Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Jersey Hangover Dog

     A New Jersey Style Hangover Cure!
     When I was the chef at a pub in Florida for a couple of years, I had a decent contract that included a large apartment on top of the restaurant.  My roommate was a big guy from New Jersey and he was also the day cook at the pub.  The cook from New Jersey had 6 brothers from and they all came to town from New Jersey for a family get together.  The 7 brothers were notorious for wild times while drinking all night long when they got together
     When the 7 brothers stumbled back into the apartment at 7:30 in the morning after the all night drinking binge, the brother that was my roommate started raving about the Hangover Dogs they used to make when they all lived in New Jersey.  He was making a big deal about how they just had to make the Jersey style Hangover Dogs, for old times sake.
     All the brothers started talking about the cheese egg hot dogs they used to make back home in New Jersey, then next thing you know, because I was sober I was volunteered to go to the local convenience store to purchase the items for a batch of Hangover Dogs for breakfast.  One of the brothers was screaming from the bathroom "Make sure that you get Coney Dogs!  Its gotta be New York Coney style hot dogs!  Nothing else!"  My roommate laughed and said "You heard the man!"
     As soon as I opened the door after I came back from the store, the brother who was the cook grabbed the food from my hands and said "Get out of the way!  I am on a Hangover Dog breakfast cooking mission!"  I just had to laugh, because these guys were so serious about this hangover cure breakfast.
     I looked at what the roommate was cooking and I thought to myself that these guys are half nuts.  Sliced hot dogs, eggs, cheese, peppers and onions on a hot dog bun with ketchup?  When sober, that really does not sound like much of a breakfast to look forward to, but after drinking all night long a Jersey Hangover Dog probably sounded pretty good.
     After the vittles were cooked, he hungover brothers were stuffing one hot dog and egg sandwich after another into their mouths, like they had never seen food before!  I have to admit, the breakfast sandwich tasted pretty good in the morning.
     I never did try to sell the sandwich as a breakfast item in a restaurant, but I did make the sandwich one time when I was hungover after a celebration night.  I must say, the Jersey Hangover Dog breakfast does help to clear up a hangover, but so does almost any kind of palatable morning food.
     The best thing about the New Jersey Hangover Dog was that this breakfast was meant to be eaten with bare hands.  There seems to be a recessive prehistoric trait in modern human beings that triggers satisfaction from eating finger food in the morning when hungover.  The New Jersey Hangover Dog is about as good as a breakfast hot dog can get!
     New Jersey Hangover Dog:
     This recipe yields Jersey 1 Hangover Dog!
     Step 1:  Heat a non-stick sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Warm the hot dog bun in the dry pan and then set it on a plate.
     Step 2:  Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter to the hot pan.
     Add 1 New York Coney Island Style Nathan's Hot Dog that is cut into bite size slices.
     Add 1 tablespoon of each of these small chopped vegetables:
     - onion
     - green bell pepper
     - red bell pepper
     Sauté till the sliced hot dog is lightly browned.
     Step 3:  Add 1 whisked egg.
     Immediately add 3 tablespoons of grated cheddar cheese.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Stir and scramble till the egg is fully cooked and the cheese melts.
     Step 4:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Spoon the hot dog and cheese egg mixture onto the warm hot dog bun.
     Squirt some ketchup streaks over the cheese egg and hot dog mixture on the sandwich.
     The New Jersey Hangover Dog is a great hangover cure.  There is something about the comfortable junk food flavors in this breakfast sandwich that satisfies morning cravings that are associated with excessive alcohol consumption! 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Soul Food Pizza!

     Soul Food Pizza - Collard Greens, Black Eyed Peas, Cracklins, Okra, Sweet Red Peppers, Pork Cops and Pan Fried Catfish Nuggets!

     Go with it!  When thinking up a new pizza idea, the first thought that comes to mind is usually the best option.  Weighing a long list of ideas usually results in muddying up the matter.  It is best to take the first option then just go with it!
     Soul Food is traditional southern style cooking.  Soul Food is also old fashioned home style country cooking.  The element of soul is applied with tender loving care when preparing the vittles.  
     Soul Food cooking techniques have roots in traditional African cuisines.  This style of food not only satisfies the nutritional needs of the body, it also satisfies the soul with comfortable rich flavors.  Soul Food is not usually food that is cooked for oneself, it is food that is cooked to satisfy the hunger and feelings of others.  
     Nothing is wasted when preparing Soul Food.  The goal is to achieve peak flavors and to cook each item in a way that enables digestive nutrient uptake to easily occur.  

