
     This recipe yields about 1/2 cup.  (Enough for 3 or 4 foot long sub sandwiches.)    
     This style of vinaigrette is usually placed in a plastic squeeze bottle, then shaken each time that it is used.
     Step 1:  Place 1/3 cup of virgin olive oil in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 2 pinches of grumbled leaf oregano.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Place the vinaigrette in a plastic squeeze bottle.
     Let the sub dressing sit for 1 hour, so the flavors meld.
     Shake the bottle of vinaigrette before using.
     Italian Sub Vinaigrette can be kept in a refrigerator for 7 days.

     Classic Italian Sub: 
     This recipe yields 1 foot long sub sandwich.
     Step 1:  Cut a 1 foot long section of Italian Sub Roll Bread.
     Turn the bread on its side and cut the bread in half lengthwise.
     Step 2:  Place a layer of leaf lettuce on the bottom half of the sub bread.
     Place a layer of thin sliced tomato on the lettuce.
     Place a few very thin slices of bermuda onion on the lettuce and tomatoes.
     Sprinkle a little bit of the Italian Sub Vinaigrette over the lettuce, tomato and onion.  (About 1 or 2 tablespoons.)
     Step 3:  Place 2 to 3 ounces of thin sliced Mortadella on the sandwich.
     Place 2 to 2 1/2 ounces of thin sliced Capicola on the sandwich.
     Place 2 ounces of paper thin sliced Volpi Prosciutto on the sandwich.
     Place 2 to 3 ounces of thin sliced Toscano Salami on the sandwich.
     Place 1 1/2 to 2 ounces of thin sliced Aged Provolone Cheese on top of the meats.
     Step 4:  Place a few thin slices of pickled Tuscan Peppers (or Sliced Pickled Banana Peppers) on the cheese.
     Step 5:  Sprinkle about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the Italian Sub Vinaigrette on the top half the sub sandwich bread.
     Place the top half of bread on the sandwich.
     Cut the sandwich in half and set it on a plate or just leave it whole.
     Garnish the plate with some Italian Parsley sprigs and a portion of Italian Giardiniera.

     Viola!  A Classic Italian Sub Sandwich!                

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Lebanese Gyro

     Lebanese Style Meatloaf Gyro!
     Gyros are popular street food in Greece, Turkey, the Middle East, America and just about everywhere around the globe.  In America, Gyros can be found on almost every Greek restaurant menu and this sandwich is a popular bar snack menu offering.
     In Greece, most Gryros are made with sliced roast pork and roast lamb is a popular choice too.  Schawarma is cuts of meat that are stacked on a large skewer and slowly roasted.  Carved Lebanese Schwarma on Pita Bread is similar to Roast Meat Gyros that are made in Greece.  In many Middle Eastern Countries and America, a Kafta Spice Minced Meat Kabob or Lebanese Spiced Meatloaf is used to make Gyros.            
     Many Gyro Shops have a large kabob of Gyro Meat that is mounted vertically next to heating element.  As the kabob turns, the surface of the meat cooks to a brown color.  The large highly seasoned minced meat kebab is called a Doner Kabob.  Doner Kababs originated in Turkey several centuries ago.
     In modern times, most Doner Kabobs at Gyro Shops are a manufactured food product.  The finely minced meat mixture is prepared the same way that a Hot Dog meat slurry is made and it contains a high percentage of emulsified fat.  As one can imagine, the quality leaves something to be desired.  Gyro Shops that take pride in their product actually make their own Doner Kabobs from scratch.  The difference in the flavor and texture is easy to notice.
     The highly spiced minced meat for Turkish Doner Kabobs originated in Lebanon long ago.  In Lebanon, the minced meat mixture is usually prepared as a meatloaf instead of a large kabob.  The highly spiced meatloaf is sliced while warm and placed on Pita Bread.  If the Lebanese Spiced Meatloaf is cold, thin slices of the meatloaf are cooked on a griddle till they are browned, then they are served on Pita Bread.  Lebanese Spiced Meatloaf on Pita Bread is the original version of the modern Gyro Sandwich and it pre-dates Gyros that are made with Doner Kabobs.  
     The word Kafta literally translates to meatball or a ball shape.  Lebanese Gyro Meatloaf is highly seasoned with local variations of Kafta Spice Mix.  Kafta Spice Minced Meat can be shaped as meatloaf, kebabs or meatballs.  The minced meat can be shaped around small skewers or a very large Doner Kabob style skewer.
     Many food historians say that Pita Bread (Khubz Arabi) was first created in Turkey or Persia.  Some historians say the India is where Pita Bread was first made.  The only thing that is certain is that Pita Bread was popular in Arabian countries long before it became popular in Greece or western countries.  In western countries, the name was changed from Khubz Arabi to Pita Bread for marketing purposes in the late 1900's.
     During the early 1900's in America, many Arabic immigrants from the Middle East opened Greek restaurants, because Americans had no interest in Arabic food at that time, yet Americans liked Greek style street food and Greek style comfort food diner restaurants.  My step grandfather was a great chef from Lebanon and he joked about how sometimes he had to be Greek in the restaurant business early in his career.  He then attempted to hide his big Arabic nose in a comical way to entertain us kids.  After researching the topic, I now know what my Lebanese step grandfather meant by saying, "Sometimes I had to be Greek."  This also explains why Lebanese Meatloaf evolved into what is known as Greek Gyro Meat in modern times.  
     The standard sauce for a Lebanese Gyro is Tzatziki Sauce.  Tabuli is a Syrian Arabic chopped salad of tomato, onion and parsley and it is sometimes placed on Lebanese gyros.  Most modern Gyros are just garnished with sliced onion and tomato.  In Lebanon, Gyros are considered to be an appetizer, snack or light lunch.  The enticing aroma of a good Lebanese Kafta Spice Meatloaf Gyro is what makes guests come back for more!  

