Sunday, April 24, 2016

Mortadella Sub with Garlic Peppers

     An Old Fashioned Italian Sub With Garlic Pepper Antipasti!
     Those who can remember the great local sub sandwiches from back in the 1960's will know what today's recipe is all about.  It seems like during the last few decades, sub sandwiches have turned into a rip-off item.  Much of this is due to national sub shop chain restaurants that only care about monopolization and bottom line profits.
     A skimpy portion of low quality national brand lunch meat on mediocre bread, simply is not what a good sub sandwich is all about!  If a modern chain restaurant sold a high dollar skimpy rip-off sub to a customer in a hard core working class city like Pittsburgh back in the 1960's, I guarantee that there would have been some heavy duty repercussions.  People really developed bad attitudes about getting ripped-off back in those days.  
     In these modern times, far too many people settle for second best and this is what keeps the rip-off national chain sub shops in business.  To get a real deal sub these days, consumers either have to find an old school Italian deli or make their own sub at home.    
     When making an Italian style sub in the home kitchen, it pays to set the quality standards high.  Settling for mass produced national brand lunch meats that are not that great is not the thing to do.  It is better to select top notch imported Italian deli meats or locally crafted Italian American deli goods.
     For today's sub recipe, the better the Mortadella, the better the sandwich will be.  It is easy to see the difference between mass produced national brand Mortadella and expertly crafted Italian Mortadella.  Most national brand Mortadella has a dull greasy looking sheen and the color of the meat is not bright pink.  Dull looks translate to dull flavor.  Italian Mortadella from a good delicatessen is noticeably better looking.  Italian deli clerks cut Mortadella into paper thin slices and each slice is separated with parchment paper to keep the slices from sticking together.  An Italian deli is where great Mortadella is prepared with expertise.

     Sautéed Italian Garlic Peppers are a popular antipasti.  Toscana Peppers are best for making garlic peppers.  If no Toscana Peppers are available, then Hungarian Wax Peppers are a good choice.  Both of those peppers are nearly identical.  Banana Peppers are also a good option.

     Garlic Peppers:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Resist the temptation to sauté the garlic and peppers at a high temperature.  Virgin olive oil has a very low smoking point.  
     Step 1:  Cut 5 whole Yellow Wax Peppers lengthwise from the middle of the pepper to the tip of the pepper.  (The peppers will still look whole.  Splitting the pepper tips open will allow steam to escape when they are cooked.)
     Set the peppers aside.    
     Step 2:  Heat a small sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of pomace olive oil.
     Add 1 tablespoon of virgin olive oil.
     Add 5 whole garlic cloves.
     Add the yellow wax peppers.
     Gently sauté till a few golden highlights appear on the peppers and the garlic is golden brown.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Season the garlic peppers with sea salt and black pepper.
     Keep the garlic peppers warm on a stove top.

     Mortadella Sub with Garlic Peppers:
     You can make a sub that is 5" long or 30' long!  The size of a sub is a matter of personal choice.  An 8" sub is a good lunch portion.  
     Step 1:  Split an 8" sub sandwich roll in half.
     Place a layer of mixed baby lettuce greens and baby arugula on the bottom half.
     Place a layer of thin sliced onion on the lettuce.
     Place a layer of thin sliced plum tomato on the onion.
     Step 2:  Sprinkle a little bit of each of these items on the top slice of bread and on the sub sandwich vegetable garnish:
     - virgin olive oil
     - white wine vinegar
     - sea salt and black pepper
     - oregano
     Step 3:  *Loosely folding thin sliced deli meats will build height and this increases eye appeal!
     Place 6 ounces of paper thin sliced imported Italian mortadella on top of the sandwich vegetables.
     Attach the top half of the sub sandwich bread with frill toothpicks or fancy bamboo skewers.
     Step 4:  Cut the mortadella sub in half and place it on a plate.
     Arrange the warm garlic peppers and garlic on the plate.
     Pour any excess oil from the sauté pan over the peppers.
     Garnish the plate with Italian Parsley sprigs.

