Feeds:
Posts
Comments

America really is the melting pot of the world, especially and literally when it comes to food. As a nation of immigrants from its inception, American cuisine really had no other way to come about than through numerous cultural influences. Fusion of ingredients and techniques from the world over has strong historical significance, although it may seem to be a more modern trend.

But there is certainly a line to be drawn to between the way our culinary forefathers cooked and ate and what’s often thought of today as “fusion” cuisine. Thoughtfully prepared dishes that maintain the integrity of their contributing parts can certain be wonderful, but shoehorning things where they don’t belong is where the style draws criticism; It’s the difference between swapping sauerkraut for kimchi on a Reuben sandwich and filling egg roll wrappers with the ingredients of a Reuben. Right up there with not-really-fusion cuisine, Spanish Tapas have gotten swept up in the wave of appropriation. In any major urban area, you’re sure to find restaurants offering overpriced and bigger-than-an-appetizer-but-definitely-not-an-entree dishes alongside tequila cocktails and surprisingly thoughtful red wine lists under the guise of being a “tapas bar”.

At its earliest origins, tapas were pieces of bread that you would put over your glass of sherry to keep flies from getting in. Tapas have evolved as bar culture has to include a wide range of small, snackable items to have while you’re drinking. Hell, in Spain some places will still give them out for free as long as you’re still drinking (think like popcorn and nuts at your favorite dive bar). In essence, the idea is simple: food that you don’t have to think about too much, to be consumed innumerably, while drinking. Sound familiar?

img_4227

While the types of foods that are normally served as tapas can vary widely, a few strongholds are always there: olives, sausages, bread, potatoes, cheese. Things to enjoy, but also to fill you up a bit.

Chorizo a la Sidra

  • Spanish-Style, dry-cured Chorizo*, 1 large sausage**
  • Hard Cider***, as needed

Heat a heavy-bottomed sauce pot to medium-high heat. Cut chorizo into small chunks and cook until slightly crispy and fat begins to render, about 4 minutes. Add cider and bring to a simmer. Continue cooking chorizo over low heat in cider at least 20 minutes. Traditionally, the chorizo is held warm and served directly from the pot of cider

Papas Arrugadas

  • Baby Yellow Potatoes, 2 pounds
  • Kosher Salt, as needed

Cook potatoes until tender in very well-salted water, beginning with cold water. Strain potatoes and return to pot. Cook over medium heat until potato skins dry and a layer of salt form. Serve hot.

Mojo****

  • Red Bell Pepper, seeded, chopped, 2 each
  • Garlic, 3 cloves
  • Sweet Paprika, 1 tablespoon
  • Cilantro, 1 bunch, stems removed
  • Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, 1 cup
  • Fresno Chile, seeded, chopped, 1 each
  • White Bread, crusty piece, about 1/2 cup
  • Kosher Salt, as needed

Blend all ingredients at high speed until smooth. Season with salt to taste.

*Spanish Chorizo is very different than Mexican Chorizo. You’re looking for something more similar to a salami. If you can’t find Spanish chorizo, do not substitute Mexican.

**Finding a whole link of chorizo can prove to be difficult, I couldn’t find one in about 4 different stores in town. However, there were some pre-sliced snack packs available, so I made due with that.

***Spanish cider is very dry, more similar to white wine or brut champagne. Please don’t cook this with Woodchuck.

****Again, Spanish Mojo can be very different from Mexican or other Hispanic Mojos. This version is the style that’s served in the Canary Islands.

 

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

In America, Thanksgiving is kind of a big deal. Restaurants bust out catering pickups all week long, and the smarter of the home cooks begin their prep days in advance. I generally have a good gameplan for the gluttonous holiday (which was recently featured in State14!), but even the best laid plans can go awry due to weather, lost attention, or a host of other mishaps.

Today, as you may note, is not Thanksgiving. Today is the day after Thanksgiving. That means I just had one of the deepest sleeps I’ve had in weeks, and also that I’m nearly out of tupperware. As great as Thanksgiving is for bringing family together, sharing food and spending time with loved ones, the more practical application is packing your fridge with enough leftovers to last a good couple of weeks. The ultimate use of Thanksgiving remnants is to pack it all into a sandwich. I’ve said before that sandwiches are by far the best category of food, and I will continue saying that to my grave. This is the holiest of all sandwiches. I often tout my love of a classic Reuben as the best sandwich, but the Thanksgiving Leftover sandwich, saved for just one day of the year, is a beast all of its own. While I love that sandwich more than any other, I’ve written about it multiple times before (in 2012 and 2013), and wanted to push my creativity a bit this year.

Getting weird with your leftovers definitely isn’t a new idea. This year, I’ve seen my share of cool recipes: Egg Rolls, Burritos, Eggs Benedict, Pizza, Nachos; the possibilities are near endless. Serious Eats may get the trophy for their Stuffing Waffles, but I wanted to take it just a step further.

img_4181

As my southern friends will vouch for, chicken and waffles is truly an amazing combination. Sweet and savory, breakfast and lunch. Sneakers Bistro knows what’s up. I prefer to break down my turkey rather than roasting it whole, which left me with some big ol’ turkey wings to do something cool with: Sous vide until super tender (a la Modernist Cuisine), then fried with a crispy breading. The debate rages online as to whether gravy or maple syrup is the appropriate condiment for this behemoth, but being that I’m from Vermont I’m sure you can guess what side of the line I fall on. I like to mix some of the good stuff with my leftover cranberry sauce and a bit of Cholula.

Život je hořký, Bohudík

When you talk about the origins of foods, it’s sometimes a difficult to task deciding where to look. For example, it’s pretty well known at this point that noodles and pasta were developed in Asia before making their way to Europe. However, we tend to more strongly associate that type of dish with Italian cuisine. They weren’t by any means the originators, but they certainly took the ball and ran it out.

