Thursday, December 29, 2016

Montana Pork & Tart Apple Cornish Pasty






     A Montana Style Cornish Pasty For A Chilly Day!
     Cornish tin miners were world famous for their expertise in tunneling underground mine shafts.   Wherever these expert miners went around the globe, they brought their Cornish Pasty cooking knowledge with them.
     In a tin mine, Arsenic builds up on dirty hands and the Arsenic can easily contaminate food.  The solution was to create a stuffed pastry that had a crust handle.  The crust handle was grasped with Arsenic tainted hands and the fingers never had to touch the soft crust section that contained a savory filling.  After eating the good part of the pasty, the thick crust handle was discarded as an offering to the Knockers.  The Cornish definition of a Knocker is devilish imp that causes mine accidents, so it was best to appease these little creatures.
      About 100 years ago, many Cornish miners worked the Montana tin mines.  Traditional ingredients for Cornish Pasties were scarce in Montana, so the filling was made with with whatever food was cheap and available.  Pork and apples fit the bill of fare!  Pork and apples is also a classic flavor combination, so it did not take long for Montana Pasties to become famous.
     Life in a Montana tin mine is pretty cold all year round and the outdoor climate can be very harsh in the winter.  With this in mind, Montana Cornish Pasties were designed to be hearty enough to warm up a cold tired worker.  A Montana Pasty is definitely one of the best cold weather food items that there is!
       
     Pâte Brisée Recipe:
     *If you want to make an authentic Cornish Pasty dough, then substitute lard for some of the unsalted butter in the Pie Dough recipe.  
     Follow this link to the recipe in this website:
     
     Montana Pork & Tart Apple Cornish Pasty Filling: 
     This recipe yields enough filling for 1 large Cornish Pasty.  
     There are no tricky cooking techniques involved with making traditional Cornish Pasty fillings.  The ingredients are simply placed in a pot and boiled!
     Step 1:  Place 1 1/2 cups of light pork broth in a sauce pot.
     Add 5 ounces of coarsely chopped lean pork.  (Pork shoulder or pork loin is best.)
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped salt pork fat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped hickory smoked bacon.
     Step 2:  Add 1/3 cup of diced russet potato.
     Add 1/3 cup of diced swedes (rutabaga).
     Add 2 tablespoons of diced carrot.
     Add 2 tablespoons of diced onion.
     Step 3:  Add 2 teaspoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/3 cup of diced peeled tart green apple (Granny Smith Apple).
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of marjoram.
     Step 4:  Place the pot over medium/medium high heat.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till most of the liquid evaporates and only about 1/3 cup of liquid remains.  
     Step 6:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Add just enough plain fine bread crumbs while stirring, to soak up the liquid in the pot.  (About 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons is plenty.)
     Step 7:  Let the Montana Cornish Pasty Filling cool to room temperature.
     Place the filling in a container.
     Chill the filling to 41ºF in a refrigerator.

     Montana Pork & Tart Apple Cornish Pasty:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty pasty. 
     Step 1:  Roll a sheet of pie dough till it is about 3/16" thick.
     Cut a round piece of pie dough sheet that is 10" in diameter.
     Step 2:  Mound the Montana Pork & Tart Apple Cornish Pasty Filling on the center of the round pie dough sheet.  Be sure to leave a 3/4" bare border.
     Step 3:  Brush the bare pie dough border with egg wash.
     Fold the pastry dough over the stuffing, so it forms a half moon shape.
     Roll and press the seam edge of the pie dough, so it resembles a thick handle.
     Poke 2 small steam vent holes through the dough, where they will not be seen.
     Step 4:  Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking pan.
     Place the pasty on the parchment paper.
     Brush the pasty with egg wash.
     Step 5:  Place the pan in a 375ºF oven.
     Bake till the crust is golden brown.
     Step 6:  Set the hot pasty on a plate.
     Garnish with Italian Parsley sprigs.
     Serve with a ramekin of sour cream on the side.

     This Montana Cornish Pasty will warm up an ice cold day like nothing else can!  Do not forget to toss the crust handle to the evil little Knockers, so no disaster will strike!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Beer Batter Chocolate Wedding Cake!







     We Beer Batter Anything!
     There is a restaurant in Boston that literally will beer batter and deep fry anything that a customer requests.  Customers are welcome to bring in their own food items and the fry cooks will do the rest.  Items like leftover pizza and cookies are popular customer sourced food.  Leftover birthday cake and wedding cake is popular too.
     The problem with this beer batter restaurant concept is that it does not conform to modern health code standards.  In many states, all restaurant food purchases have to be made with registered sources.  This reduces food borne illness outbreaks and it makes investigating a food borne illness outbreak much easier to do.  
     There really is no telling how a customer handles food or whether a customer's food is contaminated with chemical, physical or biological health threats.  Once the customer food item is in a kitchen, the risk of contaminating other customer's food is greatly increased.  From a business liability standpoint, allowing customers to bring their own food in to be beer batter fried is taboo.
     A restaurant chef can make or purchase the items that customers commonly request for beer batter frying.  This is the only way to satisfy modern health codes.  If a restaurant purchases a wedding cake or birthday cake from a registered resource, then the leftover cake can be used to make some nifty beer batter fried snacks.
     Home cooks can beer batter just about anything that they want.  Some home cooks are more adventurous than others.  Beer Batter Wedding Cake or any kind of cake actually is not a bad idea.  A ginger flavored beer batter works best for cake of any kind.  The beer batter does not have to be sweet, because the cake is sugary enough.  
     Cheap manufactured lard or butter cream icing will melt in deep fryer temperatures, so do not expect this kind of icing to remain intact.  A few other kinds of icing will survive deep frying with a beer batter coating.  
     The appeal of beer batter cake is not hard to imagine.  The beer batter adds a crisp crunchy crust and the cake heats up, so it is like the cake just came out of the oven.  A leftover piece of chocolate cake will become aromatic and very rich tasting when beer batter fried.        

