Friday, November 27, 2015

Greek Hot Dog

     A Greek Style Gourmet Hot Dog!  
     Traditional and creative gourmet hot dog recipes have been en vogue during the last decade.  In recent years, many chefs focused on gourmet sliders and gourmet burgers.  Hot dogs follow along with this trend to a lesser degree.  The reason gourmet dogs lag behind is the unhealthy reputation of hot dogs in the media.
     All I can say is that not all hot dogs are created equal.  Some brands are much healthier than others.  To even the playing field, one simply does not select a cheap low quality hot dog when creating a gourmet dog recipe.  Today's recipe features Coney Style Nathan's Hot Dogs.  These hot dogs are thin and they have some snap.
     Creating new unique hot dog recipes is kind of fun.  Giving a new hot dog creation a name is easy when adapting a theme becomes part of the plan.
     A Greek theme for a hot dog is a good idea.  After doing some research, only a few examples of Greek Hot Dogs could be found.  The oldest Greek Dogs are slathered with Greek Chili.  Greek Chili is the same thing as Cincinnati Chili, so these two kinds of Chili Dogs are nearly identical.
     The more popular Greek Hot Dog style simply makes use of combinations of Greek style ingredients, like Feta Cheese, Olives and peppers.  Adding some Pickled Grape Leaves and making a legitimate Greek style tomato topping helps to complete the theme.    
     Winter can be a cold, dark and dreary drag sometimes.  Winter is not just mountain ski lodges and blue skies or a horse drawn sleigh ride for two.  People get tired of winter, especially when there is only shades of gray.  Hot Dog are summertime food and hot dogs inspire thoughts of brighter days.  Sometimes a plate of summertime food is all it takes to cheer a person up.  This is why hot dogs are responsible for millions of smiles!   
     Greek Hot Dog: 
     This recipe yields 1 gourmet hot dog!
     A New York Coney Island Style Nathan's Style Hot Dog is a good choice for this recipe.   
     Step 1:  Place 3 tablespoons of diced tomato in a mixing bowl.
     Add 3 sliced pitted Kalamata Olives or ripe black olives.
     Add 1 clove of minced garlic.
     Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of virgin olive oil.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 2:  Mix the ingredients together.
     Set the Greek style tomato and olive hot dog topping aside for 20 minutes, so the flavors meld.  
     Step 3:  Cook 1 Coney Island style all beef hot dog in boiling water over high heat for about 1 minute, till it just starts to plump up.
     Remove the hot dog from the boiling water.
     Step 4:  Heat a griddle or sauté pan over low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil.
     Place the hot dog in the pan.
     Gently grill the hot dog on all sides, till the skin turns red.  Try not to brown the hot dog.  
     Step 5:  Trim the stems off of 2 to 3 small pickled grape leaves.
     Step 6:  Warm a hot dog bun in an oven.
     Place the hot dog bun on a plate.  
     Place the pickled grape leaves on the hot dog bun.  
     Set the grilled hot dog on the grape leaves.  
     Spoon the Greek tomato hot dog topping over the hot dog.  
     Crumble 3 tablespoons of Feta Cheese over the tomato topping.  
     Place 3 Sport Peppers on the hot dog.  
     Garnish the plate with parsley sprigs and a dill pickle.  
     This gourmet style Greek Hot Dog definitely is worth trying!  

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Cumin & Green Tabasco Vinegar Toasted Cuzco Maiz Gigante

     Cumin & Green Tabasco Vinegar Toasted Cuzco Maiz Gigante
     I recently republished several Thanksgiving side dish recipes and a few recipes that make use of leftover roast turkey.  Thanksgiving dinner is not the only thing happening on during this holiday.  As sports fans know, there always is a football game scheduled too!
     Chalk today's recipe up for the football fans that seek fun snack recipes that are easy to make.  If you can make popcorn the old fashioned way on a stove top, then toasting Giant Cuzco Maize Kernels will be easy.    
     Toasted Ancient Cuzco Giant Maize is a healthy snack that seems to draw quite a bit of interest.  The reader's response to Giant Cuzco Maize recipes that were published in the past was good.  Modern consumers seem to prefer healthy snack food.

     The Giant Cuzco Maize hybrid was developed long before the Incan empire came to be.  Traditionally this type of maize is either stewed with vegetables and meat or it is pan fried like popcorn.
     Because Cuzco Maize Kernels are so huge, they sound like dynamite when they pop!  Giant Maize Kernels can literally fly 20 feet through the air if a loose fitting lid is not placed on the pot.
     Giant Cuzco Maize does not really puff up like regular popcorn.  The starchy interior of each kernel does become light in texture, even though it is not fluffy.  The texture of the popped kernels is not hard or tough, like the commercial product called Corn Nuts.  Toasted Giant Cuzco Maize is soft and palatable.  It actually has a flavor that exotic snack enthusiasts describe as being addictive.
     Cuzco Giant Maize can be jazzed up with added flavors.  Snack food is a tradition in Peru and street vendors usually offer bags of fresh popped Giant Cuzco Maize that is flavored with items like garlic, chile and lime.
    Today's recipe features a flavor that is a favorite in southern states.  Bottles of Green Tabasco Vinegar are almost always placed on restaurant dining tables from North Carolina to Georgia.  Tabasco Vinegar is great with BBQ, fries and fried catfish.  It also tastes good on popcorn.  Cumin adds a nice complimentary flavor.  Cumin & Green Tabasco Vinegar Toasted Cuzco Maiz Gigante is a nice light healthy snack to munch on while watching a ballgame!

