Friday, January 27, 2017

Creole Shrimp and Okra Pizza

     Mardi Gras Pizza Pie!
     Gourmet Mini Pizzas have been popular at trendy restaurants and bars for a couple of decades.  Today's gourmet pizza has a classic Louisiana style Shrimp Creole flavor.  Instead of using a standard Italian pizza sauce, a creole tomato style pizza sauce was the best choice.  The Creole Pizza Sauce is not really a true Creole Tomato Sauce recipe, because it had to be modified so it would withstand pizza oven conditions.  The shrimp and okra toppings were cooked in the sauce to increase flavor.
     When I make a batch of pizza dough, I usually make enough dough for a few mini pizzas and some bread too.  Three mini pizzas and a dozen slider burger rolls is what I baked with this single batch of dough.  Pizza dough is the same thing as Italian bread dough.  Focaccia dough can also be used as pizza dough.
     Pizza Dough:
     Follow this link to the pizza dough recipe in this website:
     • Pizza Dough
     Creole Shrimp and Okra Pizza Sauce:  
     This recipe yields almost 2 cups (1 1/4 cups of sauce with about 1 1/2 cups of cooked shrimp and okra toppings).  (This is enough for a small 10" to 12" pizza)
     This Creole Tomato Sauce is made like a pizza sauce.  Many of the ingredients that are supposed to be in a Creole Tomato Sauce are omitted, because they are used as toppings on the pizza.
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 3 cloves of minced garlic.
     Saute till the garlic turns a golden color.
     Step 2:  Add 1/4 cup of tomato paste.
     Add 1/3 cup of canned crushed tomatoes.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced celery.
     Add 1/2 cup of shrimp broth.
     Add 1/4 cup of dry white wine.
     Whisk the sauce, so the oil and butter combines.
     Step 3:  Add 1 pinch of tarragon.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 2 pinches of thyme.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.  (Or adjust the amount to taste.)
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of Spanish Paprika.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 4:  Bring the sauce to a simmer.
     Add 3/4 cup of thick sliced fresh okra.
     Add 20 peeled medium size shrimp.  (Remove the tails for this recipe.)
     Simmer and reduce till the shrimp are fully cooked and the sauce till is a medium thin consistency.
     Step 5:  Remove the pan from the heat
     Use a slotted spoon to scoop the okra slices and the shrimp out of the creole pizza sauce and place them in a container.
     Set the sauce and cooked toppings aside and let them cool to room temperature.
     Creole Shrimp and Okra Pizza:
     This recipe yields 1 mini 10" to 12" pizza.  
     *A mini pizza is usually 10" to 12" in diameter.  A portion of dough for mini pizza weighs 6 to 8 ounces, depending on how thick you prefer the crust.  A 5" to 6" round dough ball portion is plenty for a mini pizza.
     Step 1:  Place a mini pizza portion of the pizza dough on a floured counter top.
     Pat the dough out with your fingertips, till it becomes a flat round mini pizza shape.
     *A rolling pin or the stretching method can also be used to shape the dough.
     Step 2:  Place the shaped mini pizza dough on a lightly oiled pizza pan.
     *If necessary, pat the dough into a flat round pizza shape again.
     Brush the mini pizza dough with olive oil.
     Step 3:  Place the pan in a 400ºF oven.
     Par bake till the dough rises and becomes firm.  (The par baked pizza crust should only be a white color at this time.)
     Step 4:  Remove the pizza pan from the oven.
     Use a spoon to spread the Creole Pizza Sauce on the par baked mini pizza crust.
     *Start at the center of the pizza, and spread the sauce out to the edge of the crust.  Be sure to leave a bare crust border that is about 1/2" wide.
     Step 5:  Sprinkle 1/2 cup of mixed grated mozzarella and grated provolone cheese on the pizza.
     Sprinkle 1/4 cup of diced red bell pepper on the pizza.
     Sprinkle 1/4 cup of diced green bell pepper on the pizza.
     Sprinkle 1/2 cup of diced onion on the pizza.
     Sprinkle 1 thin sliced green onion on the pizza.
     Step 6:  Arrange the reserved cooked shrimp on the pizza.
     Arrange the reserved cooked okra slices on the pizza.
     Step 7:  Sprinkle about 1 cup of mixed mozzarella and provolone cheese over the pizza toppings.  (The amount of cheese is a matter of personal preference!)
     Sprinkle 2 pinches of chopped curly leaf parsley over the pizza.
     Step 8:  Place the pizza back into the 400ºF oven.
     Bake till the cheese melts and the vegetable toppings are cooked till they are aromatic.
     *Only bake till the cheese melts!  Do not bake the pizza for too much time or the shrimp will dry out.   
     Step 9:  Remove the pizza pan from the oven.
     Use a pizza cutting wheel to cut the pizza into 4 to 6 pie shaped slices.
     Slide the sliced pizza onto a serving platter.
     Hoo Lawdy!  A tasty Creole Shrimp and Okra Pizza for Mardi Gras!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Fried Catfish Po' Boy