     Today's Soul Food Pizza is basically an idea that was set in motion and the ingredients were selected to support the Soul Food theme.  As the old saying goes, "it is the idea that counts!"  With this in mind, a cook can use any of their favorite soul food items to make a soul food pizza.  
     The pizza sauce for soul food pizza can be pork gravy, chicken gravy, tomato creole, thickened pot liquor or even Italian pizza sauce.  The meats should be soul food items, like skillet pork chops, chitlins, fried catfish, fried chicken, stewed gizzards, ham, southern style bulk sausage, etcetera.  
     The vegetables should be traditional soul food veggies, like stewed greens, okra, fried okra, tomatoes, onion and mild peppers.  The cheese should be simple and fairly bland, like American processed cheese or fresh farm cheese. 

     Collard Greens, Black Eyed Peas, Cracklins, Okra, Peppers, Pork Cops and Pan Fried Catfish Nuggets are a nice combination of soul food flavors that taste good together on a pizza.  For today's recipe, the pork chops are grilled in a skillet and the deglazed pan juices are added to the collard greens and black eyed peas.  The vegetables for this pizza do not have to be cooked separately.  Fresh frozen black eyed peas can be simmered with the greens and okra.  The pan fried catfish topping is kept warm and placed on the pizza just before serving.  All that is needed at the table when this pizza is served, is hot sauce or some tabasco pepper vinegar on the side!  

     Pizza Dough:
     Follow this link to the pizza dough recipe in this website:
     • Pizza Dough

     Chicago Pizza Sauce:
     This recipe yields enough sauce for 3 medium size pizzas!  
     Chicago style pizza sauce is sweetened and it is only mildly seasoned.   
     Place a 28 ounces of imported Italian canned crushed tomatoes in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/3 cup of olive oil.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed red pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of onion powder.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Chill the pizza sauce till it is needed.

     *This rest of this recipe yields one medium size 12" to 14" pizza!

     Skillet Grilled Pork Chops and Jus:
     Step 1:  Select 5 or 6 boneless pork chops that are about 1/4" thick.
     Season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 2:  Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of lard or unsalted butter.
     Grill the pork chops till they are fully cooked and lightly browned on both sides.
     Place the pork chops on a tray and let them cool. 
     Chill the pork chops till later in the pizza recipe.
     Step 3:  Drain the excess grease out of the skillet.
     Add 1 cup of water to the pan.
     Deglaze the pan over low heat.  
     Set the pan jus aside.

     Cracklin Collard Greens, Black Eyed Peas and Okra:      
     Cracklins are small pork rind pieces slowly rendered in pork lard till they are crisp.  They can be purchased in southern grocery stores, but they are very easy to make.  Snack cracklins are usually cut as bite size pieces.  Cracklins for cooking should be cut much smaller. 
     Step 1:  Wash about 5 to 6 large leaves of fresh collard greens with cold running water.  (1 small bunch)  
     Trim off any damaged parts of the leaves.  
     Cut the thick veined ends of the collard leaves off and discard them.  (The thick plant veins will be tough and chewy no matter how long you cook the greens.  So it is best to trim them off.)   
     Take the smaller collard leaves and split them down the middle, splitting the leaf vein in half.  Do the same for the larger leaves, but cut the large leaves into 4 large pieces.
     Step 2:  Heat a pot over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of bacon grease or unsalted butter.
     Add 1/4 cup of small chopped onion.
     Cook the onions, till they are a caramelized brown color.
     Step 3:  Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red pepper.  (chile caribe)
     Add about 2 tablespoons of cracklins. 
     Add the reserved pork chop pan jus.
     Add 2 cups of water.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.     
     Step 4:  Add the collard greens.
     Add 1 cup of fresh frozen black eyed peas.
     Return the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of cider vinegar.
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Simmer till the greens and black eyed peas are almost tender.  Add water if the pot starts to run dry.
     Step 6:  Add 1 cup of thick sliced okra.
     Remove the lid from the pot.
     Simmer and reduce the pot liquor, till the excess liquid evaporates and the pot liquor coats the vegetables.  The vegetables should be moist, but not wet, or the pizza will become soggy.
     Keep the vegetables warm on a stove top. 

