Thursday, August 10, 2017

Kangaroo Kofta Kabab

     Kangaroo Street Food!
     Minced Lamb or Beef Kofta Kababs are a popular street food in the Middle East.  Minced meat is highly seasoned with traditional spice mixtures.  Egg and Bulgar Wheat are used as a binding agent.  The minced meat mixture is then shaped on a skewer.  The minced meat can be pressed into ball, conical or a cylinder shape to make the kabob look fancy.  The Kofta Kababs are then slow roasted till they are browned.
     Gourmet street food has been the rave in trendy cities like Las Vegas for a few years.  Kofta are among the greatest tasting meatballs in the world, but in America they are usually only found at Middle Eastern or Armenian style Kabab shops.  The word Kofta actually means "ball shape" and there are many ways to spell this word in various dialects everywhere from India all the way to Morocco.  There are hundreds of cultural variations of the Kofta recipe too.  Vegetable Kofta are popular in India, while Beef Kofta are popular in Arabic countries.  Greek Kofta will taste different than Kofta that are made somewhere in North Africa.  As one can imagine, there is a world of interesting traditional Kofta flavors to discover.
     As far as classic Kofta recipes are concerned, they really do not need any improvement.  The only option for making a different kind of Kofta is to select an exotic vegetable or an alternative meat.  Street food that is made with alternative meat appeals to the health minded crowd that avoids commercial beef.  Alternative meat street food also appeals to daring customers that just want to brag about trying something different to their peers.  Alternative meats also offer opportunities for street food vendors to use some crazy sounding marketing tactics that generate consumer interest.
     Kangaroo meat has become a popular alternative meat during the last decade.  Kangaroo is a disease free, low cholesterol meat option that tastes great.  Kangaroo only contains 2% fat, so it is a truly healthy alternative meat option.  The flavor of kangaroo meat is about as strong tasting as lamb, so it will appeal to those who do not like the strong flavor of some types of wild game.  
     Since kangaroo is such a lean meat, it is recommended that it should be cooked rare to medium at the most.  When prepared as a Kofta style minced meat mixture, it must be fully cooked, but the eggs and binding grain will keep the lean Kangaroo Kofta Meat moist.
     I have never heard of anybody making Kofta with kangaroo meat, so it took a little bit of thought when designing the recipe.  Because kangaroo meat is so lean, olive oil was added in place of fat.  A small amount of Chickpea Flour (Gram) and extra soft cooked Basmati Rice were used as the binding filler.  The Kofta spice mix came from a Persian Arabic food market in Chicago.  Pre-mixed Kofta Spice sells for a nice price.  
     While shopping at the Persian Arabic food market, the Iranian lady at the cash register asked if I needed any help and we struck up a nice conversation about food.  I told her that I was planning to make Kangaroo Kofta and I asked if she had ever eaten Kangaroo.  She looked at me with a blank stare, because the word Kangaroo was not understood.  So, I proceeded to hop around while doing my imitation of a Kangaroo.  Then she understood what I was talking about!  She responded by saying "No, no, no!" while laughing so hard that she almost fell off of her chair!
     Kangaroo are comical animals and just the thought of eating kangaroo meat makes people laugh, because they picture old cartoons of a character doing such a thing, then the character starts bouncing around like a big rabbit.  With this in mind, the phrase "Hoppin' Good Kangaroo Kofta Kabobs" would be a good sales pitch!

     Soft Cooked Rose Water Basmati Rice:
     This recipe yields about 2 cups.
     Only a small portion of soft rice is needed for the Kabob recipe.  The extra soft rice can be used for stuffing a few grape leaves that can be used to garnish the plate.
     The Basmati Rice does not need to be pre-soaked, because the rice will be mashed.      
     Step 1:  Place 2 1/2 cups of water in a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Bring the water to a boil.
     Step 2:  Add 2/3 cup of Basmati Rice.
     Return the water to a boil.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Simmer and steam till the rice is very soft and mushy.  
     Step 4:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Rose Water while stirring.
     Set the pot of Soft Rose Water Rice aside and let it cool to room temperature.

     Kangaroo Kofta Kabab: 
     This recipe yields 2 portions.  (2 kababs that weigh about 6 ounces apiece)    
     Pre-made Kofta Spice Mix can be found at Mediterranean food markets. 
     Step 1:  Soak 2 bamboo skewers in water ahead of time.  (10" length)
     Step 2:  Place 8 ounces of ground kangaroo meat in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 minced garlic cloves.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Add 1 tablespoon of finely minced onion.
     Step 3:  Add 1 tablespoon of Kofta Spice Mix.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Sumac Berry Spice.
     Add 1 pinch of black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of ground fennel.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt.
     Step 4:  Add 2 pinches of marjoram.
     Add 2 pinches of minced mint leaves.
     Add 2 pinches of chopped Italian Parsley.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Step 5:  Place 1/4 cup of the Soft Rose Water Basmati Rice in a small bowl.
     Thoroughly mash the soft rice.
     Add the mashed soft rice to the meat mixture.
     Step 6:  Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1 tablespoon of whisked egg.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil.
     Thoroughly mix the ingredients together.
     Step 7:  Add just enough Chick Pea Flour, while mixing, to thicken the meat mixture to a stiff firm consistency.  (About 2 tablespoons.)
     *The meat mixture should be able to easily hold its shape when rolled into a ball shape.
     Step 8:  Place the Kangaroo Kofta mixture in a container.
     Chill in a refrigerator for 2 hours, so the flavors meld and the texture becomes extra stiff.
     Step 9:  Place the chilled Kangaroo Kofta mixture on a cutting board.
     Divide the mixture into 2 equal size portions.
     Roll each portion of the Kangaroo Kofta into a long cylinder shape that is about 1" wide.
     Step 10:  Press a pre-soaked bamboo skewer lengthwise into each cylinder shaped Kofta, so the skewer is centered.
     Roll the Kofta and skewer back and fort together as one, till the skewer is sealed in the center of the Kofta cylinder shape.
     Step 11:  Brush a roasting pan with blended olive oil.
     Place the 2 Kangaroo Kofta Kababs on the roasting pan.
     Lightly brush the kababs with blended olive oil.
     Place the pan in a 325ºF oven.
     Roast till the meat is fully cooked and it just starts to brown.
     Step 12:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Use a spatula the carefully free the kababs from the pan.
     Keep the Kangaroo Kofta Kabobs warm on a stove top.

