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!