     Lebanese Gyro Meatloaf: 
     This recipe yields 1 large 15 ounce Gyro Meatloaf.  (Enough for 3 or 4 Gyro Sandwiches.)
     Step 1:  Place 8 ounces of ground lamb in a mixing bowl.
     Add 4 ounces of ground beef.
     Add 1/2 cup of fine plain French bread crumbs.
     Add 1 whisked large egg.
     Step 2:  Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of garlic paste.
     Add 1/3 cup of finely minced white onion.
     Step 3:  Add 2 tablespoons of finely minced mint leaves.
     Add 1 tablespoon of finely minced Italian Parsley.
     Add 2 teaspoons of cumin.
     Add 1 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 1 teaspoon of fenugreek.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of oregano.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of marjoram.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of allspice.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher Salt.
     Add 2 to 3 pinches of black pepper.
     Step 4:  Thoroughly mix the ingredients together.
     Place the spiced minced meat mixture in a container.
     Refrigerate for 1 hour, so the flavors meld.
     Step 5:  Lightly brush a deep roasting pan with blended olive oil.
     Place the minced meat mixture in the roasting pan.
     Shape the minced meat into a rectangular meat loaf shape that is about 6" wide and 1 1/2" thick.  (The length can vary.)
     Step 6:  Place the roasting pan in a 300ºf oven.
     Slowly roast till the meatloaf is fully cooked and lightly browned.
     Step 7:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Allow the meat loaf cool to room temperature.
     Cover the meatloaf with plastic wrap.
     Place the roasting pan with the meatloaf in a refrigerator for 24 hours.
     *The meat loaf must be refrigerated, so the juices gel.  This step will keep the meatloaf from crumbling, when it is thinly sliced!  The flavors will also mellow after 24 hours.

     Tzatziki Sauce:
     This recipe yields about 1 1/4 cups.  (Enough for 4 Gyro Sandwiches.)
     Step 1:  Place 1/2 cup of finely minced peeled seeded cucumber in a mixing bowl.
     Add 3 tablespoons of virgin olive oil.
     Add 1/2 cup of plain Greek style goat milk yogurt.
     Add 3 tablespoons of finely minced mint leaves.
     Add 1 clove of minced garlic.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Step 2:  *Check the consistency.  The Tzatziki should be a medium thin consistency that can coat a spoon.  If necessary, add just enough warm water, while whisking, to thin the Tzatziki to a medium thin sauce consistency.  Be careful not to add too much water!
     Step 3:  Place the Tzatziki in a container.
     Chill the Tzatziki Sauce in a refrigerator for 1 hour.