     Ginger Beer Batter:
     This recipe yields enough beer batter for 2 portions of cake.
     Step 1:  Place 2 cups of pilsner beer in a mixing bowl.  (Leftover flat beer actually is best for this recipe.)
     Add 1 teaspoon of ginger powder.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and white pepper.
     Step 2:  Add just enough flour while whisking to make a medium thin batter.  (Less than 2 cups)
     *The batter should be the same thickness as pancake batter.
     Chill the beer batter for 20 minutes, so the flavors meld.

     Beer Batter Chocolate Wedding Cake:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Any kind of leftover chocolate cake can be used.  A cheap chocolate cake from a grocery store is not a bad choice.
     Step 1:  Cut a rectangle shaped piece of leftover chocolate wedding cake that measures 4"x5"x2".
     Chill the cake to 41ºF in a refrigerator, so it becomes firm.
     Step 2:  Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil to 360ºF in a high sided pot.
     Step 3:  Dip the chilled piece of cake in the ginger beer batter.  Make sure the cake is completely coated.
     Step 4:  Carefully place the beer batter coated cake in the hot oil.  (The cake will float.)
     Fry the cake till the beer batter coating is crispy golden brown.
     *If necessary, use a fryer net to flip the cake over, so both sides cook evenly.
     Step 6:  Use a fryer net to place the fried beer batter cake on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan to remove any excess oil.
   
     Presentation:
     Pre-made syrup products and whipped cream are fine for this ultimate junk food item!
     Paint a plate with streaks of your favorite chocolate syrup or raspberry sauce.
     Place a dollop of whipped cream on the plate.
     Place the Beer batter Chocolate Wedding Cake on the garnished plate.
     Serve while the cake is still hot!

     Viola!  The ultimate beer batter street food!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Cheeseburger Shorty







     Philadelphia Tavern Food!
     Classic junk food and sandwiches are still the mainstay at most Philadelphia area taverns, brew pubs and bars.  Cheesesteaks, burgers, hoagies, chicken fingers and wings are the top selling menu items in this area, because customers favor food items that they are familiar with.  When something new or something exotic is introduced, the conservative clientele nearly always balks at giving it a try.  
     The recent gastro-pub cuisine trend has also gained a foothold in Philadelphia area townships that have a high median income.  Some of the Philadelphia area gastro-pub cuisine is worth checking out, but the majority of the gastro-pub offerings are criticized as being glorified junk food that is way overpriced.  Philadelphia working class consumers tend to shy away from fancy brew pub food, because they have conservative tastes and they prefer old classic tavern food that offers good dining value.  
     Classism now comes into play in the modern Philadelphia tavern game.  Gastro-pubs tend to attract craft beer snobs and culinary egomaniacs that spend too much time watching food network television.  The conservative working class crowd does not exactly fit in with this scene, so they go to familiar taverns that have old school food and ice cold domestic beer.  As one can see, the social class division line is craft beer, which is pricing itself completely out of the working class market.
     Today's Cheeseburger Shorty definitely is old school Philly tavern food.  There is no guessing game as to what this sandwich is all about, other than the name.  The word "Shorty" refers to a small Hoagie Sandwich.  A classic hoagie sandwich is one foot long and a small six inch hoagie is usually called a shorty by old school tavern cooks.
     A hoagie is usually made with Italian cold cuts and cheese.  A hoagie is garnished with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles.  The spread is usually mayonnaise, yellow mustard or both.  A hoagie can also be made with grilled chicken, fried chicken or cheeseburger, but this kind of hoagie is usually only offered at a tavern as a special du jour.  Because a split chicken breast or cheeseburger is only enough meat to cover half of a foot long hoagie roll, the sandwich naturally is a shorty by definition. 

     Cheeseburger Shorty:
     This recipe yields 1 small 6" hoagie sandwich.
     Hoagie Rolls are shaped like a foot long sub roll.  A classic Hoagie Roll has a soft crust texture that is slightly chewy.
     Step 1:  Cut a foot long hoagie roll in half.
     Split the roll open lengthwise.
     Step 2:  Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise, yellow mustard or both on the roll.
     Step 3:  Garnish the bottom half of the roll with:
     - romaine lettuce
     - thin sliced Bermuda Onion
     - thin sliced tomato
     - garlic dill pickle chips
     Set the Shorty "sandwich set-up" aside. 
     Step 4:  Heat a seasoned cast iron griddle over medium heat. 
     Press 5 ounces of lean ground beef into a burger patty shape that is about 3/8" thick.
     Place the burger patty on the griddle.
     Grill the burger till it is almost cooked to the preferred finish temperature.  (Medium to well done is best.)
     Step 5:  Place 2 thin slices of cheddar cheese on the burger.
     Place a domed pot lid over the burger.
     Wait for the cheese to melt.
     Step 6:  Place the cheeseburger patty on a cutting board.
     Cut the patty in half.
     Place the cheeseburger halves on the Shorty Sandwich.
     Step 7:  Use long frill toothpicks to fasten the top half of the roll.
     Cut the sandwich in half and place it on a plate.
     Serve with a pickle and potato chips of your choice.  
     