     Rose Water Rice Stuffed Grape Leaves: 
     This recipe yields 1 garnish portion.  (5 or 6 stuffed grape leaves)
     The stuffed grape leaves can be prepared ahead of time while the kofta mixture chills.
     Step 1:  Cut the thick stem vein end off of 5 or 6 Pickled Grape Leaves.
     Place the grape leaves side by side on a countertop.
     Step 2:  Place about 2 tablespoons of the Soft Rose Water Basmati Rice on each grape leaf.
     Fold the edges of the leaves over the rice.
     Roll each stuffed grape leaf into a small cylinder shape, so the rice is completely sealed in.
     Step 3:  Brush a small baking pan with olive oil.
     Place the stuffed grape leaves in the the pan.
     Pour 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice over the stuffed grape leaves.
     Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the stuffed grape leaves.
     Step 4:  Cover the baking pan with a lid or foil.
     Place the pan in a 325ºF oven.
     Bake for till the stuffed grape leaves are piping hot.  (about 4 minutes)
     Remove the pan from the oven.
     Keep the stuffed grape leaves warm on a stove top.

     Za'atar Khubz Arabi:  
     This recipe yields 1 garnish portion.  (1 small pita bread)
     Za'atar Spice Mix is available in Mediterranean food markets.  
     Step 1:  Select a small 6" to 8" pita bread (Khubz Arabi).
     Place the pita bread on a baking pan.
     Brush the pita bread with a generous amount of olive oil.
     Sprinkle a generous amount of Za'atar Spice Mix on the pita bread.
     Gently rub the Za'atar Spice on the pita bread.
     Step 2:  Place the pan in the 325ºF oven.
     Bake till the pita bread and spices are lightly toasted.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Cut Za'atar Khubz Arabi into 6 pie shaped pieces and keep them warm on a stove top.

     Kangaroo Kufta Kebab Presentation:
     This recipe yields 1 appetizer platter.  (or 1 light lunch portion)
     Step 1:  Place the Za'atar Khubz Arabi pieces on a plate as a bed for the kabab.
     Place the roasted Kangaroo Kafta Kabab on the Za'atar Bread.
     Step 2:  Place 5 or 6 Rose Water Basmati Rice Stuffed Grape Leaves on the plate.
     Step 3:  Place a small bed of Italian Parsley sprigs on the plate.
     Place some assorted Persian Pickles and olives of your choice on the parsley.  
     *The Persian Pickles in the photos are Pickled Wild Cucumber and Pickled Pink Turnip.  Arabic Scratched Green Olives and Roasted Red Bell Pepper add a nice touch too.

     This healthy Kangaroo Kofta Kabob appetizer platter tastes as good as it looks!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Chat Masala Cured Bacon, Beefsteak Tomato and Belgian Endive BLT

     Gourmet Bacon for a BLT!
     I do not get excited about bacon.  After doing several years of standard American breakfast cooking during my career, ordinary bacon is no longer appealing.  Some mass produced bacon products are better than others, but the choices at an average grocery store are rather slim.  Applewood or hickory smoked bacon are about the only two smoked bacon choices.  Salt cured bacon options usually only vary by the thickness of the slice.  In recent years, maple or Black Forest Spice flavored bacon have hit the store shelves, but there are no other flavor options.  
     As one can see, commercially produced bacon can end up being boring.  This means that BLT Sandwiches made with commercially available bacon will end up being boring after due time too.  Putting more bacon on a BLT Sandwich does not fix the problem.  That would be like more of the same old burnt out bacon flavor.  So, what is a gourmet sandwich maker to do?  Create their own new gourmet bacon flavor! 
     Because of the recent gourmet pork belly recipe trend, raw pork belly slabs are more available than they used to be.  All it takes is fair size piece of pork belly to make an artisan style gourmet bacon in a home kitchen.  
     Sugar and Kosher Salt curing is the easiest and safest meat preserving method to learn, because nitrites and color preservatives are not needed.  Today's Chat Masala Bacon recipe uses the sugar and Kosher Salt curing method.  
     When designing custom cured meat flavors, it is best to avoid liquids, fresh aromatic vegetables or fruit and fresh herbs.  Fresh items will easily degrade during the curing process and spoilage will occur.  Only dried items or fermented sauces that will degrade should be added for flavor.  Chat Masala in a complex Indian spice mixture that contains a high proportion of powdered sour mango (Amchoor).  A curing salt mixture that is flavored with Chat Masala and Amchoor will yield a gourmet artisan bacon that has a complex spicy mango flavor.  Needless to say, a bacon flavor like this will certainly intrigue guests that are bacon fans.  
     One of the best mediums for showing off good bacon is the classic BLT Sandwich.  For those who do not already know, BLT stands for bacon, lettuce and tomato.  Mayonnaise is the classic spread for a BLT, but this sandwich can also be served dry.  Using any other kind of spread is taboo from an authenticity standpoint.
     To make a gourmet BLT, one has to stay within the boundaries of the list of required basic ingredients with nothing extra added.  The basic ingredients are bread, mayonnaise, bacon, lettuce and tomato.  To make a gourmet BLT really standout, one simply has to select the best bread, lettuce and tomatoes available.  Making mayonnaise from scratch and making a gourmet cured bacon certainly helps the cause.  Selecting a Non-GMO organic heirloom tomato and an organic premium quality lettuce, like Belgian Endive, will sure please guests more than iceberg lettuce and a gas house GMO tomato that tastes like cardboard.  Selecting an artisan whole grain bread adds to the appeal too.                    