     Lebanese Gyro: 
     This recipe yields 1 Gyro Sandwich.
     The thin slices of Lebanese Gyro Meatloaf can be warmed in an oven or they can be cooked on a seasoned cast iron griddle till they are browned.  When cooked on a griddle, it is best to cut the meatloaf slices paper thin.
     Step 1:  Cut about 7 long thin slices of of the Lebanese Gyro Meatloaf.  (A 5 to 6 ounce portion is plenty.)
     Place the meatloaf slices on a roasting pan.
     Add 1 tablespoon of water.
     Reheat the meatloaf slices in a 300ºF oven.
     Gently roast till the meatloaf slices are warm.
     Step 2:  Warm an 8" to 10" Pita Bread (Khubz Arabi) in the oven.
     Step 3:  Place the pita bread on a cutting board.
     Place 4 or 5 thin slices of tomato on one half of the bread.
     Place 1 thin slice of onion that is separated into rings on the tomatoes.
     Place the warm Gyro Meatloaf slices on top of the tomato and onions.
     Spoon a generous amount of the Tzatziki Sauce over the Gyro Meat.  (About 3 tablespoons.)
     Step 4:  Fold the Pita Bread in half over the meatloaf slices.
     Pin the sandwich together with a long toothpick or bamboo skewer.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.
     Step 5:  Place the gyro on a plate.
     Garnish the plate with an Italian Parsley sprig and pickles of your choice.
     *Persian Pickled Wild Cucumber, Persian Pickled Pink Turnip and Arabic Scratched Green Olives garnish the plate in the photos.

     This is a great tasting Lebanese Gyro!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Texas Tommy Brat Sandwich with Alien Honey Mustard

     A Texas Tommy Style Bratwurst Sandwich!
     The original Philadelphia style Texas Tommy is a Processed American Cheese stuffed Bacon Wrapped Hot Dog.  A Texas Tommy can be deep fried or roasted in an oven till the bacon is crisp.  The cheese stuffing inside the hot dog becomes warm enough to melt when a Texas Tommy is cooked just right.  Biting into a Texas Tommy is pure junk food heavan! 
     Making a Texas Tommy with a Bratwurst is fairly easy to do.  The raw Bratwurst has to be fully cooked, then cooled, before it can be stuffed with cheese.  Swiss Cheese is a better choice for a Bratwurst than American Processed Cheese, especially if a sweet mustard sauce is spread on the roll.     
     Agave Nectar sweetened German Deli Style Mustard tastes nice on its own.  Spicing up the sweet mustard sauce with Wasabi Powder adds a little bit of zesty horseradish flavor.  This favor combination tastes good on a Texas Tommy Bratwurst Sandwich. 

     Alien Honey Mustard:
     This recipe yields a little less than 1/2 cup.  (Enough for 3 or 4 sandwiches.)
     Alien Honey Mustard is Agave Nectar and Wasabi flavored German Deli Style Mustard.  Alien Honey is the brand name of the Agave Nectar used in this recipe, so the "Alien" name stuck.  Alien Honey Mustard is a nifty name for a sandwich spread!       
     Step 1:  Place 1/4 cup of German Deli Style Mustard in mixing bowl.  (Smooth German Mustard.)
     Add 1 teaspoon of Wasabi Powder.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 3 tablespoons of Agave Nectar.  (Alien Honey!)
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Place the Alien Honey Mustard in a container and chill the sandwich spread till it is needed.

     Fresh Bratwurst Preparation:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Gently poaching a fresh sausage will prevent the sausage casing from splitting. 
     Step 1:  Select a 6" to 8" fresh Bratwurst.
     Step 2:  Place enough water in a sauce pot to cover the bratwurst with 1" of extra water.
     Place the pot over medium low heat.
     Adjust the temperature so the water is 157ºF.
     Step 3:  Add the Bratwurst.
     Gently simmer till the Bratwurst texture is firm and the sausage casing is set.  
     Step 4:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Remove the Bratwurst from the pot and set it aside.
     Step 5:  Heat a cast iron griddle over medium/medium low heat.
     Pour 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil on the griddle.
     Grill the Bratwurst till it is fully cooked (165ºF center temperature and lightly browned. 
     Step 6:  Set the bratwurst aside and let it cool to room temperature.
     Chill the Bratwurst in a refrigerator to 41ºF.   