     Viola!  A tasty old school Philly tavern style Cheeseburger Shorty! 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Gorgonzola, Filipino Sweet Longaniza and Green Onion Pizza







     Gourmet Pizza!
     Pizza is a quick easy meal if the dough is made ahead of time!  Pizza dough actually tastes better when it is chilled for 1 or two days.  After 3 or 4 days, the pizza dough will start to smell like sourdough and the finished texture will be quite chewy.  
     When a yeast dough is refrigerated, the cold temperature slows yeast activity.  A cold dough has a stiff texture, but as soon as it warms up, the yeast activates and the dough becomes easy to work.
     When working a dough that has been refrigerated, it is best to use a gentle touch.  The first time that I made a pizza with a cold dough was in an Italian family style restaurant.  I thought that the dough had to be worked with more muscle, because the cold dough was stiff.  The owner of the restaurant said, "What are you trying to do?  Kill the dough or something?"  There is truth in what he said.  Working a cold dough with too much force will knock the life out of the dough.  Yeast is a living organism and it does react to too much force by becoming inactive.  
     When a gentle touch is used on cold dough, it takes longer to shape the dough.  The extra time allows the fingertips to warm the dough.  As the cold dough is gently and slowly patted out with fingertips, you can literally feel the yeast becoming active.  The dough starts to feel spongy with each touch.  As the yeast starts producing gas again, the dough becomes elastic and easy to work.      
     
     Pizza Dough:
     Follow this link to the pizza dough recipe in this website:
     • Pizza Dough

     Filipino Style Sweet Longaniza Sausage:
     This recipe yields enough for 1 medium size pizza.
     Spanish or Mexican Longaniza Sausage is not the same as Filipino style Longaniza.  Filipino Longaniza is flavored with sugar and Asian spices, the casing is tied in short lengths and it usually is a bright red color.  Filipino Longaniza can be found in Asian food markets.   
     Step 1:  Place 6 ounces of Filipino style Sweet Longaniza Sausage on a small roasting pan.
     Place the pan in a 300ºF oven.
     Roast till the sausage is fully cooked, yet minimally browned.
     Step 2:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Allow the sausage to cool to room temperature.
     Chill the sausage till it is firm.
     Step 3:  Cut the sausage into thin slices.
     Chill the sausage till it is needed.

     Pizza Sauce:
     This recipe yields 1 3/4 cups.  (More than enough for 1 medium size pizza.)
     Classic Italian pizza sauce is a cold mixture.  It only is cooked in the oven!
     Step 1:  Place 1 1/2 cups of imported Italian canned crushed plum tomato in a mixing bowl. 
     Add 1/4 cup of olive oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 2 pinches of oregano.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper. 
     Step 2:  Mix ingredients together.
     Place the sauce in a container.
     Chill for 30 minutes, so the flavors meld.   

     Gorgonzola, Filipino Sweet Longaniza and Green Onion Pizza:
     This recipe yields 1 medium size pizza.  (12" to 14")
     Step 1:  Coat a smooth countertop with a very thin film of olive oil.  (Just a few drops of olive oil wiped on the counter is plenty!)
     Place a 10 to 12 ounce portion of the pizza dough on the countertop. 
     Use your fingertips to press and stretch the dough, till it is a flat round shape.  (12" to 14" diameter and about 1/4" to 3/8" thick.)
     Step 2:  Lightly brush a medium size pizza pan with olive oil.
     Transfer the shaped pizza dough to the pan.  (Re-stretch and shape the dough if necessary.) 
     Step 3:  Lightly brush the shaped pizza dough with olive oil.
     Spread an even layer of the pizza sauce on the pizza dough, but leave a 1/2" bare crust.
     Step 4:  Place 4 to 5 ounces of thin sliced Gorgonzola Cheese on the pizza.  
     *Gorgonzola is a strong tasting cheese, so a little goes a long way! 
     Arrange the prepared Filipino Sweet Longaniza Sausage slices on the pizza.
     Sprinkle 2 sliced green onions on the pizza.
     Step 5:  Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the pizza.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of oregano on the pizza.
     Step 6:  Place the pizza pan in a 450ºF oven.
     Bake till the crust turns a golden color and a few light brown highlights appear on the toppings.  
     *Do not brown Gorgonzola Cheese!  Gorgonzola will become very bitter tasting if it is browned.  Just bake till the Gorgonzola melts.
     Step 7:  Allow the pizza to cool for 30 seconds before slicing into pie shaped slices.

     The combination of Asian spice sweet sausage, Gorgonzola, pizza sauce and green onion makes for an interesting tasting gourmet pizza!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Sourdough Panini of Poached Greek Chicken and Potatoes with Cypriot Halloumi






     Gourmet Panini!
     Every Greek diner seems to offer potatoes that are flavored with garlic, lemon and oregano.  Garlic, lemon and oregano is also used to flavor Greek style chicken.  Potato and chicken Mexican torta sandwiches are somewhat popular, so I figured that combination would work for a Greek style panini. 
      I purchased a small block of Cypress Halloumi Cheese at a Mediterranean market.  Cypriot Haloumi cheese originated in Cypress over 1,000 years ago.  Halloumi from Cypress is made with a combination of goats milk and sheep milk.  In modern times, cows milk is often part of the mixture.
     The Halloumi Cheese process involves layering the fresh cheese while it is warm, then it it packed in brine.  The result is a semi hard cheese that has a milky flavor.  Cypriot Halloumi has high melting point, because this cheese has a low fat content.     
     A Greek spice mayonnaise spread was made for this sandwich, to give it an extra kick of flavor.  Hints of cinnamon and cumin can be tasted in the sandwich spread.  