     Add a good Italian Provolone if you want cheese on this sub!  Provolone tastes great with Mortadella.  The quality of the Mortadella makes a big difference on a sub like this!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Yellowfin Tuna Steak Reuben & Blueberry Pomegranate Vinaigrette Dandelion Salad

     A Fresh Tuna Steak Reuben!
     The flavor of fresh Yellowfin Tuna on a Reuben Sandwich is delicious!  Back in the early 1990's,  Yellowfin Tuna Reuben Sandwiches were a hot selling item at a trendy French café that I worked in.  At first, I was not sure if the French chef's Tuna Reuben idea would fly, but after noticing the nice aroma of the first sandwich it was evident that the Tuna Reuben would be a success.
     A thin sliced Yellowfin Tuna Steak will cook to a medium rare temperature on a Reuben Sandwich just from the carryover heat.  Of course, only Sushi Grade Yellowfin Tuna can be cooked rare to medium rare.  The deep freezing process eliminates pathogen threats in fish.
     If the Yellowfin Tuna has not been prepared for sushi by deep freezing, then the tuna should be cooked till the center temperature is 145ºF.  This means that if a Yellowfin Tuna Steak is not sushi grade, then it must be fully cooked, no matter how fresh and clean that the tuna looks at the market.

     Most restaurants simply use pre-prepared Thousand Island Salad Dressing straight out of a gallon jug as a sauce for Reuben Sandwiches.  Honestly, manufactured Thousand Island Dressing does not exactly taste great, especially on a Reuben Sandwich.
     I used to work at a German delicatessen and the owner made everything from scratch, including the Reuben Sauce.  The old German chef claimed that Reuben Sandwiches were first created in his home country and the sauce for the sandwich was something special.  An authentic German deli style Reuben Sauce is rather zesty and it tastes much better than Thousand Island Dressing.  German deli style Reuben Sauce was designed for pickled beef, but it also tastes great with tuna.
     Yellowfin Tuna is better known as Ahi Tuna.  When I originally wrote this recipe several years ago, Yellowfin Tuna was available in great numbers.  Now Yellowfin Tuna are much lower in numbers and sustainability is an issue.  Some ecological experts say that because of restaurant and fishing industry pressure, the sustainability rating of Yellowfin Tuna is exaggerated so sales can continue, even though the number of Yellowfin Tuna in the sea declines each year.
     Personally, I do not market Yellowfin Tuna anymore and I prefer fish that have higher sustainability ratings.  Any mild tasting fish can be substituted in today's Reuben Sandwich recipe.  As a consumer, guilt free dining is where its really at!  Sustainability websites like Seafood Watch make choosing guilt free fish easy to do.  Here is the link:  Seafood Watch
     Reuben Sauce: 
     This yecipe yields enough for 2 sandwiches. 
     This German Reuben Sauce is rather zesty!
     Step 1:  Place 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of German Mustard.
     Add 2 tablespoons of organic ketchup.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of horse radish.
     Add 1 tablespoon of imported German sweet pickle relish.
     Step 2:  Mix the ingredients together.
     Chill for 30 minutes, so the flavors meld.

     Blueberry Pomegranate Vinaigrette:
     This recipe yields about 1/4 cup.  (Enough for 2 petite salad portions.) 
     Blueberry Pomegranate Vinegar was widely available a few years ago.  If none is available, try another berry flavor vinegar.  
     Step 1:  Place 1 tablespoon of Blueberry Pomegranate Vinegar in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.
     Add 1 teaspoon of Dijon Mustard.
     Stir the ingredients.
     Step 2:  Slowly add 3 tablespoons of olive oil, while stirring with a whisk, to create a loose vinaigrette emulsion.
     Step 3:  Set the vinaigrette aside for 5 minutes, so the flavors meld.
     Stir before serving.

     Blueberry Pomegranate Vinaigrette Dandelion Salad: 
     This recipe yields 1 petite salad.  
     Step 1:  Place 1 1/2 cups of torn dandelion greens in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of thin bias sliced green onion.
     Chill the simple salad mixture till it is needed.
     Step 2:  Just before serving when the sandwich is ready, pour 1 1/2 tablespoons of the Blueberry Pomegranate Vinaigrette over the dandelion salad.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Mound the salad on a plate as an accompaniment.

     Sauerkraut Preparation:
     This recipe yields enough for 1 sandwich.
     Step 1:  Place about 3/4 cup of sauerkraut in a strainer.
     Rinse the sauerkraut twice with water.
     Step 2:  Place a sauté pan over medium low/low heat.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of unsalted butter.
     Add the rinsed sauerkraut.
     Gently sauté till the sauerkraut is warmed.
     Keep the sauerkraut warm on a stove top.