     Chat Masala Cured Pork Belly Bacon:
     Follow the link to the recipe in this website.
     Chat Masala Cured Bacon, Beefsteak Tomato and Belgian Endive BLT:
     This recipe yields 1 sandwich.
     The amount of bacon on a BLT is a matter of personal choice.  Since this BLT is made with hand crafted gourmet bacon, feel free to indulge!
     Organic Heirloom Tomatoes are the best.  Beefsteak Tomato is a classic choice for a BLT.  
     Step 1:  Heat a cast iron griddle over medium/medium low heat.
     Place 6 to 8 thin slices of the Mango Chat Masala Cured Bacon on the griddle.
     Grill the bacon on both sides, till it is crispy golden brown.
     Place the bacon strips on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan to drain off any excess grease.
     Keep the Chat Masala Bacon warm on a stove top.
     Step 2:  Toast 2 slices of whole grain wheat bread.
     Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on the toast.  (optional)
     Step 3:  Place a layer of trimmed Belgian Endive Lettuce Leaves on one slice of toast.
     Place a few thin slices of ripe Heirloom Beefsteak tomato on the lettuce.  
     Place the crisp Chat Masala Cured Bacon slices on the tomato.
     Place the top slice of bread on the sandwich.
     Step 4:  Cut the BLT in half and place it on a plate.
     Garnish the plate with sliced fruit of your choice.

     Ah!  Just what the doctor ordered!  A Gourmet BLT!                  

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Roasted Chat Masala Cured Bacon, Brie, Leek and Beefsteak Tomato Open Face Sandwich

     A Gourmet Open Face Sandwich Creation!
     Gourmet Cheese Toast is a nice simple snack.  All that is needed is good artisan bread and an interesting gourmet cheese.  The cheese is melted directly on the bread as it toasts.  Toppings can be placed on the cheese bread too.  Cheese bread is usually eaten while grasped with fingers and not tableware utensils.
     If the cheese is not melted directly on the bread, then the item cannot really be called cheese toast.  For example, if meat or vegetables are placed on the bread and cheese is melted over the toppings, then the toasted bread creation is better off being called an open face sandwich.  Today's recipe creation definitely fits in the open face sandwich category.  The Roasted Chat Masala Cured Bacon, Brie, Leek and Tomato Open Face Sandwich should be eaten with a knife and fork.
     Store bought bacon is limited to only a few flavors.  The most common are smoked bacon or standard sugar cured bacon.  The same old bacon flavors do get boring after a while, so why not create a new gourmet bacon flavor that will impress guests!  Adding an exotic spice mixture to the curing salt and sugar is a simple way to create an interesting new bacon flavor.  
     Pork Belly is easy to find at Asian food markets and butcher shops.  Pork Belly can be prepared as a gourmet flavored bacon in a home kitchen.  Dry spices and curing salt or straight Kosher Salt can be used to make a custom flavored bacon.  Curing salt mixtures that are safe for amateur cooks to use are available at butcher shops.  Curing Salt Mixtures will preserve the color of the meat.  Kosher Salt can be used to naturally cure pork belly, but the color of the meat will not be preserved.  Kosher Salt Cured Pork Belly will also have a shorter shelf life, so it is best to just use Kosher Salt to cure pork belly that will be consumed within a short time span.    
     No nitrites or color preserving agents are needed for a seven day Kosher Salt cure.  This makes the science of curing a small batch of bacon easy for home cooks to accomplish.  The sugar acts as a liquifying agent, which enables the Kosher Salt to penetrate the meat.  Salt is the oldest of all preservatives known to mankind, but it does have its limits, so be sure to make use of the bacon shortly after it is cured or freeze the home made bacon for later use.    
     Smoking the cured bacon is an option, but it is not required.  Before smoking, the bacon needs to be left uncovered in refrigerated air for 24 hours, so a film of patina forms on the surface of the bacon slab.  The slimy patina coating will readily absorb the smoke, thus resulting in more flavor.
     The cured bacon can be thin sliced like store bought bacon.  A slab of bacon can be roasted whole and then sliced.  Thick bite size pieces can be cut, then grilled, broiled or roasted.  This creates many more options when designing a new entrée or snack.  A fancy open face sandwich is a good medium for showing off the hand crafted gourmet bacon.  