     A Tasty Louisiana Style Po' Boy for Mardi Gras!
     A Po' Boy (Poor Boy) is a classic Louisiana sandwich that was borne during tough economic times.  Po'Boy Sandwiches were fed to laborers out the back door of New Orleans restaurants back in the late 1800's.  The original Po' Boy Sandwiches were made with fried oysters, fried shrimp or roast beef.  All of these items were dirt cheap back in New Orleans at that time, which suited the laborers just fine, because pay was dirt cheap back in those days too.  In fact, many Po' Boy Sandwiches were simply just given away for free, because in New Orleans nobody wants to see anybody go hungry, especially when times are tough.   
     The Po' Boy name stuck and many of the restaurants that fed the poor folk ended up putting this sandwich on the menu, because it became a popular local item.  Even though a menu price was set at the restaurants, the theme of this sandwich did not change.  A Po' Boy continued to be a hearty sandwich made with cheap meat or seafood.  When the Great Depression struck in the 1920's, the Po' Boy once again lived up to its reputation for keeping poor folks from going hungry.
     The theme of the Po' Boy has not changed in modern times, but the price of one of these sandwiches has increased dramatically because of rising costs.  Even so, a Po' Boy is still one of the best dining values that there is, because this sandwich retained its simple theme.  There is little or no garnishes on an authentic Po' Boy.  A Po' Boy does not require cheese or anything fancy!  
     A Po' Boy only requires meat or seafood and some Louisiana Remoulade Spread.  Catfish is still a top choice for a Po' Boy, because catfish still sells for less than two dollars a pound in most places around the country.  Better still, if you do some fishing, then the catfish is practically free!  
     Some people say that Mayonnaise is the original sandwich spread for a Po' Boy, while others say Remoulade was spread on the original Po'Boy Sandwiches.  One thing is certain, New Orleans chefs have always been all about getting people to enjoy great flavors, no matter how rich or poor the guests may be.  Remoulade is not expensive to make and Louisiana chefs take great pride in their Remoulade recipes.  These are good reasons to give Remoulade the nod for authenticity, as far as the original Po' Boy is concerned.    
     There are four kinds of remoulade that are made in Louisiana and each is usually identified by its color.  Two of the colors are orange and pink and these two remoulade recipes are nearly the same thing.  Both require ketchup and the only difference is whether curry powder is added.  Adding Curry Powder to a Pink Remoulade creates an orange color.  
     White color Remoulade is a basic French mayonnaise secondary recipe and it is popular in New Orleans too.  By adding ketchup to a White Remoulade, the white color turns pink.  Pink Remoulade is by far the most popular Remoulade in Louisiana.  Yellow Remoulade is a White Remoulade that has curry spices added to the recipe and Yellow Remoulade originates in France too.  Once again, by adding ketchup, this Remoulade turns an orange color.  
     There is one key difference between Louisiana Remoulade and French Remoulade.  In France, the traditional mustard for making Remoulade is Dijon Mustard.  In Louisiana, the top choice of mustard happens to be Creole Mustard.  Creole Mustard has influences from many different international cuisines.  The choice of mustard seed for Creole Mustard is much zester than the mustard seeds that are used to make Dijon Mustard.  In fact, many chefs consider Creole Mustard to be the top choice for a Po' Boy Sandwich spread.  A Roast Beef Po' Boy with Creole Mustard is a mighty satisfying flavor combination!  
     As far as the Street Food status of the Po' Boy is concerned, this sandwich was originally served up to poor folk that worked all day for a handful of coins.  In modern times, Po'Boys are served up everywhere from food trucks to trendy craft beer bars.  The best place to get a Fried Catfish Po'Boy is at an old fashioned seafood restaurant or right in the home kitchen!     

     Louisiana Remoulade (Orange Color):
     This recipe yields about 3/4 cup.  (Enough for 3 or 4 sandwiches.)
     There are many Louisiana Remoulade recipe variations.  A higher proportion of Creole Mustard and curry spices gives this Remoulade a unique flavor and color.
     Step 1:  Place 1/4 cup of mayonnaise in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of organic ketchup.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of Louisiana Creole Mustard.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Step 2:  Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced capers.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of finely chopped Baby Dill Gherkin Pickle or Cornichon Pickle.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced green onion.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Step 3:  Add 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Madras Yellow Curry Powder.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 pinch of tarragon.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Step 4:  Add 2 to 3 pinches of cayenne pepper.  (to taste)
     Add 1 pinch of Spanish Paprika.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 5:  Mix the ingredients together.
     Place the Louisiana Remoulade in a container.
     Chill for 20 minutes, so the flavors meld.
     Deep Fried Catfish Nuggets:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Large cut catfish nuggets increase the eye appeal!
     Step 1:  Place 1/2 cup of corn meal in a bowl.
     Add 3/4 cup of Masa Harina (Nixtamal Corn Flour).  
     Season the corn meal mixture with sea salt, black pepper and a couple pinches of cayenne pepper.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Set the breading mixture aside.
     Step 2:  Place 1 large egg in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of water.
     Whisk till blended. 
     Set the egg wash aside.
     Step 3:  Cut 7 ounces of catfish filet into large nugget pieces.
     Dredge the catfish pieces in plain flour.
     Dip the floured catfish pieces in the egg wash.
     Dredge the egg washed catfish pieces in the seasoned corn meal mixture.  (Be sure that the catfish pieces are coated evenly.)
     Step 4:  Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360ºF.  
     Carefully place the catfish nuggets in the hot oil.
     Deep fry till the catfish nuggets are golden brown and fully cooked.
     Step 5:  Use a fry net to remove the fried catfish 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.
     Fried Catfish Po' Boy:   
     This recipe yields 1 hearty Po' Boy Sandwich!  
     Step 1:  Heat a griddle over medium/medium low heat.
     Split a hoagy roll open.
     Brush the roll with melted unsalted butter.
     Grill the roll till it is toasted golden brown.
     Step 2:  Spread a generous layer of the Louisiana Remoulade on the grilled hoagie roll.
     Place a few small pieces of lettuce on the sandwich roll.  (optional)
     Place the fried large catfish nuggets on the sandwich roll.
     Step 3:  Set the Fried Catfish Po' Boy on a plate.
     Garnish the plate with Bread 'n' Butter Pickles and Italian Parsley sprigs.