     Blanched Bacon:
     This recipe yields enough blanched bacon to wrap a 6" to 8" Bratwurst.
     Bacon only has to be grilled at a low temperature till the fat turns from opaque to translucent to be blanched.  
     Step 1:  Heat a cast iron griddle over low heat.
     Place 4 or 5 strips of cured bacon on the griddle.  (4 strips for a 6" Bratwurst or 5 strips for an 8" Bratwurst)
     Blanch the bacon till the fat turns a clear color, with no browning at all.
     Step 2:  Set the limp blanched bacon strips aside on a platter and let them cool to room temperature.

     Texas Tommy Brat Preparation:
     Step 1:  *The idea is to cut a pocket the length of the Bratwurst, so the cheese can be stuffed in the center before the Bratwurst is bacon wrapped.
     Use a paring knife to cut halfway into the bratwurst from almost end to end, to create a shallow pocket.
     Step 2:  Cut 2 strips of Swiss Emmantaler Cheese that measure 3/16" x 3/16" x 5".  (A 5" length is enough to stuff a 6" Bratwurst.  A 7" length will be needed for an 8" long Bratwurst.  
     Stuff the cheese into the Bratwurst pocket.   
     Step 3:  Place 1 strip of blanched bacon lengthwise over the cheese stuffed pocket and hold it in place.
     Step 4:  *2 or 3 strips of blanched bacon will be needed to completely wrap the Bratwurst.  Each slice of bacon must be pinned in place with a toothpick, so the bacon does not unravel when the Bratwurst is cooked.  The Bacon must be wrapped so it overlaps or the cheese stuffing will leak out when cooked.
     Use the other hand to wrap 1 strip of blanched bacon around one end of the bratwurst.
     Fasten the bacon wrapping with toothpicks on each end to keep it in place.
     Start wrapping the Bratwurst with the second sliced of blanched bacon, where the first slice left off and pin it in place with toothpicks.
     *If a third slice of bacon is needed to completely wrap the stuffed Bratwurst, then follow the same procedure.
     Step 5:  After the Swiss Cheese Stuffed Bratwurst is completely wrapped with bacon, place it on a platter.
     Chill the prepared Texas Tommy Brat till it is needed.  

     Texas Tommy Brat Sandwich with Alien Honey Mustard:
     This recipe yields 1 sandwich.
     Step 1:  Place the prepared Texas Tommy Brat on a roasting pan.  (Try to set the Bratwurst on the pan so the side with the cheese stuffing faces up.)
     Place the pan in a 350ºF oven.
     Bake till the bacon is golden brown and and the bratwurst is piping hot.
     Keep the Texas Tommy Brat warm on a stove top. 
     Step 2:  Warm a 6" to 8" Soft Crust Sub Sandwich Roll in an oven.
     Split the sub roll open lengthwise.
     Spread a thin layer of Alien Honey Mustard on the sub roll.
     Step 3:  Remove the toothpicks from the Texas Tommy Brat and place it on the sub roll.
     Place the Texas Tommy Brat Sandwich on plate.
     Place a small ramekin of extra Alien Honey Mustard on the plate.  (About 2 tablespoons.)
     Garnish the plate with a pickle of your choice and a curly leaf parsley sprig.  

     A Texas Tommy Brat with sweet zesty mustard will surely satisfy deep junk food cravings like nothing else can!    