     Chat Masala Kosher Salt Cured Pork Belly Bacon:
     This recipe yields 1 1/3 pounds.  
     Sugar and Kosher Salt is the curing mixture for this recipe.  This is a natural curing mixture that will not preserve the color of the meat, because no preservatives are in the mix.  The meat will turn a dark color.  Kosher Salt Cured Bacon has a short shelf life, so it should be consumed within a short time after curing.        
     Himalayan Black Salt can be found at Indian food markets.  Himalayan Black Salt adds an interesting flavor that goes well with Chat Masala Spice Mix.  
     Chat Masala is an Indian 14 spice mix and it is used to flavor many desserts.  Chat masala contains cardamom, ginger, sour mango powder, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, coriander, black pepper, white pepper and a few other warm dessert spices that are perfect for a gourmet bacon flavor.  Ground dried mango powder (Amchoor) and Chat Masala can be found at Indian food markets.
     It is not necessary to cure a whole side of pork belly when making bacon.  A small amount of bacon can be made for a few recipes with a small piece of pork belly.   I salt cured a 5" wide slab of pork belly that weighed about 1 1/3 pounds.  Butchers will cut pork belly to any requested size.  
     Step 1:  Select a fresh slab of pork belly that is about 5" wide and weighs about 21 ounces.  
     Use a boning knife to remove the skin.  (The skin can be saved for making cracklins or fried pork rind snacks.)  
     Use an ice pick or metal skewer to poke several holes in the pork belly, so the curing salt mixture easily penetrates.  (The holes should be spaced about 1" apart.)
     Place the prepared pork belly slab on a shallow roasting pan.
     Step 2:  Place 2/3 cup of granulated sugar in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/3 cup of Kosher Salt.  
     Add 1 tablespoon Himalayan Black Salt. 
     Add 2 tablespoons of Powdered Dried Sour Mango (Amchoor).  
     Add 2 tablespoons of Chat Masala.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Step 3:  Pour the curing salt mixture on the pork belly slab.
     Press as much of the mixture onto the pork belly slab as possible.  (The roasting pan will catch whatever falls off.)  
     Step 4:  Place the curing salt coated pork belly slab into a large zip lock bag.
     Place the extra curing salt mixture from the pan into the zip-lock bag with the pork belly slab.   
     Press the excess air out of the zip lock bag and seal the bag.
     Place the bag in a container, in case it leaks.
     Place the container in a refrigerator.
     Step 5:  Write the curing start time and date on a paper label.
     Write the finish time and date on the label.  (Add 7 days to the start date.)
     Keep the date/time label in sight.
     Step 6:  Once every 12 hours, pick the bag up and shake it, so the brine evenly coats the meat.  
     Flip the bag over, so the same side is not always facing down.
     Cure the pork belly slab for 7 days.  
     *Open the bag once a day and check the aroma.  There should be no hint of decay or contamination in the odor.  If the meat becomes badly discolored or if there is a foul odor, then discard the meat.
     Step 7:  After the 7 day curing process finishes, remove the container from the refrigerator.
     Remove the bacon slab from the bag.
     Discard the curing salt liquid. 
     Pat the cured bacon dry with a clean dry pastry towel.
     Step 8:  Place the cured bacon slab on roasting rack over a drip pan.
     Place the pan in a refrigerator.
     Chill uncovered till the surface of the bacon is dry.  (A few hours.) 
     Step 9:  Wrap the finished Chat Masala Cured Pork Belly Bacon with plastic wrap.
     Chill till the bacon is needed.
     *Use the Kosher Salt cured bacon within a few days or freeze portions for later use.  Kosher Salt curing is not as effective as nitrite curing, so the bacon will have a short shelf life.      

     Roasted Chat Masala Cured Bacon, Brie, Leek and Beefsteak Tomato Open Face Sandwich:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée portion (2 slices of bread).
     A coarse whole grain bread or heavy dark bread is best for for this sandwich.
     Step 1:  Cut a 1" wide slab of the Chat Masala Bacon that weighs 6 to 8 ounces.
     Place the petite bacon slab on a roasting pan.
     Place the pan in a 350ºF oven.
     Roast till the bacon is fully cooked and golden brown highlights appear.  (A probe thermometer should read 165ºF.)
     Step 2:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Let the roast bacon rest for 2 minutes.
     Cut the roasted Chat Masala Bacon into 1/4" thick bite size slices and set them aside.
     Step 3:  Heat a sauté pan over medium low/low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/4 cup of julienne sliced leek.
     Gently sauté and sweat the leeks, till they are tender.  (Dot not allow the leeks to brown!)
     Set the sweated julienne leeks aside.
     Step 4:  Lightly toast 2 sandwich size slices of whole grain bread.
     Step 5:  Place the toasted bread slices on a baking pan that is lightly brushed with vegetable oil.
     Place 1 slice of large Heirloom Beefsteak Tomato on each slice of bread.  (1/4" thick)
     Cover the bread and tomato with thin slices of Brie Cheese.  (About 4 ounces.)
     Spread the sweated julienne sliced leeks over the brie cheese.
     Overlap the Roasted Chat Masala Bacon slices on top of the open face sandwich halves.
     Step 6:  Place the pan in a 350ºF oven.
     Bake till the Brie Cheese softens and the toppings are warm.
     *This only takes a few minutes.  Do not bake Brie Cheese for too much time or the cheese will literally liquify, because of the high cream content!)
     Step 7:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Place the open face sandwich halves on a plate.
     Garnish the plate with pickles and herbs of your choice.  (The garnish in the photos was Peperoncini and Vietnamese Perilla.)

     The flavor of this gourmet bacon open face sandwich is one of a kind!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Pan Fried Oyster Po' Boy