     Yellowfin Tuna Reuben: 
     This recipe yields 1 sandwich.
     Step 1:  Select or cut a thin Yellowfin Tuna Steak that weighs 4 to 5 ounces.  The yellowfin tuna should be about 1/4" thick and is should be able to fit on the sliced bread. 
     Step 2:  Heat a cast iron griddle over medium/medium low heat.
     Pour 1 teaspoon of melted unsalted butter on the griddle.
     Place the thin tuna steak on the butter.
     Lightly season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Cook the tuna steak on both sides, while starting the grilled sandwich.
     Step 3:  Brush 2 slices of rye bread with melted unsalted butter.
     Place the bread on the griddle.
     Place a few thin slices Swiss Cheese (Ementaler Cheese) on the bread.
     Spread about 1 tablespoon of the Reuben Sauce over the cheese.
     Step 4:  *A thin tuna steak takes very little time to cook!  
     Check the thin tuna steak.  When it is almost fully cooked, place the tuna steak on one of the bread slices on the grill.  
     Place a layer of the warm sauerkraut on top of the tuna.
     Grill the 2 slices of bread till they are toasted golden brown and the cheese melts.
     Step 5:   Use a spatula to place the plain cheese and sauce grilled bread on top of the tuna and sauerkraut half of the sandwich.
     Place the Yellowfin Tuna Reuben on a cutting board
     Cut the sandwich in half and set it on a plate.
     Garnish the plate with pickles and Blueberry Pomegranate Vinaigrette Dandelion Salad.
     This is a nice tasting gourmet Reuben Sandwich!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Beer Batter Artichoke Hearts with Garlic Herb Tomato Sauce

     A Gourmet Beer Batter Appetizer!
     Beer batter food done the right way is a pleasure to eat!  Beer batter food done the wrong way is a greasy mess.  
     Too thin of a batter will result in a thin crispy porous coating that traps plenty of grease.  Too thick of a batter will result in a thick caky texture that absorbs more grease, because the frying time has to be extended.  The perfect beer batter consistency lies somewhere in between.  Beer batter should be the consistency of a pancake batter at room temperature.
     The simpler the beer batter recipe, the better the beer batter will be.  Many chefs add eggs and milk to a beer batter, but that is unnecessary.  That is like turning a beer batter into a cake batter.
     Highly seasoned beer batter is not good tasting tasting at all.  You should be able to taste the flavor of beer.  I have used this same beer batter recipe for many years.  Ginger and turmeric are two spices that accent the flavor of beer, so they naturally taste good in beer batter.  Only enough ginger should be added to give a hint of flavor.  The turmeric gives the beer batter a pretty pale yellow color.

     About 20 years ago, fried food started to include some new gourmet items.  Fried beer batter artichoke hearts were on the appetizer menu at a café that I cooked in.  Fried beer batter artichoke hearts appealed to customers that were tired of breaded fried mushrooms and breaded fried zucchini, which seemed to be offered on every bar menu in America.  Beer batter artichokes have a nice light appealing flavor., so they are perfect for serving as an appetizer.
     If you use freshly cooked artichoke hearts for this recipe, you may want to lightly salt the artichoke hearts, to bring out more flavor.  Canned artichoke hearts are a nice convenience.  Some brands of canned artichoke hearts are better than others.
     I made today's recipe with some nice quality canned whole artichoke hearts.  It is always better to purchase canned whole artichoke hearts, then slice them yourself.    

     Beer Batter:
     This recipe yields about 2 1/2 cups.  
     Pilsner or a light Lager is best for making beer batter that will coat delicate tasting items.  An extra hoppy or extra malty beer is not a good choice.  
     When I was the chef at an English pub, we only used the last bit of beer left in the bottom of a keg, which was usually flat.  Leftover lager or pilsner beer that has gone flat is a good choice for making beer batter.  Anything is better than pouring flat high quality beer down the drain!
     Step 1:  Place 2 cups of light lager beer in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 2 pinches of turmeric.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and white pepper.
     Step 2:  Add just enough flour, while whisking, to create a medium thin batter.
     *The batter should have the consistency of pancake batter, that yields thin pancakes.
     Set the batter aside for immediate use.  

     Garlic Herb Tomato Sauce:
     This recipe yields 1/3 cup.  (1 appetizer portion)
     This is a quickly made tomato sauce that requires good canned tomatoes.  High quality imported Italian canned San Marzano Tomatoes require very little cooking time.  
     Minced fresh herbs are best for this recipe.    
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 4 finely chopped cloves of garlic.
     Sauté till the garlic turns a golden color.
     Step 2:  Add 1/3 cup of imported Italian canned crushed San Marzano Tomato.
     Add 2 tablespoons of tomato juice.
     Add 1 pinch sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 small pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 small pinch of ground sage.
     Step 3:  Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thick consistency.
     Step 4:  Place the garlic herb tomato sauce in a small ramekin and keep it warm on a stove top or in a 135ºF bain marie.  .