     Cumin & Green Tabasco Vinegar Toasted Cuzco Maiz Gigante:
     This recipe yields 1 large portion.
     This Cuzco Giant Maize toasting recipe is basically the same as what is printed on the Maiz Cuzco Gigante bag. 
     Giant Cuzco Maize For Toasting is available at international food markets and at the Amazon internet shopping website. 
     Trappy's Green Tabasco Pepper Vinegar is available at most grocery stores.  
     Step 1:  Heat a pot over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 1 cup of Maiz Cuzco Gigante.
     Step 2:  Place a loose fitting lid on the pot.
     Shake the pot till the kernels pop and they are toasted golden brown.
     Step 3:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of Green Tabasco Pepper Vinegar on the kernels while tossing.
     Add a few pinches of sea salt while tossing.
     Add 2 pinches of cumin while tossing.
     Place the Cumin & Green Tabasco Vinegar Toasted Cuzco Maiz Gigante in a snack bowl and serve.

     This is some awesome munch food!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Canadian Pizza! ~ Poutine and Back Bacon

     Canadian Pizza, eh!
     Tradition runs thick in Canada.  So does creativity.  Some of the greatest cold weather food in the world is cooked in the Great White North.  Canadian winter food definitely sticks to the ribs and keeps the body warm in extreme blizzard conditions.  
     Working hard in temperatures that are far below freezing all day long causes the body to convert every available calorie into energy and warmth.  Carbohydrates, proteins and lipids are metabolized in greater volume and at a faster pace, when working hard in sub zero temperatures.  
     Eating 1 pound of butter to stay warm when working in the Arctic Circle is not unheard of.  Fats metabolize quickly when the temperatures are far below zero.  Eskimos can attest to the benefits of fat, because whale blubber is their traditional Arctic survival food.
     Most folks will agree that the thought of living on butter or blubber is not exactly appealing.  There has to be some other kind of cold weather food option that also offers high levels of fat along with plenty of carbs and protein.  Does pizza fit the bill?  Maybe so, if the pizza is made with heavy duty fatty toppings!       
     Creating a pizza that is worthy of being called "Canadian Pizza" requires thinking outside the pizza box.  What this amounts to is that selecting stereotypical "light & lively" California style pizza toppings just will not do.  A pizza topped with avocado, sprouts and some kind of salad is better off served in Southern California, than where the cold north winds blow.  One must proverbially go north of the border when selecting food items that are worthy of being used to create a gourmet Canadian Pizza.  
    If any food creation could be called the official snack food of Canada, then Poutine would be it.  Poutine is French Fries that are smothered with Brown Gravy and Cheese Curds.  Poutine is popular practically everywhere in Canada.  Poutine really has a way of warming up cold bones a cold winter day.  There is enough carbs and fat in one serving of Poutine to keep a Woolly Mammoth warm when the temperature is 30 below!  Topping a pizza with Poutine was the natural choice when selecting a suitable topping for creating a Canadian Pizza recipe.  
     Memories of the "SCTV McKenzie Brothers" also came to mind when making this pizza.  The McKenzie Brothers practically survived on beer and Back Bacon Mayonnaise Sandwiches.  Back Bacon is also called Canadian Bacon, so Back Bacon made it onto the list of ingredients for today's recipe.  
     When making today's Canadian Pizza it is important to remember that Cheddar Cheese Curds melt quickly, so keeping an eye on this pizza while it bakes is necessary.  Cheese Curds should not be browned or they will taste bitter.  They should only be baked till they soften and melt, just like Melted Cheese Curds on a plate of hot Poutine.  
     Today's pizza is an assembled pizza and the toppings are placed on the pizza in separate stages.  The Poutine toppings are placed on the pizza after the crust is cooked, then the pizza is baked again.
     The flavor of this Canadian Pizza is surprisingly tasty.  In fact, the flavor is so comfortable and savory, that is is nearly impossible to eat just one slice!            

     Pizza Dough:   
     This recipe yields enough dough for about 2 medium size pizzas (12" to 14").  
     This recipe is written for a mixer with a dough hook.
     • Standard Pizza Dough is the same as French Baguette Dough.  High gluten flour is best for this recipe, but regular bread flour or all purpose flour can be used. 
     • Some chefs prefer Focaccia Dough for making pizza.  To make a Focaccia Dough, add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil during Step #2 in this recipe.    
     Step 1:  Place 1 1/2 cups of lukewarm water (112ºF) in a mixer bowl.  
     Add 2 tablespoons of fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon of dry yeast.
     Place the mixer bowl in a lukewarm place like on top of a warm oven.
     Allow the yeast to bloom.
     Step 2:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of sugar.
     Add 4 cups of flour.
     Add 1 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Step 3:  Place the bowl on a mixer and attach a dough hook.
     Set the mixer to low speed and let the ingredients combine.  
     Mix till the dough starts to gather on the dough hook and the dough pulls away from the mixer bowl.  
     *If the dough is still too wet, add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time, till the dough gathers on the hook. 
     Step 4:  Turn off the mixer.
     Cover the dough in the mixer bowl with a dry towel. 
     When the dough rises more than double, turn the mixer on low speed for a few seconds to beat the dough down.
     Step 5:  Remove the dough hook. 
     Cover the dough with a towel and let it rise again.
     When it rises the second time, beat the dough down by hand.
     Step 6:  Place the dough on a flour dusted counter top.
     Roll the dough into a large ball shape. 
     Step 7:  Cut the dough ball in half to make 2 medium size pizza portions.
     Roll and tuck each dough portion with your hands to make smooth dough balls.
     Step 8:  Place each dough ball in a sealed container.
     Chill the dough for at least 2 hours in a 41ºF refrigerator.   
     *The dough balls can be refrigerated for a few days or frozen for later use.