     Hoo lawdy!  This Fried Catfish Po' Boy sure hits the spot!  If you have a catfish pond nearby, that makes this recipe all the better!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Calamari Fritti with Ginger Chile Mayonnaise and Balsamic Cucumber Salad

     A Nice Snack or Light Lunch!
     Fried Calamari is a classic Italian antipasti.  I literally cooked tons of Calamari in Italian restaurants and Florida seafood restaurants long before fried squid became a mainstream item in America.  During the last two decades, Fried Calamari has been offered on menus everywhere from corner taverns to chain restaurants.  The reason why Fried Calamari has increased in popularity is easy to understand.  Fried Squid has a very mild flavor and it is nearly 100% protein with no fat, so this appetizer appeals to health conscious consumers.
     Classic Calamari Fritti is usually served plain or with a ramekin of tomato sauce on the side.  In modern times, serving squid with a fancy dipping sauce is en vogue, especially in trendy restaurants.  Emulsion sauces are the classic French choice of dipping sauce for fried food.  Ginger Chile Mayonnaise is a nice choice of emulsion sauce for fried squid!
     Serving a small portion of Fried Squid with a petite specialty salad also increases the appeal.  Health conscious guests will be more likely to order the Fried Squid if a little bit of salad is on the plate.  This is because the thought of only snacking on fried food with an emulsion sauce may seem like lipid intake overload.       
     When it comes to making Fried Calamari, the simpler, the better!  Only seasoned flour and cleaned sliced squid is needed to make a perfect batch of Fried Calamari.  Many chefs add all sorts of extra ingredients to the flour mixture.  The worst thing to add is cornmeal.  Adding cornmeal to the flour may yield a crunchier texture, but the cornmeal coating easily flakes off.  The flavor of fried cornmeal is not very appealing too.  Cornmeal is usually only added because it will make a customer feel fuller when the portion size is too small.
     Another unnecessary ingredient is buttermilk.  Seafood is usually only soaked in buttermilk if the seafood is starting to spoil.  Many chefs soak squid in buttermilk in an attempt to moisten the squid, so a flour and cornmeal coating will stick.  If cornmeal is not added to the flour, then properly prepared squid needs nothing extra to get the flour to stick. 

     Preparing Whole Small Squid:       
     Selecting high quality small squid and properly preparing the raw squid is the key to making great Fried Calamari.  Just like shrimp, small squid are packed in five pound boxes and frozen before it is sent to the market.  Grocers and seafood markets thaw the squid and sell it as is.  
     Some overly zealous seafood handlers rinse the squid to remove the squid juices and this causes the squid to look dry.  Flour will not stick to dry looking rinsed squid, so it should be avoided.  Squid that is thawed properly will have a thin coating of squid juices.  Flour will easily stick to moist looking squid, even after the squid is cleaned of cartilage and sliced. 
     Cleaning small squid does not involve giving the squid a bath, as in rinsing the squid with water.  Cleaning squid only refers to removing the cartilage blade from the head and removing the beak.  
     The easiest way to clean squid is to separate the tentacles from the head, then pop the beak bulb out of the tentacles.  Sticking a finger in the squid head is the easiest way to remove the cartilage blade.  The blade easily slides out when pulled.  
     When squid is very fresh when initially frozen, a translucent bulbous item may be inside the head.  This is the squids simple digestive tract and brain.  Usually this item disintegrates after freezing, but if it is intact, then slide it out of the squid head and discard it.    
     Sometimes the squid's last catch is inside the head too.  Usually it is a tiny crab or a little minnow.  This is nothing to worry about, because these little creatures are also as clean as the sea they were caught in.  Simply remove the squid's last meal and discard it.  Rinsing the squid is still unnecessary.
     Cutting the squid for frying is easy too.  Small tentacle bunches can be left intact, while large tentacle bunches should be cut in half.  The squid heads should be cut into 1/4" wide rings.  After the squid is cut, immediately place it in a sealed container and chill it till it is needed.    

     Ginger Chile Mayonnaise: 
     This recipe yields 1 cup.  (4 portions)
     Step 1:  Place 3/4 cup of mayonnaise in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of ginger paste.
     Add 1 teaspoon of Sriracha.
     Add 2 teaspoons of Korean style Coarse Ground Red Serrano Chile Pepper Paste.  (sambal)
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and white pepper.
     Step 2:  Stir the ingredients together.
     Place the Ginger Chile Mayonnaise in a container.
     Chill for 1 hour, so the flavors meld.                     
     Balsamic Cucumber Salad:
     This recipe yields 1 petite portion.
     Step 1:  Peel and seed 1/2 of an average size cucumber.
     Cut the cucumber into 1/4" thick slices.  (About 1 cup is needed.)
     Place the sliced cucumber in a mixing bowl.
     Step 2:  Add 1 tablespoon of thin sliced green onion.  
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of a minced garlic.
     Add 4 pitted black olives that are cut in half.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 3:  Toss the ingredients together.
     Place the cucumber salad in a container.
     Chill the cucumber salad till it is needed.  Stir before serving.
     *Serve this salad within 1 hour, so the cucumber slices remain crisp! 