     Greek Spice Mayonnaise:
     This recipe yields about 1/3 cup.  (Enough for 2 to 3 sandwiches)
     Step 1:  Place 1/4 cup of mayonnaise in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of tomato puree.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Step 2:  Add 2 pinches of oregano.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of garlic paste.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cumin.
     Add 1 pinch of Hungarian Paprika.
     Add 1 pinch of cinnamon.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 3:  Mix the ingredients together.
     Place the sandwich spread in a container. 
     Chill the sandwich spread for 30 minutes, so the flavors meld.
     
     Greek Poached Chicken and Potatoes:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.  (Enough for 1 sandwich.)
     No tricky cooking techniques are needed for this recipe!  The chicken breast is not roasted or sauteed.  It is poached with the boiling potato slices.  Boiling or poaching is probably the oldest cooking technique of them all and it is a good technique for when strong roasted flavors are not desired. 
     Step 1:  Place a 4 ounce chicken breast in a sauce pot.
     Add 5 to 6 thin potato slices that are about 3/16" thick.
     Cover the ingredients with water.
     Step 2:  Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1 chopped garlic clove.
     Add 2 pinches of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of Hungarian Paprika.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 3:  Place the pot over medium heat.
     Gently boil, till the chicken is fully cooked and the potato slices are tender.
     Step 4:  Drain the excess liquid off of the chicken and potatoes.
     Cut the chicken breast into thin slices.
     Keep the Greek Poached Chicken and Potatoes warm on a stove top.

     Sourdough Panini of Poached Greek Chicken and Potatoes with Cypriot Halloumi:
     This recipe yields 1 sandwich.
     Traditional panini are cut into triangle shapes!
     Step 1:  Brush one side of 2 slices of California Sourdough Bread with virgin olive oil.
     Spread a thin layer of Greek Spice Mayonnaise on the other side of the bread slices.
     Step 2:  Layer the Greek Chicken and Potatoes on one half of the sandwich.
     Place a few thin slices of Cypriot Halloumi Cheese on the sandwich.
     Place the second slice of bread on the sandwich.
     Step 3:  Heat a panini grill to a medium temperature.
     Place the sandwich on the panini grill.
     Lower the top of the panini grill and gently press.
     Grill the sandwich till it is toasted golden brown.
     Step 4:  Place the sandwich on a cutting board.
     Cut the sandwich into 3 triangle shapes.
     Place the sandwich on a plate.
     Garnish with Italian Parsley sprigs.

     A simple panini made with poached ingredients is like a sigh of relief, when the tummy desires bar snack food that is not is grilled or fried.    

Monday, November 14, 2016

Reuben Cheesesteak






     Gourmet Philly Cheesesteak!
     No matter what the economic conditions are, Philadelphia taverns always seem to make money.  Local Philadelphia area taverns have a loyal local clientele base that expects good dining value and easy to recognize food.
     Philly tavern cuisine tends to be conservative and the local clientele tends to shy away from eccentric trendy food items from other parts of the country.  However, if a trendy new item is created with a traditional Philadelphia food favorite, then the tavern customers will be more likely to give it a try.  What this means is, a chef simply cannot go wrong by offering a fancy gourmet style cheesesteak creation at a Philadelphia area tavern!
     I have worked in the Philadelphia area a few times during my career.  During the fall of 2015, I worked at a busy working class tavern near Philadelphia before heading back out west.  This was the first time I cooked in the Philly area since the early 1980's and a few things had changed.  Tradition still ran thick at this tavern, but the clientele actually preferred fancier versions of classic Philadelphia  food items.  When we offered something like a fancy cheesesteak creation on the daily special board, it outsold nearly everything else on the menu.
     When something sells well, go with it!  Fancy cheesesteak creations turned out to be money making items at that tavern.  Every other day, the cooks seemed to invent another winner that the clientele liked.  We sold everything from Buffalo Chicken Cheesesteak to Teriyaki Beef Cheesesteak and soon the customers were requesting these items even when they were not offered on a special menu.
     Once the fancy cheesesteak ball starts rolling, it is hard to stop.  Making new cheesesteak flavors that turn out good enough to sell is fairly easy to do.  Basically, the key to success is to fancy up a cheesesteak with items or flavors that the conservative tavern customers will easily recognize.  A Reuben style cheesesteak definitely fits the bill!

     Russian Salad Dressing:
     This recipe yields 1 about cup.  (Enough for 4 Reuben Cheese Steaks)
     Russian Dressing is similar to Thousand Island Salad Dressing.  Both of these dressings were originally a mixture of mayonnaise and ketchup.  As time moved on, more ingredients were added.    
     Step 1:  Place 1/2 cup of mayonnaise in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/4 cup of organic ketchup.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of Russian Mustard (or Dijon Mustard).
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Worcestershire Sauce.
     Step 2:  Add 2 tablespoons of sweet pickle relish.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced green bell pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of finely chopped pitted green olives.
     Step 3:
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Hungarian Paprika.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.  (About 2 pinches)
     Step 4:  Mix the ingredients together.
     Place the Russian Dressing in a container.
     Chill the dressing for 1 hour, so the flavors meld.