     Brown Gravy:
     This recipe yields about 2 1/4 cups.  (More than enough for 1 medium size pizza.)
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour while constantly stirring with a whisk to make a roux.  (The roux should look shiny, not caky.)
     Constantly stir till the roux becomes a dark brown color.  
     Step 2:  Add 2 1/2 cups of beef stock.  (Be careful of the steam!)
     Add 2 ounces of Canadian Whiskey.  (optional)
     Briskly whisk the gravy to combine the roux.
     Whisk occasionally as the gravy comes to a gentle boil and it thickens to a very thin sauce consistency.
     Step 3:  Add 1 pinch of onion powder.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the gravy till it becomes medium thin consistency that easily coats a spoon.
     Keep the gravy warm over very low heat.

     Back Bacon:
     This recipe yields enough for 1 medium size pizza.
     Step 1:  Stack 6 thin slices of Canadian Bacon (back bacon).
     Cut the stacked slices into fourths.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add the back bacon pieces.
     Sauté till a few light brown highlights appear.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Keep the back bacon warm on a stove top.

     French Fries:
     This recipe yields 1 large portion.
     Step 1:  Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360ºF.
     Cut a peeled 8 to 10 ounce russet potato lengthwise into 1/4" thick slices.
     Stack the potato slices and cut them into 1/4" thick potato sticks. 
     Step 2:  Place the potato sticks in the hot oil.
     Fry the potatoes for 1 minute, so they are barely blanched and still white in color.
     Use a fryer net to place the fries on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan.
     Let the french fries cool.
     Step 3:  Place the cooled blanched potato sticks in the hot oil a second time.
     Fry till they are crispy golden brown.
     Step 4:  Use a fryer net to place the fries on a wire screen roasting rack on a drip pan to drain off any excess oil.
     Season the fries with sea salt.
     Keep the french fries warm on a stove top.

     Canadian Pizza:
     This recipe yields 1 medium size 12" to 14" pizza.
     This pizza has to be baked in stages.
     Step 1:  Place 1 medium size portion of pizza dough on a flour dusted countertop.  (A firm piece of dough that is about the size of a softball.)
     Use finger tips or a rolling pin to flatten the pizza dough into a flat round disk shape that is about 12" to 14" wide.  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:  Par bake the shaped pizza dough in a 450ºF oven.  Bake till the pizza is as firm as soft bread.  The color of the crust should be pale white.  
     Step 4:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Spread a thin layer of brown gravy on the pizza.  Leave the edges of the crust bare.
     Sprinkle 2 pinches of oregano on the gravy.
     Step 5:  Return the pizza pan to the 450ºF oven.
     Bake till the crust is crisp and it turns a light golden brown color.  (If the gravy dries out, it is okay, because more gravy will be added in the next step!)
     Step 6:  Remove the pizza pan from the oven.
     Place the reserved French Fries on the pizza.
     Place the reserved Back Bacon Pieces on the pizza.
     Spoon a generous amount of brown gravy over the ingredients.
     Sprinkle about 6 ounces of Cheddar Cheese Curds on the pizza.
     Step 7:  Return the pizza to the 450º oven.
     Bake for about 1 or 2 minutes, till the cheese curds start to melt.  (Cheese Curds melt quickly.  Cheese Curds should not be browned or they will taste bitter.)
     Step 8:  Remove the pizza pan from the oven.
     Spoon a little bit more brown gravy over the pizza as a finishing touch.
     Sprinkle a few pinches of minced Italian Parsley over the pizza.
     Cut the small Canadian Pizza into 4 slices and slide the pizza onto a serving platter.

     The comfortable flavor of Canadian Pizza is perfect for an icy cold day!  

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Hot Link with Peppers, Onions and Louisiana Remoulade

     Louisiana Style Hot Link!
     Hot Links are a traditional Louisiana beef sausage that is highly seasoned.  A sandwich made with this sausage is also called a Hot Link.  Any number of garnishes can be used to dress up this sandwich.  Cabbage, slaw, fried pickle chips or grilled peppers & onion are some of the most popular garnishes.  
     The best Hot Links can be found fresh at a good butcher shop.  Experienced butchers make good highly seasoned Hot Links the same way they are made in Louisiana.  Packaged Hot Links at a grocery store are not quite as good.  Some grocery store Hot Links look more like a highly processed hot dog, than a real Hot Link Sausage.  

     The traditional sandwich spread for a Hot Link is Louisiana Remoulade.  There are several different kinds of remoulade sauces that are made in Louisiana and they are usually identified by their color.  The most popular remoulade in Louisiana has a pinkish orange color.  The color tint comes from the addition of ketchup.  Louisiana Pink Remoulade can be a simple mixture of ingredients that is similar to jazzed up Russian Dressing or the recipe can be a complex highly seasoned mixture with a list of ingredients that is a mile long.  
     In old Louisiana cookbooks, shallots are part of many recipes.  In most pre 1900's Louisiana recipes, the word shallot actually refers to green onion.  In old traditional Louisiana recipes, "Louisiana Shallots, Cajun Shallots or Creole Shallots" all refer to Green Onions.  
     Modern Louisiana recipes that were written later than the early 1900's may or may not use the word "shallot" to refer to a green onion.  When cooking an old Louisiana recipe, it does pay to do a little bit of research to see whether the word shallot actually refers to green onion or not.  The difference in flavor between the two is easily noticed. 
     Key things to remember are that traditional French White or Yellow Remoulade Sauces are used in Louisiana cooking.  Both the white or yellow French Remoulade is usually made with shallot, unless either of these French Remoulade sauces are used to make an old fashioned Louisiana style Remoulade.  Then Green Onion can replace shallot in the recipe.