     Calamari Fritti:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     If the squid does not have much of its own juices, then you can moisten the squid with 1 or 2 teaspoon of milk. 
     Frying with fresh oil gives the calamari a crispy white coating with light golden highlights.  Tan color Fried Calamari that is seen in restaurants usually is the result of old dirty frying oil.
     Overcooked squid is like eating tough chewy rubber.  Flash frying for just about one minute is all it takes and the squid will be tender.
     Step 1:  Follow the directions in the "Preparing Whole Small Squid" section above.  About 6 ounces of sliced squid and tentacles will be needed.  (3/4 cup)    
     Step 2:  Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360ºF.  
     Step 3:  Place 2 cups of All Purpose Flour in a mixing bowl.
     Lightly season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Step 4:  Dredge the moist sliced squid in seasoned flour.
     Place the floured squid in a fine mesh strainer and gently shake till the excess flour is removed.     
     Step 5:  Place the floured squid in the hot oil.
     Fry till the flour coating becomes crisp.
     *It only takes 30 seconds to 1 minute for the squid to be fully cooked and for the flour coating to become crisp!  Be sure to have a long handle frying net ready to remove the squid from the hot oil!  
     Step 5:  Use a fryer net to remove the Calamari Fritti from the hot frying oil.
     Place the Calamari Fritti on a wire screen roasting rack to drain off any excess oil.
     Serve as soon as possible, so the Calamari Fritti is still hot!
     Calamari Fritti with Ginger Chile Mayonnaise and Balsamic Cucumber Salad:
     This recipe yields 1 appetizer plate presentation.
     Mound the Calamari Fritti on the front half of a plate.
     Place a small ramekin of the Ginger Chile Mayonnaise next to the fried squid.
     Place the Balsamic Cucumber Salad on the back half of the plate.  (Drain off any excess marinade.)

     This is a nice Calamari Fritti antipasti platter for a wine bar or at home!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Philly Pizza Steak

     A Classic Philly Pizza Steak!
     When in the Philadelphia area, the signs for sandwich shops have slang words that the locals understand.  Outsiders easily recognize the name "Cheese Steak" because this is how this sandwich is spelled on restaurant menus far away from Philadelphia.  The word "Cheesesteak" is another easy to recognize variation.
     The confusion starts when an outsider sees a neon light in a restaurant window that simply says "Steaks."  To an outsider, the word "Steak" only has one meaning, which is a cut of tender beef that weighs 8 to 16 ounces and is cooked on a chargrill.  In a Philadelphia sandwich shop, the word "Steak" always refers to a grilled shaved beef sub sandwich.
     The word "Steak" does not necessarily refer to whether a Cheese Steak has cheese on it or not, but many Philadelphia cooks include this in the Philly Steak definition.  In some Philadelphia restaurants, when a customer orders a Steak and does not specify a cheese, the sandwich will come with no cheese on it.  In other restaurants, a Steak will automatically have cheese on it.  The regular customers already know how the Steak will come off the grill, while an outsider might have to ask.
     The easiest way to ensure that cheese will be on the sandwich is to specify what kind of cheese that you want on the sandwich.  Usually the choices are Provolone, American or Whiz.  Another way is to look at the menu and order a Steak Shop specialty sandwich.  One of the oldest classic Cheese Steak shop specialties is a Pizza Steak.  A Pizza Steak is guaranteed to have Provolone on it.  Sometimes a Pizza Steak even has both Provolone and Mozzarella on the sandwich.
     As one can imagine, a Pizza Steak is an awesome munch!  This sandwich is like eating a pizza and a Cheese Steak all wrapped up in one.  Some sandwich shops load a Pizza Steak up with tomato sauce, onion, peppers, mushrooms and pepperoni for one set price.  Others just add tomato sauce and cheese, then leave the rest of the ingredients up to the customer, but the shop might charge for each extra item.  Either way, a Pizza Steak costs a dollar or two more than a regular Steak and it is well worth the price.
     Old school Philly cooks sometimes chop all the ingredients on the grill with the shredded beef.  When a Pizza Steak is prepared this way, it can be difficult for a busy waitress to tell which sandwich is which.  Placing the pepperoni on top is a good way to mark a Pizza Steak.  The sight of roasted pepperoni on a Pizza Steak straight out of an oven adds to the appeal!

     Italian Tomato Sauce:
     This sauce can be used in many recipes, including classic pasta.  Follow the link to the recipe in this website.
     • Salsa di Pomodoro

     Philly Pizza Steak:
     This recipe yields 1 foot long Pizza 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 2 teaspoons of blended olive.
     Step 2:  Place 3 tablespoons of diced onion on the griddle.
     Add 1/4 cup of thin sliced Button Cave Mushrooms.
     Add 3 tablespoons of diced green bell pepper.
     Briefly grill till the vegetables start to cook.
     Step 3:  Place 7 ounces of paper thin sliced Beef Knuckle Roast on top of the vegetables on the griddle.
     Lightly season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Step 4:  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:  Mound the beef and vegetable mixture across the center of the griddle.
     Place 4 thin slices of Provolone Cheese on the mound of beef and vegetables.  (About 1 1/2 ounces)
     Step 6:  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 7:  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 8:  Pour about 1/2 cup of Salsa di Pomodoro on the sandwich.
     Sprinkle about 1/3 cup of grated Mozzarella Cheese on the tomato sauce.
     Place several paper thin slices of Pepperoni on the cheese.  (About 1 1/2 ounces)
     Step 9:  Place the sandwich on a broiler pan.
     Place the pan in a 400ºF oven.
     Bake till the cheese melts and a few golden brown highlights appear.
     Step 10:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Place the sandwich on a cutting board and cut it in half.
     Place the Philly Pizza Steak on a plate.
     Garnish the plate with curly leaf parsley sprigs and pickles of your choice.                      