     Beer Batter Artichoke Hearts:
     This recipe yields 1 large appetizer portion that can be shared by 2 guests.
     Step 1:  Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360ºF.
     Step 2:  Cut 8 canned artichoke hearts in half from top to bottom.
     Step 3:  Lightly dredge the artichoke heart halves in flour.
     Dip the artichoke hearts in the beer batter.
     Step 4:  Drop 1 beer batter artichoke heart half into the hot frying oil at a time, so they do not stick together.  (Fry in small batches if necessary.)
     Deep fry till the beer batter artichoke hearts are a crispy golden color.
     Step 5:  Use a fryer net to remove the beer batter artichoke hearts from the hot oil.
     Place the beer batter artichokes on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan to drain off any excess oil.

     Beer Batter Artichoke Hearts with Garlic Herb Tomato Sauce:
     Place the ramekin of Garlic Herb Tomato Sauce on an appetizer plate.
     Place several Italian Parsley sprigs on the plate as a bed for the artichoke hearts.
     Mound the Beer Batter Artichoke Hearts on the bed of parsley sprigs.

     This is a nice light beer batter vegetable appetizer!

Grilled Smoked Hog Jowl and Garlic Peppers on a Poppyseed Bun

     A Gourmet Hot Dog Bun Snack Sandwich!
     Hot Dog Bun Snack Sandwiches were a trendy item for a short time back when the Gourmet Street Food trend first got underway.  Chefs were putting every gourmet item imaginable on a hot dog bun, with the goal of creating an irresistibly good tasting snack sandwich that could be eaten in just a few bites.    
     Old time ethnic food favorites and interesting secondary cuts of meat are good choices for making a hot dog bun snack sandwich.  Hog Jowl definitely fits the bill of fare, because this is a secondary cut of pork that has ethnic roots no matter where it is prepared.
     Hog Jowl is the cheek meat of a hog.  There is a thick section of fat and thick section of meat in a hog jowl.  Smoke houses in the Chicago meat packing district produce very high quality smoked pork products.  The Smoked Hog Jowl that is featured in today's recipe was purchased in Chicago.  The Smoked Hog Jowl had a classic hickory and white oak smoke flavor.
     Slowly grilling a slice of Smoked Hog Jowl on a cast iron griddle really enhances the smoky pork flavor.  Mildly spicy grilled Garlic Peppers compliment the rich flavor of Smoked Hog Jowl in a nice way.
     Serving pickles with a sandwich is the classic way to go.  The only pickles that I had on hand was a variety of traditional Persian pickle products.  Pickle products from Iran and Iraq are superb in quality and they should be, because ancient Mesopotamians were among the first to perfect the pickling process.  Colorful Persian pickles always look nice on a plate.
     Grilled Smoked Hog Jowl and Garlic Peppers on a Poppyseed Bun:
     This recipe yields 1 hot dog bun snack sandwich.
     Step 1:  Cut a 4 thin slices of smoked hog jowl.  (Each slice should weigh about 3/4 ounce to 1 ounce.)
     Step 2:  Heat a cast iron griddle or skillet over medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of blended olive oil.
     Add the sliced hog jowl pieces.
     Slowly grill the hog jowl slices till crisp light brown highlights appear on both sides.
     Step 3:  Add 2 thick strips of green bell pepper.
     Add 1 seeded Cubanelle Pepper that is cut into long strips.
     Add 1/2 of a julienne sliced seeded green jalapeño pepper.
     Add 2 chopped garlic cloves.
     Add 1 pinch of coarsely ground black pepper and sea salt.
     Gently grill the peppers, garlic and hog jowl slices together, till the peppers are tender and lightly caramelized on the edges.
     Step 4:  Add 5 or 6 thin strips of roasted red bell pepper.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Step 5:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Keep the smoked hog jowl and garlic peppers warm on a stove top.
     Step 6:  Warm a Chicago style Poppyseed Hot Dog bun in an oven.
     Place the bun on a cutting board.
     Place the grilled smoked hog jowl slices on the bun.
     Place the Garlic Peppers on the smoked hog jowl slices.
     Step 7:  Place the sandwich on a plate.
     Garnish the plate with parsley sprigs and pickles.
     *The pickles in the photos are Persian Pickled Wild Cucumber, Pickled Pink Turnips and a Pickled Mild Red Paprika Pepper.
     This is a good tasting gourmet style hot dog bun snack sandwich for a Saturday afternoon!