     Louisiana Remoulade:
     This recipe yield enough for 3 or 4 sandwiches.
     There are many variations of the Louisiana Remoulade recipe.  This version is highly seasoned.
     The ingredients can be minced by hand the old fashioned way or the ingredients can be prepared in a food processor.  
     Louisiana style Creole Mustard is best for this recipe.  If none is available, substitute Dijon Mustard.
     Step 1:  Place 1/4 cup of mayonnaise in a food processor.
     Add 1 tablespoon of Louisiana Creole Mustard.
     Add 2 tablespoons of organic ketchup.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Worcestershire Sauce. 
     Step 2:  Add 10 to 12 minced large capers.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of small chopped baby dill gherkin pickle (or Cornichons).
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced green onion.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced onion.
     Step 3:  Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 pinch of tarragon.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 small pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of dill weed.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced curly leaf parsley.
     Step 4:  Add 2 to 3 pinches of cayenne pepper.  (to taste) 
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1 pinch of white pepper.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 5:  Pulse the food processor a few times, till the herbs, pickles and vegetables are very finely minced.  (The ingredients have to be small enough to pass through the nozzle of a plastic squirt bottle.)
     Place the Louisiana Remoulade in a plastic squirt bottle.
     Chill the sauce for 2 hours, so the flavors meld.

     Hot Link with Peppers, Onions and Louisiana Remoulade:
     This recipe yields 1 Hot Link Sandwich.
     Step 1:  Heat griddle over medium/medium low heat.  
     Select a large 6 to 8 ounce Beef Hot Link Sausage.  (The Hot Link can be raw or smoked.)
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil to the pan.
     Grill the hot link till it is fully cooked and light brown highlights appear.
     Remove the hot link from the pan and set it aside.
     Step 2:  Drain the excess oil off of the griddle.
     Place griddle back over medium/medium low heat.
     Step 3:  Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/4 cup of coarsely chopped onion.
     Add 1/3 cup of mixed coarsely chopped red bell pepper and green bell pepper.
     Add 2 coarsely chopped green onions.  (creole shallots)
     Sauté till the vegetables are tender.
     Season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Step 4:  Return the Hot Link to the griddle.
     Push the peppers, onions and Hot Link to one side of the grill.
     Sauté the Hot Link with the peppers & onions for about 1 minute, so the sausage is reheated. 
     Step 5:  While the sausage reheats, split a 6"to 8" long sub roll open.
     Brush the roll with melted unsalted butter.
     Place the roll on the empty side of the griddle.
     Grill the sub roll till it is toasted golden brown. 
     Step 6:  Place the sub roll on a cutting board.
     Place the grilled peppers & onions on the sub roll.
     Place the Hot Link on the sandwich.
     Place the sandwich on a plate.
     Garnish the plate with pickles and a curly leaf parsley sprig.
     Use the squirt bottle to paint the sandwich with a generous amount of Louisiana Remoulade Sauce.

     Hoo dawgy!  A great tasting Louisiana Hot Link! 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Cheddar Turkey Melt with Grilled Tomato and Crispy Onion Straws

     Gourmet Turkey Melt!
     First there was the almighty Patty Melt made with a hamburger patty.  Then the diet food trend of the 1960's and the mid 1970's health food swept the nation.  Tuna Melt Sandwiches became the number one grilled sandwich at nearly every American diner restaurant.  It was just a matter of time before the Turkey Melt became a healthy option too.
     I have done some fancy diner cooking during my career.  Trendy upscale diner cuisine was a popular trend a few years ago.  Diners that served nice presentations of gourmet comfort food became a hit with customers that demanded a high quality meal that was moderately priced.

     When working in a diner, an employee soon realizes that there are several things to overcome.  Diner customers are usually notoriously cheap tippers and members of the waitstaff are not exactly Ritz Carlton material.  American diners are famous for loud rude waitresses, but that is part of the charm.
     The "Greasy Spoon" reputation of old fashioned diner restaurants is a big hurdle to overcome.  Upscale gourmet diner restaurants that serve trendy modern comfort food have changed the reputation for the better.  Las Vegas has several modern diners that serve some fairly sophisticated comfort cuisine for a reasonable price.  Las Vegas even has a 1950's style "red booth" diner with a singing waitstaff that performs 1950's rock and roll shows while serving food.  The food at Roxy's Diner inside the Stratosphere Casino is some of the best in town and the atmosphere simply cannot be beat.
     The first time that I had a sandwich with crispy fried onion straws on it was at a 24 hour diner in Vegas.  Honestly, I did not even bother to look at the menu.  I just sat down and ordered a French Dip Sandwich with french fries, because I know that sandwich is on every diner menu from coast to coast.  To my surprise, there were delicious crispy fried onions on the French Dip.  It was one of the tastiest French Dip Sandwiches that I have ever had!  The crispy fried onions brought that French Dip up to an entirely new level that bordered upon being gourmet!