     A Philly Pizza Steak certainly is a classic!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Za'atar Chicken Tenders and Pickled Ginger Honey Yogurt Slaw Hot Dog Bun Snack Sandwich

     A Gourmet Hot Dog Bun Snack Sandwich!
     There is no shortage of flavor on today's little hot dog bun snack sandwich!  Za'atar Spice Mix has been popular since long before the ancient age of the Egyptian Pharaohs.  Za'atar is commonly used as a topping on Khubz Arabi (pita bread).  Za'atar spiced chicken is popular too.  The toasted sesame and exotic spice flavors of Za'atar Chicken are perfect for a snack sandwich.
     There are many Za'atar Spice Mix recipes.  There are regional and local variations of Za'atar.  Some of the family Za'atar recipes have been passed on from one generation to the next since the days of ancient Egypt and some recipes are closely guarded secrets.
     Usually the base spice mixture for a traditional Za'atar is a combination of cumin, coarse ground toasted sesame seed, wild thyme, dried red sumac berry, fenugreek and ground peppercorn.  Several other spices can be part of the mixture too.  Purchasing the separate spices to make Za'atar can be expensive and Wild Thyme is rarely available.  Wild Thyme is required and this herb tastes nothing like the Thyme species that is used in European cuisine.
     Honestly, it is much more cost effective to purchase a container of pre-mixed Za'atar.  Using a Za'atar Spice Mix that is crafted in the old world also allows a cook to become familiar with the flavor, so it is easier to mix a custom variation of the recipe at a later date.  Containers of Za'atar are available at Mediterranean food markets and they sell for a modest price.
     Regular buttermilk or mayonnaise based coleslaw would not be a good choice for today's recipe.  The light flavor of a Pickled Ginger Honey Slaw is a perfect match for the flavor of Za'atar Chicken.

     Pickled Ginger Honey Coleslaw:
     This recipe yields 2 cups.  (Enough for about 6 hot dog bun snack sandwiches.)
     After the cabbage wilts, the total volume of the slaw will decrease.  
     Step 1:  Place 2 1/2 cups of very thin sliced Napa Cabbage in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 tablespoons of finely chopped green bell pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of finely chopped roasted red bell pepper.
     Add a little bit of very thin sliced carrot strips for color.  (about 2 tablespoons.)
     Step 2:  Add 3 tablespoons of very thin sliced pickled ginger strips.  (Sliced sushi style pickled ginger is perfect for this recipe.)
     Add 2 tablespoons of honey.
     Add 1/4 cup of goat milk yogurt (Greek Yogurt).
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 3:  Thoroughly mix the ingredients together.
     Place the coleslaw in a container.
     Chill the coleslaw for 1 hour, so the flavors meld and the cabbage wilts.  Stir occasionally.
     Stir the slaw before serving.

     Za'atar Chicken Tenders: 
     This recipe yields 2 chicken tenders.  (Enough for 1 hot dog bun snack sandwich.)
     Pre-mix Za'atar is available in Mediterranean food markets.
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 2 teaspoons of blended olive oil.
     Add 2 chicken tenders.
     Lightly season with sea salt.
     Step 2:  Briefly sauté the chicken tenders on both sides till they are almost halfway cooked.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Step 3:  Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of virgin olive oil over each chicken tender.
     Sprinkle a generous amount of Za'atar Spice Mix on top of the chicken tenders.
     Step 4:  Place the sauté pan with the Za'atar Chicken Tenders in a 350ºF oven.
     Roast the chicken tenders till they are fully cooked and till the Za'atar Spices are lightly toasted.
     Keep the the Za'atar Chicken tenders warm on a stove top.

     Za'atar Chicken Tenders and Pickled Ginger Honey Yogurt Slaw Hot Dog Bun Snack Sandwich:
     This recipe yields 1 hot dog bun snack sandwich.
     Chicago style Poppyseed Hot Dog Buns are nice for this recipe.
     Step 1:  Warm 1 Poppyseed Hot Dog Bun in an oven.
     Place the bun on a plate.
     Step 2:  Spread about 1/3 cup of the Pickled Ginger Honey Yogurt Slaw on the hot dog bun.
     Place the 2 Za'atar Chicken Tenders on the slaw.
     Step 3:  Garnish the plate with a Persian Pickled Wild Cucumber and an Italian Parsley sprig.

     Gourmet hot dog bun snack sandwiches are a trendy item and this one is loaded with great flavor!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Nuclear Scorpion Tom Toms