     Reuben Cheese Steak:
     This recipe yields 1 foot-long Philly Steak Sandwich.
     Some butcher shops offer fresh thin shaved Knuckle Roast for cheesesteaks.  Knuckle Roast is part of the beef shoulder section and it is the best choice.
     Frozen shaved beef for cheesesteaks is also available at most grocery stores.  Some brands are better than others.  Try to select one that looks like thin shaved beef, not one that looks like pressed fine chopped scraps.
     The best bread for a cheesesteak is a foot-long Hoagie Roll that has a slightly chewy texture.  Italian sub rolls are good too.  A crusty baguette is not a good choice.
     Step 1:  Heat a cast iron griddle or wide sauté pan over medium heat.
     Coat the griddle with 1/2 teaspoon of blended olive oil.
     Step 2:  Place 1 slice of smoked bacon on the griddle.
     Cook the bacon till it is crispy golden brown.
     Place the bacon on a cutting board.
     Chop the bacon into small pieces and set it aside.
     Step 3:  Wipe the griddle surface clean and leave the griddle on medium heat.
     Coat the griddle with 2 teaspoons of blended olive.
     Step 4:  Place 1/4 cup of thin sliced onion strips on the griddle.
     Place 4 or 5 dill pickle chips on the griddle.
     Place 7 ounces of paper thin sliced Beef Knuckle Roast on the griddle.
     Use 2 large spatulas to tear and shred the beef and vegetables into small pieces.
     Grill and toss the beef till it is thoroughly browned.
     Step 5:  Add 1/2 cup of rinsed sauerkraut.
     Add the reserved chopped bacon.
     Toss the ingredients together, till the sauerkraut is hot.
     Step 6:  Mound the beef and vegetable mixture across the center of the griddle.
     Place 4 thin slices of Swiss Cheese (Emmentaler Cheese) on the mound of beef and vegetables.  (About 1 1/2 to 2 ounces)
     Step 7:  Pour 1/4 cup of water over the cheesesteak mound.
     Allow the water to steam and completely evaporate.
     *The steam will melt the cheese.
     Briefly toss the ingredients together, so the melted cheese coats most of the beef.
     Step 8:  Cut one side of a 12" long Hoagie Roll (or sub roll).  (Do not cut all the way through the bread!)
     Split the Hoagie Roll open.
     Use a large spatula to mound the cheesesteak mixture on the open Hoagie Roll.
     Step 9:  Pour a generous amount of Russian Salad Dressing on the cheesesteak.
     Cut the cheesesteak in half and place it on a plate.
     Garnish the plate with parsley sprigs and pickles of your choice.      

     Voila!  A Gourmet Philly Cheesesteak with a classic Reuben flavor!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Lamb Kafta Sliders








     Gourmet Slider Mania Is Far From Over!
     Many great chefs have created gourmet slider entrees in recent years.  The trend of top flight chefs making gourmet street food began during the Great Recession of 2007.  People seek cheap delicious food when times are tough.  Gourmet street food certainly fits the bill of fare!
     Gourmet sliders are fun food and this medium offers room for creativity.  Just about any kind of meat, wild game and seafood can be used to make sliders.  Vegetable or fried cheese sliders are within bounds too.
     What the slider lands on is important.  The choice of bread should reflect upon the cuisine style of the featured protein.  For example, Steam Buns are good for fusion style sliders and Focaccia Rolls are perfect for Italian style veal sliders.  For a Middle Eastern style slider, Pita Bread (Khubz Arabi) is a good choice of bread.
     Kafta is perfect for making gourmet sliders, because the complex flavor is intriguing.  There are as many ways to spell Kafta as there are Kafta recipes.  Some regional recipes require spelling the word with a specific dialect.  Most regional Kafta recipes require similar ingredients, but the proportions of the ingredients may vary.  Kafta seasoning mixes tend to be traditional.  Many family recipes for Kafta spice mix have been used for many generations.
     Pork is never used in Middle Eastern cuisine, but wild game is for the most part acceptable.  Kafta spice mix mellows the flavor of strong tasting meats, like ground wild game meat.  Lamb can be strong tasting too and Kafta spices tame the flavor.
     The sliders in the photos were conservatively garnished with just sliced tomato.  Feel free to use your imagination to garnish the sliders even more, but remember that the focus of guests will be placed upon the flavor of the Kafta spiced lamb.  Roasted eggplant or fried fenugreek greens might add a nice garnishing touch.
     Containers of blended Kaftah Spice Mixture can be bought pre-made at a Mediterranean food market.  Spices that are bought at an Arabic market are always very fresh and aromatic.  I like pre-made Kaftah Spice Mix, because it costs less than buying all the necessary spices separately.  For a cook who is not familiar with the Middle Eastern flavors, a pre-made Kafta Spice Mix will educate the palate.

     Kaftah Spice Mixture:
     This recipe yields about 2 1/2 tablespoons.
     It is much cheaper to buy Kaftah Spice Mix pre-made.  In case there are no Mediterranean food markets in your area, then this basic recipe may be handy.  There are many variations of Kafta Spice Mix, so there really is no solitary definitive recipe.
     Step 1:  Place 2 teaspoons of cinnamon in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 teaspoon of allspice.
     Add 1 teaspoon of cumin.
     Add 1 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 1 teaspoon of mild red chile powder.  (Spanish Paprika)
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of mace.
     Add 1 teaspoon of finely ground toasted sesame seed.  (optional)
     Step 2:  Mix the ingredients together.
     Store the spice mix in a sealed container, so the flavors are preserved.
   