     Pan Fried Catfish Nuggets:
     Step 1:  Place 1/2 cup of corn meal in a bowl.
     Add 3/4 cup of masa harina. 
     Add 1/2 cup of all purpose flour. 
     Add 2 pinches of cayenne pepper.
     Season the corn meal mixture with 3 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 2:  Cut 6 ounces of catfish filets into large bite size pieces.
     Place about 1/4 cup of milk in a mixing bowl.  
     Place the catfish nuggets in the milk and coat them. 
     Step 3:  Remove the catfish nuggets from the milk.
     Dredge the catfish pieces in the seasoned corn meal mixture.  Be sure that the catfish pieces are coated evenly.
     Step 4:  Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat.
     Add enough vegetable frying oil or lard, so the oil is about 3/8" deep.
     Adjust the temperature, so the oil is 360ºF.  
     Step 5:  Place the catfish nuggets in the hot oil.
     Fry the catfish pieces on both sides, till they are fully cooked and crispy golden brown.  (CGB!)
     Remove the fried catfish nuggets from the hot oil.
     Place the fried catfish on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan to drain off any excess oil.
     Keep the catfish pieces warm on a stove top.

     Soul Food Pizza:
     Step 1:  Place a stone baking slab in an oven.
     Heat the oven to 450º.
     Step 2:  Place 1 small to medium size portion of pizza dough on a floured countertop.  (A piece of dough that is a little bigger than the size of a softball.)
     Gently flatten the pizza dough into a flat round shape that is about 12" to 14" wide.  The dough should be about 3/8" thick.
     Step 3:  Sprinkle about 1/2 tablespoon of corn meal on a pizza pan.
     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 4:  Spread a thin layer of the Chicago pizza sauce on the pizza.  Leave the crust bare.
     Step 5:  Place large dabs of the collard greens on the pizza.
     Scatter the okra, cracklins and black eyed peas evenly on the pizza.
     Step 6:  Sprinkle a thin layer of grated mozzarella cheese or American Cheese on the pizza. 
     Sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil over the cheese.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of oregano over the cheese.
     Sprinkle about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of thin sliced sweet red bell pepper on the pizza.
     Step 7:  Place the pizza pan on the stone slab in the oven.
     Bake till the crust and cheese starts to turn a light golden color.
     Step 8:  Remove the pizza from the oven.
     Arrange the reserved skillet grilled pork chops on the pizza.
     Place the pizza back in the oven.
     Bake till the crust and cheese become a golden brown color.
     Step 9:  Slide the pizza onto a serving platter.
     Place the reserved pan fried catfish nuggets on the pizza.
     Sprinkle 1 bias sliced green onion over the pizza.
     Slice and serve!

     Savory down home souther country cooking flavors that satisfy the body and soul!  This pizza literally has flavor that is so good, that it is hard to take a break from eating after the first bite.  Please pass the hot sauce!  

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Portobello, Artichoke, Plum Tomato & Gorgonzola Pizza

     The Pizzas That Inspired Starting A Food Blog!  
     Because of the 2007 economic depression, I had to leave Las Vegas to take on a different occupation in another city.  While being transferred, I lived out of motels for five months while being trained at 2 job sites.  I lived on a company relocation expense account, which covered the cost of dining out everyday because there were no kitchen facilities in the motel rooms. 
     First I was sent to Baltimore, where the seafood and local East Coast style pizza was really great.  Then I got transferred to East Chicago.  There may be some good restaurants somewhere in the Chicago region, but I gave up looking for a good place to eat after getting one bad restaurant meal after another in my end of town.  
     I tried a few local East Chicago pizza shops and the experience was disappointing.  The pizza crust texture at each shop was like eating saltine crackers and it tasted like old cardboard.  The pizza sauce was heavily sweetened with sugar.  The cheese on each of those pizzas was a mixture of imitation cheese and highly processed commercial mozzarella.  The toppings were pre-packaged frozen fast food pizza toppings.  I soon gave up on the local pizza shops because the quality was so low.
     After the 30 day relocation period was over, I settled into a new apartment near my job at the East Harbor Steel Mill.  I decided to start cooking in the kitchen of my new apartment, rather than suffer through more bad restaurant food in the local area.
     The first food that I cooked at my new place was 2 East Coast style pizzas!  One was dinner for myself and the other pizza I brought to work for my fellow office workers to try.  The coworkers liked my pizza and they honestly said it was better than the pizzas at the local Chicago pizza shops.  All I could think of was how that accomplishment was fairly easy to do.