     Hoo Dawgy!
     Poor Boy sandwiches are a Louisiana tradition.  Originally these sandwiches were big, cheap to make and they were served like street vendor food to hungry workers that were on strike.  The Po' Boy also fed folks on the street that worked for pennies a day during the Great Depression.  Sliced roasted meat Po' Boys were the original and local caught seafood was a popular choice for this sandwich too.  An authentic Po' Boy is minimally garnished and it is always slathered with a spread.  The spread can be mayonnaise, Creole Mustard or Remoulade.  By far, Lousiana style Remoulde is the most popular, especially for Fried Seafood Po' Boy Sandwiches of any kind.
     There are several kinds of Remoulade and they are usually identified by their color.  The colors can be white, yellow, pink or orange.  The white and yellow color Remoulade originated in France.  The pink or orange color Remoulade variations originated in Louisiana.  Catsup, paprika and cayenne pepper give a Louisiana style Remoulade its distinct color.
     When making a Fried Oyster Po' Boy, it is best to select oysters that are commonly found in Louisiana fish markets.  Gulf Coast Blue Point Oysters are the classic choice.  Unfortunately, because of the BP Oil Spill, the Gulf of Mexico waters will be contaminated for the next 50 years, so it is possible that consuming seafood from this region can pose a cumulative health threat.  Farm raised oysters from the Gulf region that are monitored closely and sustainable farmed wild oysters from clean water along the Atlantic Coast are the best alternative choice, if residual petrochemical contamination is a concern.
     The choice of bread for a Po' Boy Sandwich should be shaped like a French Baguette, but the bread should not be crusty or firm textured.  The bread should have a thin soft crust and a soft pith.  Tough chewy crusty baguette bread is better for serving with cheese.  Enriching a standard French Baguette recipe with milk and butter will produce a soft crust bread that is perfect for making an old fashioned Po' Boy Sandwich.  As can be seen in the photos above, the milk enriched soft crust Butter Bread makes this sandwich look like the great Po' Boys that were served long ago.  For those who do not have the time to tinker with making fresh bread, standard Hoagie Rolls are a good choice.

     Louisiana Remoulade:
     This recipe yields about 3/4 cup.  (Enough for 3 or 4 sandwiches.)
     No two Louisiana style Remoulade recipes are alike, because chefs tend to add their own personal touch.  This Louisiana Remoulade recipe is a little bit different than some that I have published in the past.    
     Step 1:  Place 1/4 cup of mayonnaise in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 tablespoons of organic catsup.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced Dill Gherkin Pickle.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced onion.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Step 2:  Add 1/4 teaspoon of Worcestershire Sauce.
     Add 1 teaspoon of Creole Mustard.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Step 3:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of French Herbs de Provence.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Add 2 pinches of black pepper.
     Add 1 or 2 pinches of cayenne pepper.  (to taste)
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Spanish Paprika.
     Step 4:  Mix the ingredients together.
     Place the Louisiana Remoulade in a container.
     Chill in a refrigerator for 2 hours, so the flavors meld.

     Po' Boy Sandwich Set-Up:
     This recipe yields 1 sandwich set-up.
     It is best to have the bread ready, so the pan fried oysters can be placed directly on the sandwich when they are done frying. 
     Select a 1 foot long soft crush French Baguette shaped loaf of bread (or a Hoagie Roll).
     Trim the ends off of the bread and split the roll open lengthwise.
     Spread a thin layer of the Louisiana Remoulade on the bread.
     Place some mixed baby lettuce leaves on the bread.  (optional)
     Set the Po' Boy Sandwich set-up aside.

     Pan Fried Oyster Po' Boy:     
     This recipes yields enough for a 1 foot long Po' Boy Sandwich.  (8 ounces)
     Containers of pre-shucked large oysters are a nice convenience, but fresh shucked oysters have the best flavor.  
     Step 1:  Place 2 cups of plain French breadcrumbs in a mixing bowl.
     Season the bread crumbs with:
     - 2 pinches of sea salt
     - 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
     - 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Set the seasoned bread crumbs aside.
     Step 2:  Place 1 cup of flour in a second mixing bowl and set it aside.
     Step 3:  Place 2 large eggs in a third mixing bowl.
     Whisk the eggs till they start to foam.
     Set the bowl of egg wash aside.  
     Step 4:  Place a wide cast iron skillet over medium heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of lard.
     Add enough vegetable frying oil, so the level of oil is about 3/4" deep.
     Adjust the temperature, so the oil is 360ºF.
     Step 5:  Select 8 ounces of shucked large oysters.  (Drain most of the oyster liquor off.  The oysters should be moist.)
     Dredge the oysters in the plain flour.
     Dip the floured oysters in the egg wash.
     Dredge each oyster, one at a time, in the breading mixture.
     Step 6:  Place the breaded oysters side by side in the hot oil.
     Pan fry the oysters on both sides, till the oysters are fully cooked and the coating is golden brown.
     *Oysters are tender and moist, so do not disturb the oysters while they pan fry, or the breading will break loose.  When the bottom side becomes golden brown, carefully flip the oyster over and finish frying the oyster.  Oysters cook quickly, so when the bread crumbs turn golden brown, they are ready.
     Step 7:  Use tongs to place the finished Pan Fried Oysters directly on the Po' Boy Sandwich Set-Up.  (The less pan fried oysters are handled the better!)
     Step 8:  Place the Pan Fried Oyster Po' Boy on a plate.
     Garnish the plate with Italian Parsley Sprigs and dill pickle spears.
     Place a small ramekin of the Louisiana Remoulade on the plate.
     A tasty Pan Fried Oyster Po' Boy!  Hoo Dawgy!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Conch Fritters with Key Lime Chile Mayonnaise

     Key West Style Conch Fritters!
     Conch fritters are a popular appetizer in Florida seafood restaurants and local bars.  Conch fritters have a nice mellow conch flavor combined with spicy peppers.  The conch fritter batter has a high proportion of conch, vegetables and seasoning.  The small amount of stiff batter simply holds the ingredients together.  The fritter batter is thick enough to be gathered with a small scoop, then dropped directly into hot frying oil.  The batter can also be made thick enough to be rolled into small ball shapes by hand for a more uniform shape.
     There are two types of conch fritters.  One type of conch fritter is made with wheat flour.  The problem with wheat flour fritters is that the center of the fritter sometimes remains gummy after frying.  The older Florida Cracker style conch fritter recipe combines corn flour, corn meal and wheat flour.  This type of conch fritter has the texture of a fried Hush Puppy.
     Conch meat can be found fresh, frozen or canned.  Fresh conch can no longer be harvested locally in Florida due to sustainability issues, but fortunately, conch are still abundant in some fisheries around the globe.  Frozen conch is usually poached before freezing, but some fisheries market frozen raw conch meat.  Both fresh and frozen conch meat needs to be tenderized with a meat mallet, before the meat is chopped for making fritters.
     If frozen conch meat is not available, then there is a nice alternative.  Scungilli is an Italian Mediterranean conch species that is usually sold as a canned product.  Canned scungilli is tender from the canning process and it does not need to be tenderized with a mallet.  Canned scungilli is available at Italian delicatessens.
     Key Limes are a special breed of small limes that have a rich tart flavor.  Key Limes are about 1/3 the size of a regular lime.  Either fresh Key Lime Juice or bottled Key Lime Juice can be used to make the Key Lime Chile Mayonnaise.  Bottles of Key Lime Juice can be found at most grocery stores.