     Lamb Kafta Sliders:
     This recipe yields 3 sliders.  (1 portion)
     Step 1:  Place 6 ounces ground lamb in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 minced clove of garlic.
     Add 1 tablespoon of finely minced onion.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of Kaftah Spice Mixture.
     Thoroughly mix the ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Divide the lamb kafta mixture into 3 equal portions.
     Use a 2 1/2" wide steel ring mold to form 3 slider patties.
     Step 3:  Heat a cast iron griddle over medium heat.
     Season the griddle with 1/2 tablespoon of blended olive oil.
     Place the 3 lamb kafta slider patties on the griddle.
     Grill the kafta patties on both sides, till they are fully cooked .  Be sure to flip the patties a few times, so they brown evenly.
     Step 4:  Place the cooked kafta patties on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan to drain off any excess grease.
     Step 5:  Cut a medium size warm pita bread (khubz arabi) into 3 pie shaped wedges that are slightly larger than the kafta slider patties.
     Use your fingers to open the pita bread.
     Step 6:  Place a thin slice of plum tomato in each pita piece.
     Place the sliders on the tomato in each pita piece.
     Step 7:  Set the sliders on a plate.
     Garnish the plate with:
     - parsley sprigs
     - pickled wild cucumber
     - pickled mild red chile pepper

     The flavor and aroma of Lamb Kafta is captivating.  These are some great tasting lamb sliders!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Tater Skins topped with Pink Peppercorn, Parmigiana Cheese and Green Tabasco Vinegar







     Cheap Tasty Tavern Snacks!
     One that a bar can lower food cost is to alter how the food is prepared.  Many bars offer complimentary snack food in chafing dishes during happy hour.  Fried potato skins with a fancy topping are a popular happy hour hors d'oeuvre that is cheap to make.  
     Many bars purchase pre-made frozen potato skins, instead of making them from scratch.  Not only does this increase food cost percentages, it is not utilitarian.  Traditional potato skins are made out of leftover baked potatoes.  The skins are served as snacks and the core of the potato is used to make home fries, soup or mashed potato.  
     In fancier bars and restaurants, potatoes are peeled ahead of time and often the skins are just tossed in the garbage.  In the long run, this is like throwing money in the trash, if the restaurant offers free bar hors d'oeuvres.  Using a paring knife to intentionally cut thick potato peels will result in making two products out of one, which eliminates waste.  The thick potato peels can be turned into complimentary snack food, which can even be sold as appetizers.  
     When thick potato skins are cut, the peeled potato looks like a rectangular or multi sided block.  In French restaurants, potato blocks are necessary for most French precision knife cuts.  Blocked potatoes are a nice convenience in a French restaurant and the thick potato skin peels offer opportunities to create tasty snack food.      

     Potato Preparation For Skins: 
     This recipe yields enough potato skins for 1 appetizer portion.  A wide potato may yield 6 to 8 potato skin strips.  An average potato will yield 4 to 6 strips.
     Step 1:  Select a large russet potato that is about 6" long.
     Wash the potato under cold running water.
     Step 2:  Use a paring knife to cut long thick potato peelings that are about 1/4" to 3/8" thick.  The skins should have a uniform width of about 1 1/4" to 1 1/2". 
     Step 3:  Place the thick potato skins in a container of cold water.   (This prevents oxidation.) 
     Place the peeled whole potato block in a container of water.  
     Keep the prepared potato skins and potato blocks chilled for later use. 

     Fried Potato Skins:  
     This recipe yields 1 appetizer portion.
     Step 1:  Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil or frying lard to 360ºF in a high sided pot. 
     Step 2:  Drain the water off of the prepared potato skins.
     Use a lint free pastrry towel to pat the potatoes dry.  (A fan can be used to dry off any remaining moisture too.)
     Step 3:  Place the skins in the hot oil.
     Fry the potato skins till they are crispy golden brown.  (CGB!)
     Step 4:  Place the fried skins on a wire screen roasting rack to drain off any excess oil.
     Lightly season with sea salt and white pepper.

     Tater Skins topped with Pink Peppercorn, Parmigiana Cheese and Green Tabasco Vinegar:
     This recipe yields 1 appetizer portion.
     Fried Tater Skins can be topped with just about anything.  Spicy savory flavors are best when beer is the beverage of choice.
     Green Tabasco Vinegar is a condiment that is placed on nearly every restaurant table in the Carolinas and Georgia.  The green tabasco peppers in the bottle are medium spicy hot and they have a unique chile pepper flavor.  Shaker bottles of "Trappy's Peppers In Vinegar" is a fairly easy to find table condiment and the peppers in the bottle are green tabasco chiles.    
     Brazilian Pink Peppercorns have a smokey mild black pepper flavor that goes well with Parmigiana Cheese.  To add a gourmet touch, use real imported Italian Parmigiana Cheese!
     Step 1:  Place the fried potato skins on a roasting pan, so the skin side faces down.
     Brush the skins with olive oil. 
     Step 2:  Sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of green tabasco vinegar on the skins. 
     Sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon of crushed pink peppercorn on the skins.
     Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese on the skins.
     Place 1 pickled green tabasco pepper on each potato skin.
     Step 3:  Roast the skins in a 350ºF oven till the cheese and peppercorns become aromatic, but not browned.
     Remove the pan from the oven.
     Step 4:  Arrange the fancy Tater Skins on an appetizer plate.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of minced Italian Parsley over the skins.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.   