     After the nice Crispy Fried Onion French Dip Experience, I fiddled around with adding crispy fried onions to other classic diner style sandwiches.  Patty Melts are great with crispy onions instead of grilled onions.  Naturally I figured that a Turkey Melt would be nice with crispy onions too.
     Grilled tomato slices are a popular option for garnishing a Turkey Melt.  Some chefs say that grilled tomato slices are required for this sandwich.  The tomato definitely lightens the feel of a grilled Turkey Melt on the tummy and this increases the healthy appeal.
     Crispy Onions (Onion Straws): 
     This recipe yields more than enough onion straws for 3 or 4 sandwiches.  
     Onion straws, haystack onions and crispy onions are all the same thing.  
     Crispy onions are very easy to make, but it is easy to overcook and burn the crispy onions.  Only small amounts of crispy onions should be fried at a time to prevent dangerous hot oil foaming.    
     Step 1:  Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360ºF.
     Step 2:  Cut 1 large vidalia onion into paper thin sliced rings.  (The onion rings must be less than 1/16" thick.)
     Step 3:  Place the thin onion slices in a mixing bowl and separate them into rings.
     Add 2 to 3 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Let the onions sweat from the salt for about 5 minutes.
     Step 4:  Add enough flour to coat the onion rings.  (About 1 1/4 cups.)
     Toss the thin onion rings and flour together, so the onions are evenly coated.
     Step 5:  Place the coated onions in a medium mesh strainer over a mixing bowl.
     Gently shake the strainer to remove the excess flour.
     Step 6:  Deep fry small batches of the coated onions at a time to prevent excessive oil foaming.
     Poke the crispy onions with a fryer net as they fry, to prevent the crispy onions from sticking together.
     Fry till the onions are a crispy golden color.  (This only takes a minute or two.)
     Step 7:  Use a fryer net to remove the crispy onions from the hot oil.  Place them on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan to drain off any excess oil.
     Keep the crispy onions warm on a stove top.
     *The frying oil can be saved if the heat is turned off immediately after the frying is done.  The oil must be filtered.  The only problem is that anything that you fry in the used oil will taste like onions!
     Cheddar Turkey Melt with Grilled Tomato and Crispy Onion Straws:
     This recipe yields 1 sandwich.
     Step 1:  Heat a griddle over medium/medium low heat.
     Brush 2 pieces of whole grain bread with melted unsalted butter.
     Place the bread on the griddle.
     Place a few thin slices of sharp cheddar cheese on the bread.
     Step 2:  Place 1 teaspoon of melted unsalted butter on an empty spot on the griddle.
     Place 4 ounces of very thin sliced deli style roast turkey breast in the hot pan.
     Grill the sliced turkey, till it becomes hot.
     Place the grilled turkey on the cheese on one of the slices of bread.
     Step 3:  Quickly grill 2 thin tomato slices on the griddle.
     Place the grilled tomatoes on top of the turkey.
     Step 4:  Place a small mound of the crispy frieds on the turkey and tomato side of the sandwich.
     Step 5:  When the bread is toasted golden brown, place the 2 sandwich halves together.
     Use a spatula to set the sandwich on a cutting board.
     Slice the sandwich in half and set it on a plate.
     Garnish the plate with pickles or fruit.
     *The sandwich in the photos was served with Persian pickled wild cucumber, Persian pickled turnips, dates and roasted red bell pepper strips. 

     A gourmet grilled Turkey Melt definitely is a tasty lunch item!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Eggplant Parm Sub!

     A Classic Italian Hot Sub!
     Eggplant Parm Sub are a popular pizzeria offering.  A big Eggplant Parm Sub is initially heavy on the tummy, but because it is a vegetable sub, that heavy feeling goes away quickly.  An Eggplant Parm Sub actually is a very satisfying healthy sandwich!

     How the eggplant is cooked makes a difference when making an Eggplant Parm Sub.  The classic preparation involves coating thin slices of eggplant with egg batter, then pan frying each slice till it is a golden color.
     Salting sliced eggplant is an age old technique.  Salting eggplant slices not only draws out the excess moisture, it helps to preserve the light color.
     The egg batter eggplant slices can be pan fried ahead of time, then chilled until they are needed.  There is a limit to how far ahead of time the eggplant can be prepared.  After about 4 hours, the prepared batter fried eggplant will start to degrade and turn a grayish brown color.  Old mushy gray color fried eggplant is never a good thing.

     During the last three decades, chefs have been adding Parmigiana Cheese to egg wash.  Supposedly the Parmigiana Cheese makes the egg wash stick to the food when it is fried.  In reality, if the egg wash does not stick to fried food, then there is something wrong with the chefs breading or egg washing technique!
     Using Parmigiana like glue is not exactly a brilliant idea.  There are three good reasons why fine grated Parmigiana should not be added to an egg wash.  First of all, adding fine grated Parmigiana Cheese to egg wash is a tremendous waste of money!  Imported Parmigiana Cheese is expensive and even the Domestic American Parmesan version is not cheap.
     Secondly, when Parmigiana Cheese is cooked at a high temperature, like when frying, the cheese browns and it becomes bitter tasting.  This is especially true for fried breaded food items, like fried shrimp.
     The third reason involves food allergens.  A fair percentage of the dining public is allergic to all dairy products.  A waiter might not realize that Parmigiana Cheese was added to the egg wash and when a sale is made, the restaurant will be liable for all consequences if a customer that has dairy product allergies becomes ill.  Deceptively serving dairy products in items that traditionally contain no dairy products can lead to serious liable suit issues.
     I never add fine grated Parmigiana Cheese to an egg wash.  Both the egg washed items and breaded items turn out perfect when no Parmigiana is added.  Once again, it simply comes down to how good a chef's egg washing technique or breading method is!