     Key Lime Chile Mayonnaise:
     This recipe yields about 1 cup.
     Step 1:  Place 3/4 cup of mayonnaise in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 tablespoons of Korean style Coarse Red Serrano Chile Pepper Paste.  (sambal)
     Add 1 tablespoon of Key Lime Juice.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Place the Key Lime Chile Mayonnaise in a container.
     Chill for 1 hour, so the flavors meld.

     Conch Fritters:
     This recipe yields 2 petite appetizer portions.  (12 small fritters) 
     Step 1:  *If fresh frozen or poached frozen conch meat is used, then the meat must be tenderized with a mallet to the point of being pulverized.  If Canned Scungilli is used, then the meat does not need to be tenderized.  
     Place 3/4 cup of minced tenderized conch meat in a mixing bowl.  (About 6 ounces.)
     Add 2 tablespoons of whisked egg.
     Add 2 tablespoons of milk.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced celery.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced red bell pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced green onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Step 2:  Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 2 pinches of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 2 pinches of black pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Step 3:  Add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda.
     Add 1 tablespoon of all purpose flour.
     Add 2 tablespoons of prepared corn flour.  (Masa Harina)
     Add 1 tablespoon of corn meal.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Step 4:  Check the consistency.
     *The stiff fritter batter should be thick enough to hold its shape when scooped with a spoon.  If the mixture is too loose and wet, then add a little more prepared corn flour.  If the stiff batter is too dry, then add a little more milk.  
     Chill the stiff Conch Fritter Batter for 1 hour, so the flavors meld.
     Step 5:  Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360ºF.
     Step 6:  *If necessary, fry in small batches!
     Select a small 1/2 ounce capacity sorbet scoop.
     Scoop 1 ball shape of the conch fritter batter at a time and carefully drop each conch fritter batter ball into the hot frying oil.
     Fry till the fritters are a light brown color and fully cooked.  (The center temperature of each fritter should be at least 190ºF.)
     Step 7:  Use a fryer net to scoop the fried conch fritters out of the hot oil.
     Place the conch fritters on a wire screen rack over a drip pan to drain off any excess oil.
     Keep the fritters warm on a stove top.

     Conch Fritters with Key Lime Chile Mayonnaise:
     This recipe yields 1 petite appetizer portion.
     Place a bed of Italian Parsley sprigs on a small appetizer plate.
     Place a 2 ounce ramekin of Key Lime Chile Mayonnaise on the plate.
     Place 6 Conch Fritters on the bed of parsley around the ramekin.

     Conch Fritters are a nice appetizer before a seafood dinner and they are a great bar snack!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Hickory Smoked Armenian String Cheese White Pizza ~ Garlic, Tomato & Banana Peppers

     Gourmet Pizza!
     What constitutes a Gourmet Pizza?  Basically, a gourmet pizza is hand crafted and made with select toppings that support an overall flavor theme.  The choice of bread dough, the thickness of the crust and the shape of the finished pie have to be factored in.  The choice of pizza sauce or the decision to make a white pizza counts.  Above all else, most pizza aficionados agree that the selection of cheese is what really makes the difference.
     Pizza is a nice medium for showing off a great cheese.  If the selection of cheese is good enough, little thought has to be given to deciding on which toppings to add.  Whatever tastes good with the specific cheese makes the list of topping options, then the list can be narrowed down to create a flavor theme.  When a nice select cheese is used, it is best to limit the number of toppings, so the great flavor of the cheese takes center stage.
     Occasionally I find a cheese that might be good for making an interesting pizza.  Today's pizza recipe features Hickory Smoked Armenian String Cheese.  Armenian String Cheese is usually made with sheep milk or a combination of sheep and goat milk.  Sheep milk cheese has a high fat content, so String Cheese will easily melt.  The String Cheese making process is similar to how Mozzarella is made.  String cheese is stretched at a specific temperature, so the proteins align.  String Cheese can be torn by hand into long thin shreds.
     There are two methods for adding a smoke flavor to cheese.  Cold smoking cheese wheels, logs or blocks in a smokehouse is the traditional method.  Modern cheese makers also soak the finished cheese in a smoke flavored liquid.  The "Liquid Smoke" method is used in places where air pollution is a concern or if cutting cost will make a cheese product more competitive.  Real smoked cheese can be featured on its own, while liquid smoked cheese is better suited for cooking.
     Today's recipe features a Hickory Smoked Armenian String Cheese that is made with the "Natural Liquid Smoke" flavoring process, which is fine for making a tasty pizza.  Keeping the toppings simple is the best way to let the light smokey flavor shine through.  No sauce is needed, so this is a white pizza.  A simple Napolitano style Margherita topping of tomato, basil and olive oil is a classic choice.  Adding some Pickled Banana Pepper Rings adds a mild spicy flavor that goes well with the smoke flavored cheese.        
     Pizza Dough:
     Follow this link to the pizza dough recipe in this website:
     • Pizza Dough