     Viola!  Simple fresh gourmet potato skins that look and taste good enough to sell as an appetizer!   

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Halloween Bloody Eyeball Chocolate Truffles











     Bloody Eyeball Chocolate Truffles
     Plain chocolate candy eyeballs are easy to make.  Today's recipe goes a few steps further.  Tempered crisp white chocolate coats a classic brandy dark chocolate ganache truffle center!  White chocolate was tinted to create the black, blue and red color detailed highlights on each bloody eyeballs.
     There is nothing tricky about today's recipe.  An accurate digital candy thermometer or a digital probe thermometer is required for tempering chocolate.  This is because the temperatures for tempering white chocolate fall into a narrow range.      
     Tempering is different than simply melting chocolate and the result is easy to notice.  When chocolate is heated to a melting temperature, the coconut oil is displaced.  When melted chocolate is cooled, it will be semi hard and the finish will have a dull luster.  This is because the oil (cocoa butter) was not recombined with the cocoa.  Candy made with cooled melted chocolate will easily melt when handled with fingers.  A snap sound will not be heard when the piece of cooled chocolate is broken, because the texture is too soft.    
     The characteristics of tempered chocolate are the opposite.  Tempering involves melting chocolate at a specific temperature, then constantly stirring the melted chocolate till it cools to a specific temperature.  This way, the cocoa butter recombines with the cocoa.  After the tempered chocolate cools and solidifies, the chocolate candy will be shiny and hard.  Cooled tempered chocolate candy is hard enough to hear a snap sound when it is broken in half.    
     Ganache also is easy to make!  Chocolate ganache can be flavored and a classic choice is brandy.  Ganache can have a variety of textures, depending on the cream proportion and the amount of time that the ganache is mixed.  For truffles, a firm stiff ganache that is minimally mixed is best.
     Plastic chocolate candy molds were used to make the chocolate truffles.  Thin plastic candy molds are safe to use with tempered chocolate, because the temperature of the chocolate is low.  Plastic Bloody Eyeball Chocolate Candy Molds can be found in craft stores and specialty shops during the Halloween season.  These chocolate molds can also be found at internet shopping websites, like Amazon.
     The assembly of the bloody eyeballs must be done in stages, so this recipe does take some time to make.  The white chocolate shell has to be hardened in the mold, then the ganache filling is set in place.  More white chocolate seals the ganache filling in the candy.  To do this, the candy project must be chilled between each step.  
     Tinting small amounts of white chocolate with liquid food color can be tricky.  Water is the enemy of chocolate, so concentrated food dyes are best.
     The black chocolate pupil and blue chocolate iris are applied directly in the mold.  Painting the red tinted bloodshot eyeball streaks on the raised highlights can be done by dipping the tip of a chopstick in the warm tempered red tinted white chocolate and dragging the chopstick over the raised highlights.
     By the way, I used a hot knife to cut the one truffle open for display in the photos above.  Do not make the mistake of thinking that the white chocolate was soft!  The heated knife blade melted the chocolate truffle as it was sliced open.  A hot knife is the best way to cut tempered chocolate.  

     Tempered White Chocolate:
     This recipe yields more than enough to make 4 Bloody Eyeball Chocolate Truffles. 
     • For chocolate candy making, it is best to melt more chocolate than what is needed.  In fact, the more chocolate, the better.  It is easier to control the temperature of a large quantity of chocolate, than a small quantity.
     • The white chocolate is added to the double boiler in two stages.  A small proportion of white chocolate is added to the melted white chocolate just before the cooling and tempering process begins.   
     • An accurate digital candy thermometer or probe thermometer is necessary.  The exact temperatures are critical for white chocolate tempering!  
     • Do not allow the melted chocolate to come in contact with any liquid or water.  Water is the enemy of chocolate!
     • Any excess tempered chocolate can be cooled and stored.  The extra chocolate can be melted and reused at a later date.  One pound of white chocolate is tempered in this recipe.  
     Step 1:  Select a small pot and a small mixing bowl that can be used as a double boiler.
     Fill the pot half full with water.
     Bring the water to a boil over high heat.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat and allow the water temperature to stabilize at the lower temperature.
     Step 2:  Place 11 ounces of chopped high quality white chocolate in the small mixing bowl.
     Set the mixing bowl on top of the pot of hot water.
     Clip a candy thermometer in place.
     Constantly gently stir the white chocolate as it melts with a small rubber spatula.
     Step 3:  Bring the melted white chocolate to a temperature of 110ºF.
     Immediately remove the mixing bowl from the heat.
     Add 5 ounces of finely chopped white chocolate, while gently stirring.
     Constantly gently stir till the chocolate reaches 84ºF.
     Step 4:  *The white chocolate is now tempered.  The tempered white chocolate now has to be heated a few degrees, so it can be applied.  Take care not to overheat the white chocolate or it will have to be tempered a second time. 
     Place the mixing bowl of tempered white chocolate back on the double boiler.
     Reheat the white chocolate for about 5 to 10 seconds, till it reaches exactly 87ºF.  (Do not allow the temperature to exceed 89ºF!)
     Step 5:  The white chocolate is now tempered and ready for use
     The white chocolate may have to be reheated to 87º a few times during the bloodshot eyeball candy assembly.  As long as the white chocolate temperature does not drop below 84º, it will not solidify, but it will have to be stirred occasionally.