     Super Spicy Hot Chicken Tom Toms! 
     Those who are savvy shoppers surely have noticed that the price of chicken wings are unrealistically high.  This is because chicken wings are currently in high demand.
     About 50 years ago, chicken wings were just scrap meat that sold for pennies per pound.  After the Buffalo Wing craze spread nationwide during the early 1980's, the price has steadily increased.  During the last two decades, every time that a major sporting event neared on the calender, the price of wings jumped to a new all time high.  Shortly after the sports event was over, the price was rarely reduced.  Basically, this means that the price of wings are grossly inflated and they simply are not worth the money spent.
     On the other hand, chicken legs still sell for a very low price.  Chicken legs have been overlooked by tavern and casual restaurant chefs, to the demand has not exceeded supply.  Anything that can be done with chicken wings can be done with chicken legs, but for a much lower cost!
     Chicken legs are large and meaty enough to employ charcuterie fabrication methods.  A good sharp paring knife, a boning knife and thin blade poultry shears that have a bone lopping notch, are all that is needed for creating some professional looking Chicken Leg Tom Toms.
     The technique used to fabricate the Chicken Leg Tom Toms in the photos above was something that I learned from a Chinese chef well over three decades ago.  The Chinese chef stated two good reasons for fabricating Chicken Leg Tom Toms.   Number one, by gathering the meat over the knee joint, it forms a ball shape that cooks evenly.  Reason number two should be obvious to every viewer.  When the meat is gathered at one end of the leg bone, that creates a long stick handle to grasp with fingers.  Grasping a bare clean bone handle, sure does save on the high price of paper napkins, so environmental green sustainability is increased.  There are no messy Buffalo Wing Sauce covered fingers to deal with!  
     Many chefs use the word "Nuclear" to describe super spicy hot chicken wings.  Today's Chicken Tom Toms certainly are nuclear.  A sauce made with Scorpion Peppers is as spicy hot as it gets.   Nuclear Scorpion Tom Toms have a sting that packs the power of an atomic bomb!

     Chicken Leg Tom Toms Fabrication:
     This recipe yields 4 Tom Toms.  (1 portion)
     Narrow blade kitchen shears with a bone lopping notch will make this fabrication task much easier to do.  The highest quality kitchen shears are found in restaurant supply stores.  
     Step 1:  Select 4 meaty chicken legs.
     Use the bone lopping notch on the kitchen shears to cut through the bone close to the foot joint.
     Step 2:  Pull the skin and fat off of the leg.
     Step 3:  Use your fingers to loosen the meat that is attached to the tendons and shin bone.  Insert a finger or a spoon handle between the meat and the bone.
     Step 4:  Push and slide the leg meat toward the thigh joint and stretch the leg meat over the thigh joint.    
     *If the meat will not easily stretch over the thigh joint, then cut a small incision through the edge of the leg meat to add some extra clearance.
     The leg meat will now be inside out and it will completely cover the thigh joint.
     Step 5:  Use the kitchen shears to clip off any exposed tendons.
     Chill the Tom Toms till they are needed.

     Nuclear Scorpion Sauce:  *Extra Spicy Hot!
     This recipe yields about 1 1/4 cups.  (Enough sauce to coat 6 to 8 chicken leg tom toms.)  
     Dave's Gourmet hot sauce company makes a good Scorpion Pepper Hot Sauce that can be used in recipes.  The Scorpion Pepper flavor is unadulterated.  
     The level of spicy heat can be adjusted for personal taste, but a Nuclear Sauce should be well into the extra spicy hot flavor range.  About 1 1/2 teaspoons of scorpion pepper hot sauce will create a medium hot flavor.  About 3 tablespoons will create a super spicy hot nuclear flavor!  
     Step 1:  Heat a small stainless steel sauce pot over low heat.
     Add 1 1/4 cups of water.
     Add 1/4 cup of canned tomato puree.
     Add 3 tablespoons of organic ketchup.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of Dijon Mustard.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of honey.
     Add 1 tablespoon of melted unsalted butter.
     Step 2:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of cider vinegar.
     Add 1 teaspoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Step 3:  Add 1 pinch of garlic powder.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of onion powder.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cumin.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ginger powder.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 4:  Add 2 teaspoons of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1 tablespoon of New Mexico Chile Powder.
     Add 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
     Add 3 tablespoons of Scorpion Pepper Hot Sauce.  (or to taste)
     Step 5:  Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin consistency that can coat a spoon.
     Place the sauce in container and keep it warm on a stove top.

     Nuclear Scorpion Tom Toms:
     This recipe yields 4 Tom Toms. (1 portion)
     Step 1:  Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided sauce pot to 360ºF.
     Step 2:  Place 4 prepared Chicken Leg Tom Toms in the hot oil.
     Fry till the Tom Toms are fully cooked and crispy golden brown.  (A probe thermometer placed in the center of the meat near the bone must read at least 165ºF for 15 seconds.)
     Place the Tom Toms on a wire screen roasting rack to drain off any excess oil.
     Step 3:  Use a pastry brush to swab a generous amount of the Nuclear Scorpion Sauce on each Tom Tom, but try to not get any on the bones.
     Step 4:  Arrange the Nuclear Scorpion Tom Toms on the center of a plate, so the bones stand vertically and the bone tips met at a central focal point.
     Spoon a little bit of extra sauce on the plate.
     Sprinkle some thin bias sliced onion slivers over the Tom Toms.