Friday, March 31, 2017

Turkey, Swiss, Wasabi Jicama Slaw and Smoked Bacon Cuban Sandwich

     A Tasty Modern Cuban Sandwich!
     Thinking outside the box is always a good thing when modernizing a classic sandwich.  A classic Cuban Sandwich is pressed flat under weight on a griddle till the bread is toasted and the Swiss Cheese melts on the warm roasted pork, ham and pickles.  The classic ingredients are a great flavor combination, but just like anything else, eating the same old ingredients time after time starts to get old and interest in this sandwich starts to burnout.
     As long as the unique pressed grilled sandwich making technique is retained, A Cuban Sandwich that is made with new ingredients can still be called a Cuban Sandwich.  If non-traditional ingredients are used, then they should be mentioned in the recipe title.  This opens the door for making Cuban Sandwiches with an endless list of tasty ingredients.
     Today's modern Cuban Sandwich starts with sliced roast turkey, smoked bacon and Swiss Cheese, which is a popular combination of sandwich ingredients.  To jazz the flavor up, Wasabi Jicama Slaw replaces the dill pickle chips that are found in the original Cuban Sandwich.  Wasabi Jicama Slaw adds a zesty cool refreshing light flavor.  Wasabi has been used to flavor just about everything from salad dressings to potato chips in recent years and a little bit of this potent horseradish flavor goes a long way.  Jicama Slaw is popular in the Southwest, because it is so refreshing on a hot day.  Jicama has a light apple flavor that goes well with spicy items like chile peppers or Wasabi.              

     Wasabi Jicama Slaw:
     This recipe yields about 1 cup.  (Enough for 2 to 3 sandwiches.)
     Step 1:  Place 1 cup of julienne sliced jicama in a mixing bowl.  (Julienne = 1/8" x 1/8" x 3 1/2")
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro.
     Add a little bit of thin julienne sliced carrot for color.  (About 2 tablespoons or 1/8 cup.)
     Step 2:  Add 1/2 teaspoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 teaspoon of Wasabi Powder.
     Step 3:  Toss the ingredients together till the jicama is coated.
     Place the Wasabi Jicama Slaw in a container.
     Chill in a refrigerator for 1 hour.  Toss the ingredients together occasionally.
     *Drain off any excess liquid before serving.

     Sandwich Preparation:
     This recipe yields 1 sandwich.
     A long Cuban Bread Loaf or a Soft Crust French Bread Loaf  that is about 4 1/2" to 5" wide is best for making a Cuban Sandwich.  A Mexican Bolillo can be used too.   
     Step 1:  Heat a seasoned cast iron griddle over medium/medium low heat.
     Grill 3 slices of Apple Wood Smoked Bacon till they are crisp.
     Set the smoked bacon on a platter and keep it warm on a stove top.
     Step 2:  Split an 8" long section of Cuban Bread.
     Cut the bread in half lengthwise.
     Step 3:  Place 2 to 3 thin slices of Swiss Cheese on one half of the roll.
     Spread about 1/2 cup of the Wasabi Jicama Slaw on the cheese.
     Place 5 ounces of thin sliced Deli Style Roast Turkey on the slaw.
     Place the reserved 3 strips of smoked bacon on the turkey.
     Place 2 to 3 thin slices of Swiss Cheese on the bacon and turkey.
     Place the top half of the bread on the sandwich.
     Set the sandwich aside till the Cuban Sandwich Griddle is hot.

     Turkey, Swiss, Wasabi Jicama Slaw and Smoked Bacon Cuban Sandwich:
     This recipe yields 1 Cuban Sandwich.
     There are Cuban Sandwich Griddles and Combination Panini/Cuban Sandwich Griddles.  These kinds of appliances have top and bottom griddle cooking surfaces that can be pressed together to flatten a Cuban Sandwich.  A cast iron griddle can be used to make a Cuban Sandwich too.  Both cooking techniques are described in this recipe.  

     • For a Cuban Sandwich Griddle Appliance, follow these steps:
     Set the temperature of the top and bottom griddles to medium heat.
     Place the prepared Cuban Sandwich on the griddle.
     Lower the top griddle and press the sandwich flat.
     Grill till the bread crust is toasted and the sandwich is hot enough to melt the cheese.

     • For a Flat Cast Iron Griddle, follow these steps:
     Wrap a clean new clay brick with aluminum foil.
     Heat seasoned cast iron griddle over medium/medium low heat.
     Place the prepared Cuban Sandwich on the griddle.
     Place aluminum foil wrapped brick on the sandwich and press the sandwich flat.
     Leave the brick on the sandwich till the bottom half of the sandwich bread is toasted and hot.
     Remove the brick and flip the sandwich over.
     Place the brick on the flattened sandwich.
     Grill till the second side of the sandwich is toasted hot and the cheese melts.
     Place the Turkey, Swiss, Wasabi Jicama Slaw and Smoked Bacon Cuban Sandwich on a cutting board.
     Cut the sandwich in half and place it on a plate.
     Garnish the plate with pickles of your choice and a cilantro sprig.