     To make a long story short, I photographed the first 2 pizzas that I cooked at my apartment in Chicago.  While snapping the pictures, the thought of starting a recipe blog crossed my mind.  I had plenty of recipes to share after cooking for more than twenty years in the restaurant business.  If it was not for the lousy restaurant experiences in East Chicago, I probably never would have thought about starting a food and recipe blog.

     I had 2,000 subscribers at my old Myspace Food Blog before transferring those recipes to Google Blogger.  My food and recipes became popular worldwide and recently my original Google Food Blog hit the million views mark.  Now that original blog site got too big and the recipes are being transferred to several new food category websites, which includes this Street Vender Food Blog.
     The success of the food blogging project provided inspiration to resume my chef career.  I ended up doing 4 years at a culinary arts school and the income from the food blog advertising commissions came in handy.
     It is funny how making a couple gourmet pizzas 7 years ago turned out to be the start of something big.  It just goes to show that settling for the status quo will get a person nowhere.  All it took was a little bit of culinary passion to get the food blogging projects off the ground.  To be more precise, all it took was a passion for some good pizza!    
     Pizza Dough:
     Follow this link to the pizza dough recipe in this website:
     • Pizza Dough

     Garlic Olive Oil:
     This recipe yields enough for 2 small pizzas.
     Heat a small sauce pot over low heat.
     Add 1/2 cup of olive oil.
     Add 5 cloves of minced garlic.
     Gently cook the garlic in the oil, till the olive oil becomes infused with the garlic flavor.
     Take the pot off the heat.

     Portobello, Artichoke, Plum Tomato & Gorgonzola Pizza:
     This recipe yields 1 small 10" pizza.
     Neatly arranging pizza toppings creates good eye appeal!
     Step 1:  Cut 1 small portion of dough.  (About the size of a softball or small grapefruit.)
     Step 2:  Brush a light film of olive oil on a pizza pan.
     Place the pizza dough on the oiled pizza pan.
     Pat the dough out with your fingertips, till a round thin pizza dough crust shape is formed.  (About 10" in diameter.)
     Brush the pizza dough with the garlic infused olive oil.
     Step 3:  Par-bake the pizza crust in a 450ºF oven, till the dough is less than half way cooked and so the crust still is a white color.
     Step 4:  Remove the partially cooked pizza from the oven.
     Place 2 thin sliced plum tomatoes on the pizza.
     Drizzle about 3 tablespoons of the garlic olive oil over the tomatoes and pizza.
     Step 5:  Sprinkle these items on the pizza:
     - 2 pinches of oregano
     - 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper
     - 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil leaves
     - 1/4 cup of crumbled Gorgonzola Cheese
     - 1/3 cup of grated Mozzarella Cheese
     Step 6:  Place 3 or 4 thin sliced portobello mushrooms on the cheese.
     Place 5 thick sliced artichoke hearts on the cheese.
     Drizzle 2 to 3 teaspoons of the garlic olive oil over the vegetables and cheese.
     Step 7:  Return the pizza to the 450ºF oven.
     Bake the pizza till the crust turns a golden brown color.  (Try not to let the cheese brown!  Gorgonzola Cheese tastes very bitter when it is browned.)
     Step 8:  Let the pizza cool for 1 minute.
     Cut the small pizza into 4 to 6 pie shaped slices and serve.
     The cool looking wine glass in the picture is from the Rio Casino in Las Vegas.  One simply must have some good Italian wine with a gourmet pizza!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Greek Spice Roast Lamb Gyro with Tzatziki Sauce