     Viola!  Super spicy hot Nuclear Scorpion Tom Toms!  These Nuclear Scorpion Tom Toms can be eaten by guests and not a drop of sauce will cling to their fingers.  When compared to Buffalo Chicken Wings, Chicken Leg Tom Toms are the superior choice!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

French Pig In A Blanket

     A French Style Pig In A Blanket!
     A classic Pig In A Blanket is usually made with biscuit dough.  Puff Pastry is the best choice for wrapping the hot dog when making a French Pig In A Blanket.  Puff Pastry adds a bit of panache!
     For a gourmet Pig In A Blanket, only a high quality hot dog will do.  There are many different kinds of hot dogs in America and each city seems to have a local favorite.  Since I made today's recipe example while working in Chicago, a Vienna Beef Hot Dog was the top choice.  A thick Vienna Hot Dog wrapped with puff pastry yields an extra plump looking Pig In A Blanket!
     To kick the French style Pig In A Blanket up a notch, Dijon Mustard and Gruyere Cheese are also rolled in the blanket too.  This creates a signature French flavor that is quite appealing.
     Frozen puff pastry dough from a grocery store is a nice convenience, especially when time is limited.  Manufactured frozen puff pastry dough was used to make today's recipe example.  For quality oriented home cooks that have plenty of time on their hands, making a batch of Pâte Feuilletée from scratch will yield a French Pig In A Blanket that is worth bragging about.  A recipe for Pâte Feuilletée was recently published in my Classic Cuisine Website.  Here is the link:  • Pâte Feuilletée (French Puff Pastry Dough) and Blitz Puff Pastry Dough   
     French Pig In A Blanket:
     This recipe yields 1 Pig In A Blanket.
     The better the hot dog, the better the Pig In A Blanket!  Good butcher shops sell handcrafted hot dogs.  Nathan's, Hebrew National and Vienna are top choice hot dog brands.      
     Step 1:  Cut a rectangular shaped piece of puff pastry dough sheet that is almost as long as the hot dog and wide enough to wrap around the hot dog.
     Step 2:  Spread 2 teaspoons of Dijon Mustard on the piece of puff pastry, but leave a 1/2" bare border on one of the long sides.
     Place 1 thin slice of Gruyere Cheese on the mustard.  (If no Gruyere is available, then Swiss Emmentaler is a good substitute.)
     Step 3:  Brush the bare border edge of the puff pastry with egg wash.
     Place 1 hot dog on top of the cheese on the puff pastry.  
     Roll the puff pastry and hot dog together to wrap the hot dog, so the egg washed edge overlaps.
     Press the egg washed seam edge of the dough together, so it is sealed tight.
     Step 4:  Place the Pig In A Blanket on a parchment paper lined baking pan, with the seam of the pastry facing down.
     Use a knife to score small marks across the top of the pastry.
     Brush the pastry with egg wash.
     Step 5:  Place the pan in a 375ºF oven.
     Bake till the pastry is fully cooked and golden brown.
     Step 6:  Use a spatula to set the French Pig In A Blanket on a plate.
     Garnish the plate with a curly leaf parsley sprig and pickles of your choice.
     The Dijon Mustard and Gruyere Cheese combine to give this French Pig In A Blanket a very appealing flavor!

Double Pizza Burger with Sweet Peppers

     Make It A Double!
     Long before the gourmet burger craze began, the only option for an out of the ordinary burger was the classic Pizza Burger or a BBQ Burger.  Before the late 1970's, mainstream restaurants were not really into fancy toppings for burgers.  Bleu Cheese was about the only option for a fancy Cheeseburger.  Combinations of ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise were the only choice of sauce unless a restaurant had barbecue sauce on the menu.  Grilled onions, mushrooms and bacon were practically the only cooked burger toppings back in those days.
      Back in the 1960's through the 1980's, a fast food style chain restaurant called Gino's featured the Pizza Burger as its marquis creation.  At first, the Pizza Burgers at this fast food chain were great, but as time moved on, the quality of their Pizza Burgers became unappealing.  Soon this fast food chain ended up being a place to avoid.   
     Because the Pizza Burger was a good idea, many Italian restaurants offered a Pizza Burger as a lunch menu item back in the 1970's and 1980's.  The first Italian restaurant that I apprenticed in actually had a Pizza Burger on the lunch menu.  The owner of that Italian restaurant was Sicilian and he liked pizza burgers made with his perfection tomato sauces and hand crafted Italian Bread Burger Rolls.  
     As far as fast food was concerned, the Sicilian chef drew the line with French Fries.  We offered no French Fries on the menu, because they were French!  The charismatic Sicilian owner would go through the comical act of blowing a fuse every time that a customer asked for French Fries.  He would stand in the dining room and scold the waiter, so the conversation about a French Fry request could be overheard by the customers.  He used every hand gesture in the book while saying, "What do you think this is?  Some kind of a French restaurant or something?  If they want potatoes, offer them Gnocchi!"   
     After the first gourmet burger trend faded away in the mid 1980's, it seemed like Pizza Burgers disappeared from nearly every restaurant menu.  The Pizza Burger did survive, because it was popular family meal in home kitchens nationwide.  The flavors of tomato sauce and mozzarella on a burger are very appealing.  Pizza Burgers were a meal that nearly every burger loving family enjoyed. 
     A good juicy Pizza Burger is like biting into a tasty sloppy meatball sub!  Cheese, tomato sauce and burger juices drip over the chin and all over the place.  A Pizza Burger is not exactly a neat tidy meal.  This is part of the charm!  
     For those readers that really miss the good old days of classic Pizza Burgers, today's Double Pizza Burger recipe will put a smile on your face!  Yes, I think so highly of the Italian Pizza Burger that I made it a double!  