     This is a tasty modern gourmet Cuban Sandwich!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Kafta Lamburger on a Seasonal Herb Focaccia Bun with Mint Tahini

     Mediterranean Flavor!
     Ground Lamb is rarely used for making burger patties.  Lamb is an alternative burger meat choice that many people will go out of their way to experience.  Lamb meat is well liked world wide, so making a Lamburger would not be considered to be too farfetched.   
     A burger made with plain ground lamb meat would not really be something to write home about.  Lamb has a fairly strong flavor and the fat makes the gamey flavor linger on the palate.  The strong flavor of lamb or mutton is why so many traditional lamb recipes are highly seasoned or marinated.  
     When seeking ways to tame the flavor of ground lamb meat, the best option is to browse through Mediterranean style lamb recipe.  It seems like every culture in this region has plenty of perfected lamb recipes that have been around for thousands of years.  Most of the Mediterranean region lamb recipes are marinated or highly seasoned with a complex mixture of garlic and spices.  
     Kafta Spice Mixtures are a prime example of how a complex mixture of herbs and spices can do far more than just tame a strong meat flavor.  Kafta Spice is often used to flavor minced meats for kebabs and meatloaf that is used for making Gyro.  There are nearly as many ways to spell Kafta as there are Kafta Spic Mix recipes.  Some old family Kafta Spice Mix recipes have been passed on from one generation to the next since the days of ancient Egypt, so meat that is flavored with a good Kafta Spice Mix is like tasting the essence of Mediterranean culinary history.   
     Tahini is sesame paste.  Tahini Sauce is made with sesame paste, lemon juice, red sumac berry, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.  Mint tastes nice with Tahini Sauce and this flavor combination goes well with a Kafta Spice Lamburger.            

     Seasonal Herb Focaccia Hamburger Rolls:  
     Any kind of burger roll can be used for today's recipe.  If fresh baked Seasonal Herb Focaccia is preferred, then follow the link to the recipe in this website.  

     Basic Kafta Spice Mixture:
     This recipe yields about 1/2 cup.
     It is much cheaper to buy a container of Kafta Spice Mix at a Mediterranean food market, than it is to purchase all the spices separately.  In case there are no Mediterranean food markets in your area, then this Kafta Spice Mix recipe may be handy.  There are many regional variations of Kafta Spice Mix, so there is no single definitive recipe.  
     Salt is traditionally added as a separate seasoning and is not part of a Kaftah Spice Mix.  Saffron, mint and other herbs are usually added after the ground meat is flavored with Kafta Spices.
     *About 1 tablespoons of Kafta Spice Mix is needed for 1 large 8 ounce lamb burger patty.  
     Step 1:  Place these ingredients in a container:
     - 2 tablespoons of mild cinnamon
     - 1 tablespoon of allspice
     - 1 tablespoon of cumin
     - 1 tablespoon of coriander
     - 1 tablespoon of mild paprika 
     - 1/2 tablespoon of black pepper
     - 1/2 teaspoon of mace
     - 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
     - 1/2 teaspoon of ground fennugreek
     - 1/4 teaspoon of cardamom 
     Step 2:  Place a lid on the container.
     Shake the container till the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
     Store the Kafta Spice Mix till it is needed.   

     Kafta Lamburger Patty:
     This recipe yields 1 large 8 ounce lamb burger patty!  
     Step 1:  Place 7 1/2 ounces lean ground lamb in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 teaspoon of garlic paste.
     Add 1 tablespoon of finely minced onion.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Add 1 tablespoon of Kafta Spice Mix.
     Step 2:  Add 2 pinches of dried mint.
     Add 1 pinch of rubbed Safflower Saffron.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sumac berry spice.  (available in middle eastern markets)
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Step 3:  Add 1/2 teaspoon of finely ground toasted sesame seed.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of whisked egg. 
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of finely ground French bread crumbs (or fine ground Matzo Meal). 
     Step 4:  Thoroughly mix the ingredients together.
     Chill the ground lamb mixture for 1 hour, so the flavors meld and the texture stiffens.
     Step 5:  Shape the Kafta Lamburger mixture into a large thick burger patty.
     Keep the Kafta Lamburer Patty chilled till it is needed.