     Greek style Gyros are popular worldwide.  The Gyro has origins in Turkey.  The name Gyro refers to the large Turkish Döner Kabob that turns vertically on a spit next to open flames.  The Döner Kabob meat is sliced thin and it is allowed to drop directly onto the pita bread.
     In America, most people are used to seeing a pre-fabricated Gyro Meat Loaf turning slowly on a spit at a casual Greek restaurant.  The Gyro Meat Loaf roasts as it slowly turns, so the entires surface of the meat browns evenly.  A restaurant style Gyro Meatloaf Döner Kabob is usually a pre-prepared manufactured item.
     Pre-manufactured Gyro Meatloaf Döner Kababs are usually made with a meat slurry process that is similar to making hot dogs.  This means that the meat can contain a high percentage of emulsified fat.  The grayish green color of the meat can look rather unappealing and some have a flavor that is just okay at best.
     Gyro Meat Loaf actually originates in Lebanon.  Lebanese Gyro Meat Loaf is a highly seasoned mixture of meat that is prepared like Kafta.  The recipe can vary from one cook to the next.  One thing that is certain about Lebanese Gyro Meat Loaf is that when it is made from scratch, the flavor, color and texture is far superior to any manufactured Gyro Meat Loaf product.
     I published a Gyro Meat Loaf recipe a few years ago and the reaction from readers was good.  The success of that recipe can be attributed to home cooks are not exactly thrilled about buying pre-sliced frozen manufactured Gyro Meatloaf that is extra fatty and discolored.  

     Gyros are not only made with Gyro Meat Loaf.  In the country of Greece, most Gyros are actually made with sliced roasted pork or roasted lamb.  The first time that I had a Gyro was in a Lithuanian neighborhood in Philadelphia.  There are some really good Greek Gyro Shops in that area.  One small Greek restaurant offered only two kinds of gyros.  Sliced Roast Pork Gyros and Sliced Roast Lamb Gyros.
     For a long time after trying a Gyro in Philly, I thought that Gyros were supposed to be only made with roasted meats.  I also thought that the pre-manufactured Gyro Meat Loaf was a cheap imitation.  I actually was only partially correct with this assumption.  Pre-made manufactured Gyro Meat Loaf is a cheap imitation of a real hand crafted Gyro Meat Loaf that is made from scratch!

     Anyway, when making an authentic Greek Gyro, just like they are made at small shops in Greece, roast pork or lamb is the correct choice.  For today's recipe, I saved a portion of raw boneless roast lamb leg and the rest was prepared for another recipe a few days ago.  Leftover roast lamb leg is also good for making a traditional Greek style Gyro.
     Greek Spice Roast Lamb Preparation:
     A section of boneless lamb leg usually weighs 2 to 3 pounds, which is enough for several Gyro sandwiches.  For an individual portion, about a 10 ounce piece of boneless lamb leg is 1 hearty portion.  
     Greek style roast meat for Gyros is highly seasoned.  The name of the game is flavor!
     Step 1:  Cut a thick piece of boneless piece of lamb leg that weighs about 10 ounces.
     Trim off any excess fat, but leave a thin 1/4" thick layer of fat on the meat.
     Step 2:  Place the lamb leg piece in a mixing bowl.
     Season the meat with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 3:  Pour 3 tablespoons of virgin olive oil over the lamb.
     Add 2 teaspoons of minced fresh garlic.
     Add 2 pinches of cinnamon.
     Add 2 pinches of cumin.
     Add 1 pinch of cardamom.
     Add 1 pinch of ground star anise.
     Add 1 teaspoon of oregano.
     Add 2 pinches of rosemary.
     Add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice.
     Step 4:  Rub the lamb roast with the marinade ingredients.
     Cover the mixing bowl with a lid or plastic wrap.
     Refrigerate for 24 hours.
     Turn the lamb in the marinade occasionally.
     Tzatziki Sauce:
     This recipe yields about 1 1/2 cups.  (About 4 portions)
     Step 1:  Place 1/2 cup of finely minced peeled and seeded cucumber in a mixing bowl.
     Add 3 tablespoons of finely minced mint leaves.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 6 ounces of plain Greek Yogurt.  (goat milk yogurt)
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 2:  Slowly add 3 tablespoons of virgin olive oil, while stirring with a whisk. 
     Step 3:  The tzatziki will be very thick at this point.  Thin the tzatziki by adding 1 tablespoon of warm water at a time, while whisking, till the tzatziki is a medium sauce consistency that can coat a spoon.
     Chill the tzatziki in a refrigerator for 1 hour, so the flavors meld.