     Shiny Hamburger and Slider Rolls Recipe:
     Shiny hamburger rolls are a good option and they are fairly easy to make.  They add a classy look to a gourmet burger and they have a nice texture.  Follow the link to the recipe in this website:

     Italian Tomato Sauce Recipe: 
     The better the tomato sauce, the better the Pizza Burger will be!  Follow the link to the recipe in this website:
     • Salsa di Pomodoro

     Sweet Peppers:
     This recipe yields enough for 1 burger. 
     Ripe orange, yellow and red bell peppers have a naturally "sweet" flavor. 
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add about 1 cup (1 handful) of mixed yellow, orange and red sweet bell peppers that are cut into 1/4" wide strips.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Step 2:  Briefly sauté till the sweet peppers become tender.  (Try not to brown the sweet peppers!)
     Keep the sweet pepper strips warm on a stove top.
     Double Pizza Burger with Sweet Peppers:
     This recipe yields 1 large double pizza burger.
     Step 1:  Place 8 ounces of ground sirloin beef in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of plain fine bread crumbs.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of garlic powder.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Divide the Italian Burger mixture into 2 equal portions.
     Press the burger portions into patty shapes that are slightly wider than the burger roll.  
     *Always allow for shrinkage when making burger patties.  A patty that shrinks smaller than the burger roll after cooking does look awkward, so it is best to make the raw patties a little bit wider than the burger bun!
     Chill the burger patties in a refrigerator for 20 minutes, so the herb flavors meld.  
     Step 3:  Place about 1/3 cup of the Italian Tomato Sauce in a small sauce pot.
     Gently warm the sauce over low heat.
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat or in a 135ºF bain marie.
     Step 4:  Split a Shiny Burger Roll open and warm it in a 350ºF oven, while the burger cooks.
     Step 5:  Heat a seasoned cast iron griddle or chargrill to medium/medium high temperature.
     Place the 2 Italian Burger Patties on the grill.
     Grill the burger patties till they are cooked to the temperature of your preference.  
     *Pizza Burgers are best when cooked medium well to well done. 
     Step 6:  Place the cooked burger patties on a small roasting pan.
     Place 1 slice of Provolone Cheese on each burger patty.
     Place the pan in a 350ºF oven.
     Bake till the cheese softens and starts to melt.
     Step 6:  Remove the pan from the oven.  
     Place about 2 to 3 tablespoons of the Italian Tomato Sauce on each burger patty.
     Sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon of finely grated Formaggio Piave Vecchio (or Parmigiana Cheese) over the tomato sauce.
     Step 7:  Stack the 2 pizza burger patties on the bottom half of the burger roll.
     Place the sautéed sweet pepper strips on top of the pizza burger stack.
     Set the Double Pizza Burger on a plate.
     Lean the top half of the Shiny Burger Roll against the Double Pizza Burger.
     Serve with petite portion of Italian giardiniera.  

     A big Double Pizza Burger with Sweet Peppers dripping with tomato sauce and oozing melted Provolone Cheese is pure gourmet burger heaven!    

Friday, January 6, 2017

Shiny Hamburger and Slider Rolls

     Fancy Burger Rolls!
     Shiny burger rolls have been a trendy item at gourmet burger stands in recent years.  These rolls are fairly easy to make.  They can be portioned and shaped as slider rolls too.  
     Shiny Hamburger Rolls and Slider Rolls:
     This recipe yields 3 medium size hamburger buns and 6 slider rolls!     
     Bread Flour is used in this recipe.  All Purpose Flour will not produce the same texture.
     • This recipe is kind of like a simple brioche, but oil replaces butter.  
     • The egg can be beaten into the dough after the dough is mixed to create more texture.  
     • A portion of the water can also be replaced with milk to to enrich the dough. 
     This recipe is written for an electric mixer with a dough hook attachment! 
     Step 1:  Place 1 tablespoon of dry yeast or 2 tablespoons of fresh yeast in an electric mixer bowl.
     Add 1 cup of lukewarm water.  (115ºF)
     Dissolve the yeast. 
     Step 2:  Add 1/4 cup of sugar.
     Let the yeast activate undisturbed for 5 minutes.    
     Step 3:  Add 1/3 cup of vegetable oil.
     Add 1 egg.
     Add 3 cups of sifted bread flour.  
     Let the flour float like an island!
     Place 1 teaspoon of sea salt on top of the island of floating flour.
     Step 4:  Place the mixer bowl on an electric mixer.
     Attach the dough hook.
     Set the mixer to a medium low speed and start mixing.
     Step 5:  When a loose wet dough forms, add 1 tablespoon of bread flour at a time, till a soft dough texture is achieved and the dough starts to gather on the hook.  (about 2 to 4 tablespoons)
     Step 6:  Bench the dough on a lightly floured countertop.
     Step 7:  Cut the benched dough into portions.  (Golf ball size portions for slider bun rolls.  Tennis ball to baseball size for burger buns.)
     Step 8:  Tuck and roll each portion into a smooth ball shape.
     Step 9:  Place each dough ball on a parchment paper lined baking pan with the smooth side facing up.  (Space the larger rolls 3" apart and space the sliders rolls 2" apart.  Slider roll portions will finish faster than the larger hamburger rolls, so the different size rolls should be placed on separate pans.)
     Step 10:  Let the dough rest and proof for 10 to 12 minutes at room temperature.  (Do not proof the shaped dough portions over a warm oven or in a proofing box!)
     Gently brush each dough ball with plain egg wash.  
     Step 11:  Bake in a 425ºF oven for 10 to 12 minutes.  (Check the rolls at 8 or 9 minutes.)
     When the burger and slider rolls are a shiny light brown color, then they are ready.
     Step 12:  Allow the rolls to cool and stale for 30 minutes before cutting them open.
     *The shiny burger and slider rolls should be reheated before serving.
     Be sure to handle the finished shiny burger rolls gently, because the shiny finish is easily damaged.  Shiny rolls cannot be stacked on top of each other or dumped in a bag.  The rolls have to be stored side by side!