     Salsa di Pomodoro:  
     Follow this link to the recipe in this website:
     • Salsa di Pomodoro

     Egg Batter Pan Fried Eggplant:
     Depending on the size of the eggplant, this recipe will yield enough for at least 1 sub sandwich.
     Step 1:  Peel 1 medium size eggplant with a knife.
     Cut the eggplant lengthwise into 3/16" thick slices.  (About 6 to 8 slices of eggplant are needed for 1 sub sandwich.)
     Step 2:  Lay the eggplant slices side by side on a sheet pan.
     Sprinkle a generous amount of sea salt on both sides of each eggplant slice.
     *The salt will cause the eggplant to sweat out excess moisture.  The salt will also rid of some of the bitter flavor, while preserving the pale color of the eggplant!
     Let the eggplant slices sweat for 20 minutes.
     Step 3:  Rinse each eggplant slice under cold running water.
     Pat the eggplant slices dry with a lint free pastry towel.
     Step 4:  Place 2 large eggs in a mixing bowl.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of oregano.
     Add 1 tablespoon of water.
     Whisk the ingredients together.
     Step 5:  Dredge each eggplant slice in flour.
     Place the floured eggplant slices in the egg wash and set the bowl aside.
     Step 6:  Heat a wide sauté pan or cast iron skillet over medium/medium high heat.
     Add enough blended olive oil, so the oil is about 3/4" deep in the pan.
     Adjust the temperature of the oil to 360ºF.
     Step 7:  Pull 1 slice of eggplant out of the egg wash and knock off any excess egg wash by dragging each eggplant slice against the rim of the mixing bowl.
     Place the egg batter coated eggplant in the hot oil.
     Pan fry a few egg washed eggplant slices at a time, till they are a light golden brown color on both sides.  Try to only flip each slice one time.
     Step 8:  Place the fried slices of eggplant on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan to drain off any excess oil.
     Keep the fried eggplant warm on a stove top.

     Eggplant Parm Sub:
     This recipe yields 1 sub sandwich.
     Step 1:  Split an Italian sub sandwich roll open on one side, but do not cut all the way through the bread.
     Spread a little bit of the tomato sauce on the sub roll.
     Loosely fold each slice of fried eggplant in half.
     Overlap the folded eggplant slices on the sub roll.
     Spoon a generous amount of the tomato sauce over the eggplant slices.
     Sprinkle a generous amount of grated mozzarella cheese over the tomato sauce and eggplant.
     Step 2:  Place the sandwich on a baking pan.
     Bake the sandwich in a 400ºF oven.
     Bake till the cheese melts and the sub roll is lightly toasted.  (Do not brown the cheese or it will taste bitter!)
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Sprinkle a few pinches of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese on the sandwich.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of oregano on the sandwich.
     Step 4:  Set the Eggplant Parm Sub on a plate.
     Garnish with Italian Parsley sprigs and pickles or giardiniera.

     The flavor of a good Eggplant Parm Sub is satisfying beyond belief!

Salsa di Pomodoro

     Italian Tomato Sauce!
     There are several kinds of tomato sauce in Italian cuisine.  Two can be considered to be mother sauces.  Salsa di Pomodoro and Marinara can be used to make several secondary sauces.  Both of these sauces are used in many recipe applications.  Marinara is made in about 40 minutes and Salsa di Pomodoro takes about 4 hours to finish.    
     Salsa di Pomodoro recipe is a standardized recipe that nearly every Italian chef makes the same way.  There are very few variations of the recipe.  The only major variation is whether the Salsa di Pomodoro is flavored with meat or not. 

     I apprenticed with several great Italian chefs early in my career.  The first apprenticeship was with a great Sicilian chef who won many culinary awards in New York City.  This chef taught me the rules of perfection Italian cuisine.  All I can say is if an aspiring cook wants to learn the best sauté techniques and the best pasta making techniques, apprenticing in an Italian kitchen will build stronger skills than attending any culinary arts school.  The same can be said about Italian saucier work and bread making.

     Today's Salsa di Pomodoro is the meatless recipe version and this sauce is the standard in the industry.  This sauce has a very bright red color, the flavor is right on the money and this sauce clings to pasta just like it should.  
     There are no secrets to making a great Salsa di Pomodoro.  The sauce has to be stirred from the bottom to the top once every 5 minutes for 4 hours.  No excess liquids are added, so the sauce does not look flat, like stewed tomatoes or something.  The sauce is bright shiny red because a copious amount of olive oil is infused with the tomatoes as the sauce simmers.
     The selection of tomatoes makes all the difference in the world.  Imported Italian canned tomatoes are the best choice.  Spanish or California canned tomatoes are far too acidic.  Overripe fresh tomatoes are better for making Marinara Sauce or Fresco style a la minute tomato sauces.  If you have a bumper crop of plum tomatoes in your garden, then by all means, they can be used to make a big batch of Salsa di Pomodoro.
     To finish the Salsa di Pomodoro, the sauce should be run through a hand turned food mill.  A food mill pressed the sauce through tiny holes on a steel plate and each particle of tomato in the sauce will be a uniform size.  A food mill is necessary because several types of canned tomato are used to make the sauce.   
     To make the meat flavored version, place a piece of roasted pork shoulder in the pot and remove the pork shoulder before processing the sauce in a food mill.  The fat and roasted pork flavor enriches the sauce.  The spent roasted pork can be used to make other recipes, but it is nearly tasteless and there is no nutritional value after simmering for so long. 