     Mint Tahini Sauce:
     This recipe yields almost 1/2 cup.  (3 or 4 petite condiment portions)
     Step 1:  Place 2 1/2 tablespoons of sesame paste (tahini) in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.
     Add 2 teaspoons of virgin olive oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of sumac berry spice.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of garlic paste.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt.
     Add 1 pinch of white pepper.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of rubbed dried mint.
     Step 2:  Add 2 tablespoons of warm water while stirring.
     Allow the sesame paste to absorb the liquid.
     *The sesame paste will become very thick after it rests for a few minutes.
     Step 3:  Add 1 teaspoon of water at a time, while stirring, till the sauce is a medium thin consistency that can coat a spoon.  (Only a small amount of water will be needed.)
     Step 4:  Place the Mint Tahini Sauce in a container.
     Set the sauce aside or chill it for later use.

     Kafta Lamburger on a Seasonal Herb Focaccia Bun with Mint Tahini:
     This recipe yields 1 large 8 ounce burger entrée.
     Step 1:  Heat a cast iron skillet over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of blended olive oil.
     Place the Kafta Lamburger Patty in the pan .
     Grill the Lamburger on both sides, till it fully cooked and lightly browned.
     *Be sure to flip the burger a few times, to prevent excess browning.  A probe thermometer placed in the center of the burger patty should read 165ºF.
     Step 2:  Place the Kafta Lamburger on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan and let it rest for 1 minute.
     Step 3:  Warm a large Seasonal Herb Focaccia Burger Roll in an oven.
     Split the roll in half.
     Place the Kafta Lamburger on the burger roll and place it on a plate.
     Lean the top half of the roll against the burger.
     Step 4:  Stack these garnishes on the plate:
     - thin sliced strips of lettuce or Napa Cabbage
     - thin sliced strips of kale
     - thin sliced onion
     - Italian Parsley sprigs
     - 1 thin slice of Persian Preserved Lemon
     - 1 Pickled Yellow Guero Chile Pepper (spicy hot) or a Pickled Mild Paprika Pepper
     Place 1 small ramekin of the Mint Tahini Sauce on the plate.  (about 2 1/2 tablespoons)

     The aroma and flavor of a Kafta Lamburger is captivating! 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Seasonal Herb Focaccia Burger Rolls and Slider Rolls

     Fancy Focaccia Burger Rolls and Slider Rolls!
     Today's focaccia dough recipe is a little bit different than some of the previous focaccia recipes that are posted in this food side.  There is no sugar in today's recipe and the proportion of yeast to water is lower.  This recipe variation allows the dough to slowly rise two times and this creates a nice bread texture.
     Seasonal herbs of any kind can be used to make today's focaccia recipe.  Those who harvested herbs from their own garden before the first hard freeze of winter, probably already have those herbs dried out.  
     Stock rotation is just important at home as it is in a restaurant.  The old dried herbs that were stored from a previous season should be used before the new freshly harvested herbs are dried.  As dried herbs age they do lose potency.  It is good to keep a few recipes in mind that call for a large quantity of herbs, when it is time to liquidate the old herb stock.  Today's bread recipe definitely requires a bunch of herbs!    