     White Chocolate Truffle Shell:
     This recipe yields 4 bloody eyeball candies that weigh about 1 1/2 ounces apiece.
     The application of the tinted chocolate and white chocolate are done in stages.    
     Step 1:  Black Eyeball Pupils:  
     Place about 1/2 teaspoon of the warm tempered white chocolate in a small stainless steel ramekin.
     Add 2 drops of black food color, while stirring.
     Allow the chocolate to cool, till it becomes a putty consistency.
     Step 2:  Roll 4 tiny balls of the black colored chocolate, that are the size of a dried split pea.
     Press each ball in place where the pupils are in the bloody eyeball candy molds.
     Place the candy mold in a freezer for a few minutes, so the chocolate becomes solid.
     Step 3:  Blue Eyeball Iris:
     Mix 1 tablespoon of warm tempered white chocolate with 2 drops of blue food color in a stainless steel small ramekin.
     Step 4:  Remove the candy mold from the freezer.
     Spread the blue tinted white chocolate over the black pupil and fill the iris section of the candy mold.
     *Use a sterile piece of paper towel to wipe off any excess if necessary.
     Place the candy mold in the freezer, till the blue tinted chocolate becomes solid.
     Step 5:  White Eyeball: 
     Remove the candy mold from the freezer.
     Spread a thin layer of tempered white chocolate in each bloody eyeball mold.  The layer should be about 1/8" to 3/16" thick.
     *The entire white of the eyeball should be coated.  Any excess can be scooped out after the white chocolate starts to become firm, when it is chilled.
     Chill the candy mold till the chocolate becomes solid.

     Dark Chocolate Ganache Truffle Filling:
     This recipe yields enough dark chocolate truffle to make 4 eyeball candies, plus a few extra truffles.   
     • The chocolate ganache for truffles is rich and thick.  The ganache should be cooled to less than 78ºF, before it is rolled or shaped.
     • You will have to judge how much chocolate truffle filling will be needed for each white chocolate eyeball shell.  If you want to completely seal the dark chocolate truffle with white chocolate like I did, then only fill the shell, so a 1/8" empty space is left at the top.  Then tempered white chocolate can be spread over the dark truffle filling to completely seal the shell with hard white chocolate.
     • As an easy alternative, the dark truffle filling can completely fill the white chocolate shell and no white chocolate seal will be needed. 
     Step 1:  Place 1/2 cup of cream in a sauce pot.
     Place the sauce pot over medium heat.
     Allow the cream to scald.
     Remove the pot from the heat.
     Step 2:  Add 1 ounce of brandy.
     Add 10 ounces of finely chopped Couverture Bittersweet Chocolate.
     Allow the mixture to stand undisturbed for 30 seconds.
     Step 3:  Stir as the chocolate melts, to create the ganache.
     Cool the mixture to 90ºF.
     Step 4:  Immediately add 1 1/2 ounces of soft unsalted butter, while stirring.
     Stir till the truffle ganache is thoroughly mixed.
     Allow the mixture to cool to 78ºF, so it becomes thick enough to be shaped.
     Step 5:  Place the chilled white chocolate bloody eyeball candy mold on a countertop.
     Press a small amount of the truffle ganache into each chilled white chocolate eyeball shell.  (About 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons.)
     Leave a 1/8" space on top of the truffle filling, if you want to seal the truffle filling with white chocolate.
      *An option is to completely fill the white chocolate eyeball candy shells with truffle, if you prefer to leave the eyeball candies unsealed.  Unsealed black truffle will necessitate covering the exposed truffle filling with fancy candy wrapper foil.
     Step 6:  Return the candy mold to the refrigerator and chill till the truffle filling becomes solid.
     *Any excess truffle ganache can be rolled into small ball shapes, then refrigerated till they become solid.  The chilled ganache balls can then be dredged in cocoa powder to create classic truffles.
     
     Sealing the Truffle Filling inside Bloody Eyeball Candies:
     If you chose to seal the truffle filling in the eyeball candies with the white chocolate, then follow these steps!
     Spread tempered white chocolate over the truffle filling to seal the bloody eyeballs.
     Freeze the candy mold till the chocolate becomes solid.
 
     Bloody Eyeball Vein Detailing Steps:
     Step 1:  Scrape off or cut off any excess chocolate flash that may surround each eyeball on the candy mold.
     Step 2:  Invert the candy mold onto a chilled plate and pop the chocolate candies out of each mold.
     Trim any flash off of the edges of the eyeballs.
     Freeze the eyeballs, till they become cold.
     Step 3:  Mix 2 drops of red food color with 1 tablespoon of tempered white chocolate in a stainless steel small ramekin.
     Step 4:  Place the plate of chilled bloody eyeballs on a countertop.
     Dip the tip of a chopstick in the red chocolate.
     Drag the red chocolate dipped chopstick tip over the raised veins on each eyeball, to paint the veins.
     *Use the tip of a pairing knife to scrape off any goof ups!
     Chill the finished Bloody Eyeball Chocolate Truffles till the red chocolate solidifies.

     Bloody Eyeball Chocolate Truffles:
     Keep the eyeballs chilled till they are needed.
     Allow the chocolate eyeballs to reach room temperature before serving.
     Present the Bloody Eyeball Chocolate Truffles on a small platter!

     Viola!  Bloody Eyeball Chocolate Truffles for Halloween!