     Salsa di Pomodoro:  
     This recipe yield about 4 or 5 portions of sauce, depending on the application!
     • This is the meatless tomato sauce version.  
     • If Imported Canned Italian San Marzano Tomatoes Packed In Their Own Juices are used, then add about an extra 8 ounces of tomato puree, because San Marzano Tomato juices are so thick and rich. 
     • The olive oil proportion should be about 1/10 of the volume of the tomatoes.
     • The sauce has to be stirred from the bottom to the top once every 5 minutes for 4 hours. 
     Step 1:  Place 28 ounces of Imported Canned Italian Whole Italian Plum Tomatoes Packed In Their Own Juices in a mixing bowl.  
     Hand squeeze and crush the tomatoes till no big chunks remain.
     Set the hand crushed tomatoes aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 3/4 cup of olive oil.  (not virgin olive oil) 
     Add 8 cloves of finely chopped garlic.
     Add 1/2 cup of finely minced onion.
     Sauté till the onions turn clear in color, but do not let the onions brown.
     Step 3:  Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red pepper.  (chile caribe)
     Add a 28 ounce can of Imported Italian Crushed Plum Tomatoes.
     Add 14 ounces of Imported Italian Tomato Puree.
     Add the reserved hand squeezed tomatoes and juices to the pot. 
     Stir the sauce. 
     Step 3:  Add 1 teaspoon of oregano.
     Add sea salt and ground black pepper.
     Add 1/4 cup of finely chopped fresh basil.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced Italian Parsley.  
     Add 1 cup of Italian dry red wine.  (Or French Burgundy.  Why waste good Italian Chianti!) 
     Step 4:  Heat the sauce and stir occasionally, till the sauce starts to very gently boil.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     *Leave the pot uncovered.  Never cover a pot of Italian tomato sauce with a lid or the sauce will be lifeless like stewed tomatoes!  
     Step 5:  Gently simmer the sauce and stir the sauce once every 5 minutes for 4 hours.  
     *The object is to stir the olive oil into the sauce, so it combines with the tomatoes.  The sauce should be simmering gently and there should be very little bubbling on the surface.  Scrape the sides of the inside of the pot back into the sauce too.  That stuff is full of flavor!  
     After 4 hours, the flavors will meld and the tomato sauce will reduce to a medium thin tomato sauce consistency.  The excess tomato juices should be reduced at this point.  The olive oil should be well combined with the tomatoes, because the sauce was stirred often.
     Step 6:  Not everybody has a food mill in their kitchen, so this step is optional.  For a very smooth Salsa di Pomodoro, allow the sauce to cool, then run the sauce through a hand turned food mill into a container.  Some people like a smooth Italian tomato sauce!  
     *A blending wand or food processor should not be used to mill the sauce, because the sauce will be aerated and the color will change.  
     Step 7: Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.  (Or refrigerate the sauce and reheat the sauce to order.)

    A great tasting Italian tomato sauce!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Tavern Style Black Head Cheese Sub!

     An Old School Philly Tavern Style Head Cheese Sub For Old Time Football Fans!
     Head Cheese is popular in Pennsylvania Dutch Country.  Many Amish style Head Cheese varieties can be found in local Philadelphia food markets.
     Overall, items like Head Cheese, Souse and Liverwurst are not as popular as it used to be in Philly.  Local consumer demographics have changed.  A high percentage of German and Eastern European downtown residents moved out to the suburbs during the last 50 years.
     Once folks settle for suburban life, it is just a matter of time before mediocrity sets in.  In other words, fast food and middle of the road food eventually replaces the old world heritage food that was once common in big city delicatessens and downtown corner food stores.  In the suburbs, one is lucky to find a few national brand packages of sliced Head Cheese hidden in a dark corner of the lunchmeat aisle at a gigantic corporate grocery store.    
     The saving grace is members of Eastern European ethnic persuasion that operate specialty food shops in suburbia.  Often these kinds of shops are tucked away in a small plaza and they are not heavily advertised.  All it takes is a few minutes of internet browsing to locate a good little deli that specializes in old world specialty food, like varieties of Head Cheese.

     Head Cheese is often featured as an item that is found in a psychopathic killer's refrigerator in a horror movie.  Head Cheese is also known as "Autopsy Loaf!"  This all might be amusing, but bad publicity like this does not help the Head Cheese cause.  Head Cheese deserves better than this!

     From a heath perspective, Head Cheese has a lot to offer.  The head scrapings yield very lean chunks of meat.  The aspic offers plenty of easy to digest cartilaginous compounds that help to build strong joints.  After eating Head Cheese for a few meals, one can even notice improved fingernail growth and strength.  The rich pork aspic is the reason why.

     There are several varieties of Head Cheese and Black Head Cheese is one of the most interesting.  Those who like Blood Sausage will like Black Head Cheese.  The aspic in Black Head Cheese is made with beef blood.  Those who have iron deficiencies will benefit from Black Head Cheese.
     Black Head Cheese is well like by people that prefer strong tasting food.  The metallic beef blood flavor lingers on the tastebuds for nearly an entire day after eating Black Head Cheese.  For nearly 12 hours, any other food that is consumed will not taste like it is supposed to taste.  The distorted perception of taste is interesting to say the least.
     Black Head Cheese is sometimes called Belmont Head Cheese at delicatessens.  Customers are expected to know that Belmont Head Cheese is Black Head Cheese.  Most Head Cheese fans can tell by looks alone, because the aspic is darker looking than regular Head Cheese aspic.
     Chefs and home cooks that are interested in traditional Eastern European specialty meats will like what the Belmont Sausage Company has to offer.  Here is a hyperlink to their website:
     • Belmont Sausage Company
     The place to find Black Head Cheese in Las Vegas is the Jones Market-Eastern European at 3389 South Jones Boulevard.  The Jones Market specializes in Russian food and Eastern European specialties.