     Greek Spice Roast Lamb:
     Remove the lamb from the marinade.
     Place the lamb on a roasting rack on a roasting pan.
     Roast the lamb in a 375ºF oven, till it is fully cooked.  (A probe thermometer should read 155ºF to 165ºF degrees.)
     Set the lamb on a counter and let it rest for a few minutes.
     Greek Spice Roasted Lamb Gyro with Tzatziki Sauce:
     This recipe yields 1 large Gyro.
     Pita Bread is very easy to make from scratch.  Store bought Pita Bread is good too.  It seems like the freshest Pita Bread is found at Mediterranean food markets.
     Step 1:  Place a large 10" to 12" Pita Bread (Khubz Arabi) on a countertop.
     Garnish one half of the pita bread with:
     - mixed baby lettuce leaves and spinach
     - thin slices of tomato
     - very thin sliced onion
     Step 2:  Cut the roasted lamb into thin slices.
     Place the sliced lamb on top of the lettuce, tomato and onion on the pita bread.
     Step 3:  Spoon a generous amount of tzatziki sauce over the sliced lamb.
     Step 4:  Spear a Greek pepper with a long toothpick or bamboo skewer.
     Fold the side of the pita that has no toppings over the lamb.
     Spear the gyro pita bread with the long toothpick with a pepper on it, so the sandwich stays folded.
     Garnish the plate with parsley sprigs, Greek olives and Greek peppers.

     This traditional Greek style Roasted Lamb Gyro is absolutely delicious!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Greek Torpedo

     Greek Torpedo!
     Torpedo Sandwiches are almost the same as a Sub Sandwich. Not many sandwich shops use the word Torpedo on the menu board anymore, so hopefully today's recipe will help keep this sandwich style from fading into the past.  
     For a Torpedo, the crusty baguette is not as wide as a regular sub roll.  To make the Torpedo shape, only one end of the baguette is trimmed off.  The round end gives the sandwich its torpedo shape.
     The best place to find lunch meats and cheese for a Greek Torpedo is at a Greek delicatessen.  The choice of Greek deli meats and cheese is really up to the individual.  Just about any combination of Greek lunch meats will create a nice flavor.
     The cheese on today's Greek Torpedo is a mild Kefalograviera.  Kefalograviera is a sheep's milk cheese that tastes almost like Italian Romano Cheese.
     Ajvar was used as the bread spread on today's sandwich.  Ajvar vegetable spread is popular in Greece and the Balkan region.  Ajvar is made with minced sweet red bell pepper, eggplant, garlic and mild peppers.  Fresh Ajvar can be made in a home kitchen, but it is much more cost effective to buy a jar of pre-made Ajvar.
     Greek Torpedo Sandwich:  
     This recipe yields 1 hearty Greek Torpedo.
     One rounded end on a thin baquette is what gives this sandwich its torpedo shape.
     For a 10" Torpedo, about 2 ounces of each meat and cheese will be enough to give the Torpedo Sandwich an old fashioned 1960's look.  
     Step 1:  Cut an 8" to 10" end piece of thin baguette bread loaf.  The bread should have 1 round end and 1 square cut end.
     Cut the bread in half lengthwise.
     Step 2:  Spread a thin layer of ajvar on the bottom half of the torpedo bread.
     Step 3:  Place a thin layer of baby lettuce leaves on the ajvar.
     Place a layer of thin sliced tomato on the lettuce.
     Sprinkle some chopped bermuda onion over the tomato layer.
     Step 4:  Place a layer of thin sliced kefalograviera cheese over the onions and tomatoes.
     Step 5:  Overlap a few thin slices of Bolshevic Loaf over the cheese.  (Bolshevic Loaf is an Indiana specialty that is marketed at Greek delicatessens.  Any head cheese can be substituted.)
     Overlap thin slices of soppressata over the bolshevic head cheese.
     Overlap thin slices of Greek style cured beef sausage (lovcka) over the soppressata.
     Place a few thin slices of svinjski vrat (cured smoked pork neck) over the sausage.
     Step 6:  Place some thin sliced Greek peppers on the meats.
     Step 7:  Drizzle 1 tablespoon of virgin olive oil on the top half of the torpedo bread.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of oregano on the oil.
     Step 8:  Place the torpedo bread top on the sandwich and pin the sandwich with long frill picks.
     Set the Greek Torpedo on a plate.
     Garnish the plate with pickles, olives or fruit.
     This is a delicious Torpedo!  