     Seasonal Herb Focaccia:    
     This small batch recipe yields enough dough to make the baked products in the photos, plus two individual size pizzas!  (1 large hamburger roll, 2 bread sticks, 1 petite braided loaf, 1 "Dog Bone Roll" and two 11" mini pizzas)  
     High gluten flour or bread flour is best for this recipe.  The gluten strands are what gives focaccia its texture.
     Focaccia is a yeast dough that is enriched with fat.  Oil is a fat. 
     Sugar is an optional ingredient in focaccia recipes.  There is no sugar in today's recipe!
     *This recipe is written for a steel gear mixer with a dough hook.    
     Step 1:  Place 1 1/2 cups of lukewarm water (112ºF) in a 2 to 3 gallon capacity electric mixer bowl.
     Add 2 tablespoons of fresh yeast (or 1 tablespoon of dry yeast). 
     Place the mixing bowl in a lukewarm place like on a towel on top of a warm oven.
     Wait for the yeast to activate. 
     Step 2:  Add about 1 1/2 cups of flour.
     Add 1 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil. 
     Step 3:  Place the mixer bowl on the mixer and attach a dough hook.
     At low speed, mix till a very loose wet dough is formed.
     Step 4:  Start adding a little bit of flour at a time, till the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl and the dough starts to look like it can gather on the dough hook.  (About 3 to 3 1/2 cups of flour.  The total amount of flour may vary.) 
     Step 5:  Run the mixer at a low speed for about 5 minutes to knead the dough.  
     *By now the dough should be gathering on the hook.
     Step 6:  Turn the mixer off.
     Add these dried herbs:
     - 1/2 teaspoon of ground sage
     - 1 teaspoon of basil
     - 1 teaspoon of oregano
     - 1 teaspoon of marjoram
     - 1/2 teaspoon of thyme
     - 1 teaspoon of dill weed
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder.  (optional)
     Step 7:  Turn the mixer on at a low speed.
     Briefly mix till the herbs are evenly distributed in the dough.
     Step 8:  Turn off the mixer.
     Remove the mixer bowl from the mixer.
     Remove the dough hook.
     Cover the dough in the mixing bowl with a dry lint free pastry towel. 
     Set the bowl on top of a warm oven, with a second towel underneath the bowl to protect the dough from too much heat. 
     When the dough rises more than double, beat it down with your knuckles.
     Step 9:  Cover the dough with a lint free pastry towel and let it rise a second time.
     When the dough rises the second time, beat the dough down and knead firmly with your hands for 1 minute.
     Step 10:  Place the dough on a lightly floured countertop.
     Roll the dough into a large ball. 
     Cut the dough ball in half for 2 portions.  
     *1 portion of the dough will yield 2 individual size pizzas or 2 small 11" round flat focaccia bread.  The shaped bread examples in the photos was made with 1 portion of dough.
     Step 11:  Roll and tuck each of the 2 dough portions with with your hands to make smooth dough balls.
     Step 12:  Place the 2 dough portion in 2 sealed containers.
     Chill the dough, so the yeast becomes less active.  (Chilled dough is much easier to shape!  The dough portions can be chilled for up to 24 hours.) 

     Scaling dough portions ensures that each dough shape will be an equal size.  Since there are variations in the volume of flour in a bread dough recipe, it is best to not write the portion weights in this recipe section.  It is up to the bread maker to determine the scaled portion weights and the bread maker is you!  The easiest way to do this is to make a desired shape, then weigh it.  The recorded weight can then be used to make scaled portions, so every finished shape is the same size.  Be sure to include the weight of any piece of dough that must be trimmed off of certain shapes too.
     *Any extra dough or trimmings can be recombined to make more bread dough shapes.  
     *Be sure to space each dough product apart from each other on the parchment paper lined pan, so they will not touch each other after proofing! 

     • Slider Roll Shape
     - Cut golf ball size portions.
     - Roll the dough portions into ball shapes.
     - Place the small dough balls on a parchment paper lined sheet pan.
     - Lightly brush with olive oil.

     • Large Hamburger Roll Shape
     - Cut a portion of dough that is the size of an average Navel Orange.
     - Thumb tuck the dough and roll it into a ball shape.
     - Place the dough ball on a parchment paper lined sheet pan.
     - Use a knife to score 3 or 4 shallow lines on the top of the roll.
     - Lightly brush with olive oil.

     Place the pan of shaped dough in a warm area.
     Allow the dough to rise to 1 1/2 times its size. 
     *Sprinkling a pinch of sea salt over the proofed bread before baking is an option. 

     Bake in a 425ºF oven, till the bread becomes a light golden brown color.  
     *Each bread shape has its own finishing time.  The center temperature of the bread must be at least 190ºF to be fully cooked.  If the bread is going to be reheated at a later time, only bake the bread till it is a light golden shade.  
     Place the pan on a cooling rack. 

     If the bread is for later use, then reheat the bread before serving.

     Fresh baked Seasonal Herb Hamburger Rolls and Slider Rolls add a nice touch to a sandwich presentation!