     In the suburbs and townships that surround Philadelphia, there is a tavern in almost every neighborhood where the locals hang out.  Some of the old Philly taverns have been in business since before the American Revolutionary War.
     Tradition runs thick in Philly taverns, but as mentioned before, times have changed.  Items like Liverwurst, Braunschweiger, Souse, Scrapple, Liver Mush, Blood Sausage and Head Cheese are rarely offered at taverns these days.  Pre-made manufactured frozen fast food products have replaced the old traditional food at many local taverns in the name of profit.
     Even the huge jars of pickled pig feet, pickled sausages and pickled eggs on the bar counter are becoming fewer and further between.  These jars used to sit on the bar countertop and a sign posted nearby said "Place 50¢ apiece in the basket and serve yourself!"  
     Anyway, today's sandwich is a throwback to the old days of Philly tavern style food.  On football game day, big sub sandwiches made with local lunchmeat specialties used to be offered on tavern special boards.  In the old days, Philly tavern customers liked big portions of local food specialties as much as the Eagles football team.
     Standard Macaroni Salad:
     This recipe yields 1 large portion!
     Step 1:  Cook 1 large portion of elbow macaroni in salted boiling water, till the pasta is just a little bit softer than al dente.
     Place the pot under cold running water and gradually cool the pasta.
     Drain the water off of the pasta.
     Place the pasta in a mixing bowl.
     Step 2:  Add 1 tablespoon if small chopped celery.
     Add 1 tablespoon of small chopped carrot.
     Add 1 tablespoon of small chopped green onion.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of dijon mustard.
     Step 3:  Add just enough mayonnaise to coat the pasta and bind the ingredients together.  (About 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup.)
     Step 4:  Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Chill the macaroni salad for 30 minutes.
     Pickled Eggs:
     I have posted a few pickled eggs recipes so far.  Today's recipe is modeled after commercial pickled eggs in big glass jars.
     Step 1:  Cook 6 to 12 hard boiled large eggs using this method:  
     • Place the eggs in a pot of cold salted water.  
     • Bring to boil.  
     • Set the timer for 12 minutes.  
     • After the timer goes off, set the pot in a sink.  Gradually cool the eggs under cold running water.     
     • Peel the eggs under cold running water.
     Step 2:  Place 1 quart of water in a stainless steel sauce pot.
     Add 1 tablespoon of Kosher Salt.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of cider vinegar.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Morton Tender Quick curing salt mixture.
     *Do not substitute any other curing salt mixture in place of Morton Tender Quick.  If none is available, just add 1/2 teaspoon more of Kosher Salt.
     Step 3:  Add 1/4 teaspoon of onion powder.
     Add 1 pinch of Hungarian Paprika.
     Add 1 pinch of garlic powder.
     Add 2 to 3 drops of organic red food color or 1/2 cup of rich red beet juice.
     Step 4:  Bring the liquid to a gentle boil over medium heat.
     Remove the pot from the heat.
     Step 5:  Place the peeled eggs in the hot red pickling brine.
     Allow the brine to cool to room temperature.
     Step 6:  Place the brine and eggs in a glass jar.
     Refrigerate for 3 to 4 days.

     Eastern European Style Cider Slaw:
     This recipe yields about 1 1/4 cups.
     Step 1:  Place 1 3/4 cups of very thin sliced cabbage in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar.
     Add 1 tablespoon of water.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.
     Add 1 pinch of ginger powder.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of chopped fresh dill weed.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of chopped fresh mint.
     Add Kosher Salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 2:  Toss the ingredients together.
     Refrigerate for one hour or till the cabbage wilts.
     Step 3:  Just before serving, place the slaw in a fine mesh strainer and drain off the excess liquid.

     Shoe String Fries:
     This recipe yields 1 large portion!
     A French Mandolin is best for cutting shoestring potatoes, but care must be taken when using this dangerous kitchen tool.  
     Step 1:  Cut a 6 ounce peeled russet potato lengthwise into very thin slices.  (about 1/8" to 3/16" thick)
     Stack the slices up on a cutting board and cut them into long very thin strips.
     Step 2:  Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360ºF.
     Step 3:  Sprinkle the thin potato strips into the frying oil, a few small bunches at a time.
     Gently toss the shoe string potatoes in the oil with a long handled fryer net, so the potato strips do not stick together.
     Fry the shoestring potatoes, till they are crispy golden brown.
     Step 4:  Use a fryer net to scoop the finished shoestring potatoes out of the hot oil.
     Place the fries on a wire screen roasting rack to drain off any excess oil.
     Sprinkle some sea salt over the crispy shoe string potatoes.
     Keep the shoestring fries warm on a stove top.

     Tavern Style Black Head Cheese Sub:
     This recipe yields 1 large sub sandwich.
     Russian Mustard is strong and bold tasting!  
     Split an 8" to 10" whole wheat sub roll or bolillo roll open.
     Spread some Russian Mustard on the bread.
     Place a thick layer of the Cider Slaw on the roll.
     Place several thin slices of Belmont Black Head Cheese on the slaw.  (About 6 to 7 ounces)
     Cut 2 Pickled Eggs lengthwise into 1/4" thick slices.
     Overlap the Pickled Egg Slices on the Black Head Cheese.

     Gridiron Presentation:
     Large brown football shaped party platters can be found at dollar stores this time of year.  Dollar stores also sell restaurant glassware and plates that have gone out of style! 
     Place a bed of Shoestring fries on the center of a football party platter.
     Place the Tavern Style Black Head Cheese Sub on the fries.
     Mound a generous portion of Macaroni Salad on one end of the football platter.
     Place an assortment of pickles of your choice on the other end of the platter.
     Garnish the Mac Salad with a parsley sprig or cilantro sprig.

     A classic old school tavern style sub!