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


     Canadian Poutine!
     Poutine is legendary for providing plenty of warmth and comfort for those who brave the icy cold great white north!  Poutine is one of Canada's favorite snacks.  In fact, Poutine can also be a cheap hearty meal.  Many casual restaurants and fast food chains in Canada offer Poutine on the menu.  Many restaurants in American states that border Canada also offer this hearty concoction.  
     Poutine has its origins in Quebec.  Poutine is fresh potato french fries with brown gravy and fresh cheese curds.  Plain Fresh Cheese Curds are the most popular cheese curd for making Poutine.  Yellow Cheddar Curds are popular too.  French style gravies (Sauce Espagnole) are usually dark brown and Canadian gravies tend to be the same.  Brown Roux is the secret to making a gravy that is dark brown.

     Brown Gravy:
     This recipe yields about 1 1/3 cups.
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour, while constantly stirring.  (The roux should be shiny, not caky looking.)
     Constantly stir till the roux becomes a dark brown color.  
     Step 2:  Add 2 cups of beef broth.
     Whisk the gravy to combine the roux.
     Whisk occasionally till the gravy comes to a gentle boil and it thickens to a very thin sauce consistency.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Add 1 pinch of onion powder.
     Add 1 small pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 small pinch of ground sage.
     Step 4:  Simmer and reduce the gravy till it is a medium thin consistency that easily coats a spoon.
     Keep the gravy warm over very low heat.  (Add beef stock if the gravy becomes too thick.)

     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.

     This recipe yields 1 hearty portion.
     The fries and gravy must be piping hot to warm the cheddar cheese curds!  If they cool off, then place the plate in a 350ºF oven for 15 to 25 seconds, so the cheese curds warm up and melt.
     Mound the french fries on a plate.
     Pour a generous amount of the brown gravy over the fries.
     Sprinkle 2 to 3 ounces of cheddar cheese curds over the fries.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.

     Warm, hearty, filling and delicious!  Canadian poutine is great cold weather food, but it can be served year round. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Herb Crusted Burger with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Stilton Cheese

     Gourmet Burgers!
     Gourmet hamburgers have returned as a trendy food craze in recent years.  There are many cutting edge restaurants in Las Vegas that offer gourmet hamburgers on the menu.  At many of these restaurants the focus is primarily on the choice of meat.
     Selecting a top grade of beef or wild game for a gourmet burger is a good place to start.  Currently the most popular choices are Angus Beef, Prime Grade Beef, Wagyu, Kobe and Ground Turkey.  American Bison is at the top of the wild game burger meat option list and Ground Elk is not far behind.  The general public still is kind of skittish about trying tasty exotic burger meats like alligator, kangaroo and ostrich.
      It seems like the best gourmet burgers either incorporate an irresistible flavor combination or the list of ingredients supports an overall theme.  Hubert Keller's Burger Bar at Mandalay Bay is a good place to experience Las Vegas style gourmet burgers that have a creative theme.  The Rossini Burger is modeled after the French Haute Cuisine entrée Tornados Rossini and this classic gourmet burger certainly is decadent!  The Burger Bar even offers a Chocolate Burger and a Cheesecake Burger on the dessert menu!
     Hubert Keller's Fleur Restaurant is famous for being the home of the most expensive burger in Las Vegas.  Kobe beef, foi gras and black truffle gives one hamburger offering a price that lists at about $35 on the menu.  An accompanying bottle of a fine vintage chateau liquor is what gives this gourmet burger a $5,000 sticker price.
     Even the franchise chain burgers are famous in Las Vegas.  In-n-Out burgers is an old fashioned franchise that offers nothing but fresh food.  Fresh ground beef is the key to their success.  The french fries are cut from fresh potatoes to order too.  Fatburger is rated as the best burger stand in Los Angeles and Las Vegas year after year and they also cook all their food to order.  There are very few franchise burger stands that can even come close to the quality of the burgers at In-n-Out or Fatburger.
     As one can see, the level of burger competition high in Las Vegas and there is a reason why.  Las Vegas is the reigning burger capitol of the world.  Every year, more burgers are sold in Vegas than at any other city.