     Hickory Smoked Armenian String Cheese White Pizza ~ Garlic, Tomato & Banana Peppers:
     This recipe yields 1 large 16" pizza.
     It is easier to pull thin strands of String Cheese by hand, than it is to use a grater to shred this cheese.
     Step 1:  Place a 19 to 20 ounce portion of pizza dough on a flour dusted countertop.  
     Use finger tips or a rolling pin to flatten the pizza dough into a round disk shape that is about 16" in diameter.  The rolled dough should be about 1/4" to 3/8" thick.
     Step 2:  Lightly brush a pizza pan with blended olive oil.
     Place the shaped pizza dough on the pizza pan.
     Even the edges of the dough, so it looks nice.
     Pat the edge of the pizza dough with fingertips to form the crust.
     Step 3:  Place 1/4 cup of olive oil in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced garlic.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Brush the shaped pizza dough with the garlic oil.     
     Step 4:  Sprinkle 2 loose packed cups of shredded Hickory Smoked Armenian String Cheese on the pizza dough.  (Leave the crust bare.)
     Step 5:  Cut 3 or 4 fresh Plum Tomatoes into 1/4" thick slices.
     Arrange the tomato slices on the pizza so it looks nice.
     Step 5:  Sprinkle 1/3 cup of Pickled Banana Pepper Rings in the pizza. 
     Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of oregano on the pizza.  
     Step 6:  Sprinkle 1 cup of shredded Hickory Smoked Armenian String Cheese over the toppings.
     Drizzle 1 tablespoon of virgin olive oil over the pizza.
     Step 7:  Place the pizza pan on a stone slab in a 450ºF oven.  
     Bake till the crust is fully cooked and a few golden brown highlights appear on the cheese. 
     Step 8:  Remove the pizza pan from the oven.
     Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of bias sliced green onion over the pizza. 
     Cut the pizza into pie shaped slices and serve on the pizza pan.  

     Viola!  A great tasting gourmet pizza that will please guests! 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Tacchino Panini with Balsamic Sun Dried Tomato Pesto, Garlic Arugula and Provolone

     Gourmet Panini! 
     Panini Sandwiches originated as bar snack food in Milan Italy.  The original Panini were made with just enough tasty ingredients to flavor the bread, just like how Focaccia is topped with only a few toppings when served as a bar favor.  
     Things have changed as far as modern Panini are concerned.  Modern Panini are no longer just two pieces of grilled bread that has a few thin slices of meat, cheese or vegetables added for flavor.  The portion size of the featured ingredient and garnish on a typical Panini has increased to the point of this sandwich being a meal, rather than just a snack.  This satisfies those who go out to eat and drink, rather than drink and snack.  Needless to say, because of the increased cost, modern Panini are no longer complimentary bar snacks.     
     A Panini sandwich is pressed between two hot griddles, so the sandwich warms evenly.  Just like with a Cuban Sandwich, the pressure applied when grilling causes the bread to gain a crispy golden brown crust.  A Panini can be pressed on a flat double griddle or a double griddle that has a ribbed surface.  A ribbed griddle produces dark grill marks on the bread, while a flat griddle surface creates a golden color.  Either way, it is the crispy crust that counts.  
     The difference between a Panini and a Cuban Sandwich is the bread and the amount of pressure applied.  A Cuban Sandwich is pressed very flat, while a Panini is just gently pressed.  A Cuban Sandwich is made with soft Cuban Bread that has a thin crust.  A traditional Panini is made only with Ciabatta Bread, which has an airy chewy texture.  Another difference is that a Cuban Sandwich is served whole or cut in half, while Panini are always cut into triangle shapes.    

     Balsamic Sun Dried Tomato Pesto:
     This recipe yields about 1/2 cup.  (Enough for 2 sandwiches.)
     Step 1:  Place 8 sun dried tomato halves in a small sauce pot.  
     Add 2 cups of water.
     Place the pot over low heat.
     Gently simmer till the sun dried tomatoes become soft.
     Step 2:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Remove the sun dried tomatoes from the hot water.
     Coarsely chop the sun dried tomatoes.
     Step 3:  Place the sun dried tomatoes in a food processor.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of virgin olive oil.
     Add 1 tablespoon of Modena Balsamic Vinegar.  
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 4:  Pulse the food processor for a few seconds at time till the mixture becomes a smooth spreadable paste.  
     Step 5:  *Check the consistency.  Add a little bit of virgin olive oil if the paste is too thick.  The paste should be thick enough to be gathered with a spoon, yet soft enough to easily spread. 
     Step 6:  Place the Balsamic Sun Dried Tomato Pesto in a container.
     Chill for 30 minutes, so the flavors meld.  

     Garlic Arugula: 
     This recipe yields about 1/2 cup.  (Enough for 1 large sandwich.)
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Sauté till the garlic is a light golden color.
     Step 2:  Add 2 1/2 cups of baby arugula leaves.  (Gently packed.)
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Sauté and toss till the arugula wilts.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the heat.  
     Place the wilted garlic arugula in a container and set it aside.

     Tacchino Panini with Balsamic Sun Dried Tomato Pesto, Garlic Arugula and Provolone:
     This recipe yields 1 large Panini Sandwich.
     Step 1:  Cut an 8" long piece of Ciabatta Bread.
     Split the bread in half horizontally.
     Step 2:  Spread 3 or 4 tablespoons of the Balsamic Sun Dried Tomato Pesto on both halves of the Ciabatta.
     Place a thin layer of the Garlic Arugula on the bottom half of the sandwich.
     Place 5 ounces of thin sliced roast turkey on the garlic arugula.  (Roast turkey from a delicatessen is fine for this recipe.)
     Place a few thin slices of provolone cheese on the turkey.  (About 1 1/2 to 2 ounces.)
     Place the top half of the Ciabatta Bread on the sandwich.
     Step 3:  Set a Panini Griddle to a medium heat range.  (Either a flat double griddle surface or a ribbed double griddle surface can be used.)
     Place the sandwich on the Panini Griddle.
     Lower the top griddle plate and gently press the sandwich.  (Do not squash the sandwich flat!) 
     Grill till the Ciabatta has a golden crust or till golden brown grill marks appear. 
     Step 4:  Place the Panini on a cutting board.  
     Cut the sandwich into 2 or 3 triangle shapes.
     Place the Panini Triangles on a plate.
     Garnish the pate with an Italian parsley sprig, black olives and a pickle of your choice.

     This is a great tasting Panini Sandwich.  The peppery flavor of Garlic Arugula and Balsamic Sun Dried Tomato Pesto taste great with roast turkey!  

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Philadelphia's Texas Tommy

     Texas Tommy!
     If you are into health food, then just skip over today's recipe!  The Texas Tommy is a Philadelphia hot dog specialty.  A Texas Tommy is a bacon wrapped cheese stuffed hot dog.  A Texas Tommy can be deep fried or baked.
      Today's recipe is the original authentic way to make a Texas Tommy.  Many modern Philadelphia restaurants have bastardized the Texas Tommy recipe and it is not as good as the original.  Modern snack bar cooks simply put a hot dog on a bun, then they top it off with strips of crisp bacon and pour warm Cheese Whiz over the entire mess.  Needless to say, this is not exactly a gourmet Texas Tommy!
     A bacon wrapped cheese stuffed hot dog is the original Texas Tommy recipe.  I am sure that you can imagine what this hot dog tastes like.  It is the warm melted cheese in the middle of the Texas Tommy that makes this hot dog so appealing.
     I was working as an expeditor and garde manger cook at a popular Philadelphia restaurant and night club back in the late 1970's the first time that I was asked to prepare a Texas Tommy for the evening sandwich special.  I asked the chef, "What is a Texas Tommy?"  He couldn't believe that I did not know what it was.  I was not a Philadelphia native, so I had never heard of a Texas Tommy before.  I ended up making about 50 Texas Tommy specials per night at, till the Texas Tommy craze was no longer popular with the clientele.  The Texas Tommy definitely appealed to the late night party crowd that liked munching on junk food while drinking and dancing the night away.
     I soon left Philadelphia to apprentice in French and Italian restaurants in Florida.  The memory of how the Texas Tommy sold like wildfire stuck in my mind.  As a sous chef, I actually did run a Texas Tommy lunch special at a French café.  There is something about a bacon wrapped cheese stuffed hot dog that even makes fine dining customers forget about maintaining a healthy diet.  The French chefs that were into American junk food liked the Texas Tommy and they liked the profit margin of this gourmet junk food lunch special even more.
     Classic American junk food currently is en vogue in France and many European countries.  Classic junk food is still the king in urban areas and Route 66 style tourist traps, where customers could care less about overpriced modern health food that would only satisfy a caged rabbit.  The Texas Tommy is a sinfully delicious temptation that reigns supreme in this modern age!

     Philadelphia Style Mustard Relish:
     This recipe yields 1 cup.
     Place 1/2 cup of dill pickle relish in a container.
     Add 1/2 cup of Dijon Mustard (or Yellow Mustard).
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Chill the Mustard Relish till it is needed.
     Texas Tommy:
     This recipe yields 1 Texas Tommy.  
     Step 1:  Heat a griddle over medium low heat.
     Place 3 or 4 strips of Hickory Smoked Bacon on the griddle.
     Blanch the bacon till some of the grease renders out and the fat turns a translucent color.
     *Do not cook the bacon crispy!  The bacon should have no brown color and it should be flexible.
     Set the blanched bacon aside on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan.
     Step 2:  Select 1 all beef ballpark style Vienna Hot Dog that weigh 4 ounces.
     Cut a slit lengthwise from almost end to end, to form a pocket in the hot dog.
     Cut some 1/4" thick sticks of Cheddar Cheese (or American Cheese).
     *Cut cheese sticks to a size that can be stuffed in the hot dog.  (Refer to the picture above.)
     Stuff the cheese strips in the hot dog till the pocket is full.
     Step 3:  Place 1 strip of the blanched bacon lengthwise over the cheese stuffed pocket.
     Hold the bacon in place with fingers.
     Step 4:  Starting at one end of the hot dog, wrap 1 strip of blanched bacon around the hot dog and fasten it in place with toothpicks.
     Continue wrapping the hot dog with strips of blanched bacon and fastening with toothpicks, till the stuffed hot dog is completely covered with bacon.
     *Be sure to slightly overlap the bacon as you wrap the hot dog, so the cheese stuffing will be sealed in.  Use as many toothpicks as necessary to hold the bacon strips in place.
     Step 5:  *There are two cooking methods for a Texas Tommy.  A Texas Tommy can be deep fried or baked.  Deep frying is traditional, but baking is better for a home kitchen.
     Place the bacon wrapped stuffed hot dog on a roasting pan.  (Try to set the Texas Tommy on the pan so the side with the cheese stuffing faces upward.)
     Place the pan in a 350ºF oven.
     Bake till the bacon coating is golden brown and the cheese stuffing melts.
     Keep the Texas Tommy warm on a stove top.
     Step 6:  Warm 1 hot dog bun in the oven.
     Spread a thin layer of the Mustard Relish on the hot dog bun.
     Carefully pull all of the toothpicks out of the Texas Tommy.
     Place the Texas Tommy on the hot dog bun.
     Place the Texas Tommy on a plate.
     Garnish the plate with pickles of your choice and a parsley sprig.

     The Texas Tommy is a classic summertime treat!