     Today's gourmet burger recipe focuses on an irresistible flavor combination and there really is no overall theme.  The gourmet burger trend of the late 1970's and 1980's focused only on good beef burgers with a fancy topping.  Today's recipe is made along those guidelines.
     The burger in today's recipe is crusted with French herbs.  The sun dried tomatoes and Stilton Cheese topping combines with the herb crusted burger to create an awesome flavor that fans of classic bleu cheese varieties will surely enjoy.    
     Sun Dried Tomatoes: 
     This recipe yields enough for 1 large burger.
     It is important to fully reconstitute the sun dried tomatoes or they will be unpleasantly chewy.
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 2 cups of water.
     Add 5 or 6 sun dried tomato halves.
     Gently simmer the sun dried tomatoes, till they are soft and tender.
     Step 2:  Drain the water off of the reconstituted sun dried tomatoes.
     Step 3:  Return the soft sun dried tomatoes to the sauce pot.
     Place the pot over low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of virgin olive oil.
     Season with 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Gently warm the sun dried tomatoes till they become aromatic.
     Keep the sun dried tomatoes warm on a stove top.
     Herb Crusted Hamburger Patty:
     This recipe yields 1 large burger patty.  (8 ounces)
     Fresh or dried herbs can be used for this recipe.  Herb crusted burgers are best when they are grilled in a pan or on a ribbed cast iron griddle.  Cooking an herb crusted burger over an open flame will burn the herbs.  
     Lean ground beef for a hamburger is somewhere between 85% to 89% fat free.  If the ground beef is over 93% fat free, the burger will not be juicy.
     Step 1:  Place these herbs and spices in a mixing bowl:
     - 1/2 tablespoon of marjoram
     - 1 teaspoon of thyme
     - 1 teaspoon of tarragon
     - 1 tablespoon of Herbs de Provence
     - 1/2 tablespoon of basil
     - 1/2 tablespoon of oregano
     - 1 pinch of garlic powder
     - 1 pinch of cayenne pepper
     Mix the herbs together.
     Spread the herb mix evenly on a pie tin and set it aside.
     Step 2:  Use a ring mold to shape 8 ounces of lean ground beef into a hamburger patty.
     Season the burger patty on both sides with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 3:  Place the burger patty on the herb mixture in the pie tin.
     Flip the burger patty in the herbs to coat both sides.
     Gently press the herbs onto the surface of the burger.
     Step 4:  Refrigerate the burger patty for 20 minutes, so the herbs impart their flavor.
     Herb Crusted Hamburger with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Stilton Cheese:
     This recipe yields an 8 ounce gourmet burger!
     Step 1:  Heat a cast iron griddle over medium heat.
     Brush a hamburger roll with melted unsalted butter.
     Grill the burger roll, till it is toasted golden brown.
     Step 2:  Place the burger roll on a plate.
     Place some mixed baby lettuce leaves on the bottom half of the bun.
     Place a few thin slices of onion on the lettuce.
     Set the "burger set up plate" aside.
     Step 3:  Leave the griddle on medium heat.
     Pour 1/2 tablespoon of blended olive oil on the hot griddle.
     Add 1 teaspoon of unsalted butter.
     Place the herb crusted burger on the griddle.
     Grill the burger on both sides, till it is cooked to the preferred finish temperature.
     *Be sure to flip the burger a few times, so it cooks evenly and so the herbs do not scorch!
     Step 4:  Place the softened sun dried tomatoes on top of the burger.
     Place a few thin slices of imported English Stilton Cheese on top of the sun dried tomatoes.
     Step 5:  Pour 1 ounce of water on the griddle around the burger.
     Immediately cover the burger with a dome shaped pot lid.
     Allow the steam to melt the Stilton Cheese.  (This takes about 45 seconds.)
     Step 6:  Remove the dome lid.
     Use a spatula to place the herb crusted hamburger on the burger bun on the "set up plate."
     Garnish the plate with Italian Parsley sprigs and assorted pickles.
     *Persian pickled wild cucumber, roasted red pepper strips and Arabic scratched green olives are the garnish in the photos above.
     Stilton is an aged sharp bleu cheese that tastes great with the rich flavor of sun dried tomatoes.  This is a delicious gourmet burger creation!