Around the same time that pasta was being developed in China, about 4000 years ago, beer was being brewed in Sumer. Made from smoked barley bread and fermented date wine, it was a far cry from what we think of as beer today. So while that may be our earliest recollection of beer, the Czech really brought it into its own.

Břevnov Monastery in Prague has been brewing since 993CE, just over a thousand years of beer.  Cities such as Pilsen and Budweis (sound familiar?) have been brewing consistently since the 13th century, spawning arguably the most popular styles of beer in the world, Pilsner and Budweiser respectively. With greater consumption of beer per capita than anywhere else in the world, it’s often joked that beer is the national sport of the Czech Republic. And as with all major sports when your team is playing, if you’re hosting, it’s nice to have a good spread of snacks.

img_4098

In America, our beer snacks are usually laden with salt; popcorn, chips, pretzels, nuts. In the Czech Republic, it seems to be fairly different. Meats, cheeses and breads are common, likely to help absorb some alcohol and allow you to keep drinking long into the night. The most common of these kinds of snacks is Nakládaný hermelín (nahk-la-dan-ee her-mel-een). Hermelin is a soft cheese similar to camembert, marinated in spices, onions, garlic and oil. Pickled sausages are also common, and much to my surprise are far less gross than I imagined the ones in the jar at the gas station tasting. Smokey, fatty, and just a little bit of acid. I can definitely dig it.

Czech “Pickled” Cheese

  • Camembert, 1 wheel
  • Yellow Onion, thinly sliced, 1 each
  • Garlic, 4 cloves
  • Pickled Banana Peppers, sliced, 1/2 cup
  • Black Peppercorn, 1/2 teaspoon
  • Paprika, 1/2 teaspoon
  • Bay Leaf, 2 each
  • Thyme, fresh, 1 tablespoon
  • Kosher Salt, 1 teaspoon
  • Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, as needed

Cut cheese into small wedges or strips. Toss with remaining ingredients and transfer to a sealable container. Cover with olive oil and marinate at room temperature for 5-7 days, up to 6 weeks.

Pickled Sausage

  • Water, 4 cups
  • Cider Vinegar, 4 cups
  • Kosher Salt, 2 tablespoons
  • Bay Leaf, 2 each
  • Kielbasa, 1 large link

Combine water, vinegar, salt and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Cut sausage into 4-6 small links. In a sealable container. pour pickling liquid over sausages and allow to cool to room temperature. Cover and store refrigerated at least 5-7 days.

Pushin’ Down on Me

From time to time, we think it necessary to pick up that latest and great kitchen gadget; You know, that new one that’s on TV now? It’ll replace a drawer full of tools for just 3 easy payments of $9.95! Sadly, nearly none of these kind of products deliver on their promises, and most are useless garbage. So, like me, most of you have a cabinet or cupboard or drawer full of equipment that you really only pull out once in a blue moon.

While the allure of single-tasking equipment prevails, sometimes you have useful equipment stashed away somewhere and you don’t even realize it. For me, that crown goes to the pressure cooker.

pressure-canner-assembled

I know I got a pressure cooker from my grandmother at one point or another, but I don’t remember when or why. Or I saved it from a yard sale pile somewhere. Definitely one of the two. Either way, it’s sat in a cupboard or basement ever since because I really just had no idea what to do with it. The more I’ve read though, the more it seems to be a multi-tasker as useful as an immersion circulator. Adding pressure to heat drastically reduces the time needed to prepare traditionally very long cooked items; Soups stews and stocks in a fraction of the time. As always, Kenji at The Food Lab has a great piece on pressure cookers and how useful they are.

Pressure cooking can also make quick work of tough cuts of meat, and I knew just what would do the trick.

img_4068

I’ve made no secret that I’m a big fan of Chefsteps. The Seattle-based site creates amazing recipes and videos, giving detailed instructions and exploring some of the science behind why food works the way it does. Their recipe for chicken wings has always intrigued me, largely for its utilization of of a pressure cooker. Cooking wings before they hit the fryer is a no-brainer, but pressure cooking is probably the only way I hadn’t tried it before.

In just 15 minutes, an otherwise difficult piece of poultry becomes luscious and tender. So tender in fact, that you can actually remove bones  and bits of cartilage that would normally get in the way when trying to eat them. A quick dusting of cornstarch before frying keeps the skin from getting soggy when drenched in your favorite hot sauce. I went into this recipe thinking “Okay, wings can only get so good. There’s really only so much you can do.” Without exaggeration, I may never make wings any other way again.

Pressure Cooked Chicken Wings, adapted from Chefsteps

makes 2 pounds

  • Chicken wings, tips removed, split, 2 pounds
  • Water, about 1 cup
  • Cornstarch, as needed
  • Canola Oil, for frying
  • Kosher Salt, to taste
  • Buffalo-Style Wing Sauce, as needed (recipe follows)

Add chicken wings and water to pressure cooker and seal. Over medium-high heat, bring cooker to pressure. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to depressurize naturally. Transfer wings to a wire rack-lined sheet tray, discarding water. Remove cartilage from wings and drum pieces, and remove small loose bone from wing pieces. Allow to chill 2 hours. In a heavy-bottomed pot, preheat 4 inches of canola oil to 400F. Toss wings lightly in cornstarch to cover completely, shaking to remove excess cornstarch. Fry wings until crispy, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel- lined bowl to drain excess oil. Season with kosher salt. Toss wings liberally in sauce and serve with ranch or blue cheese and celery.

Buffalo-Style Wing Sauce

makes about 2 cups

  • Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, 1 cup
  • Butter, unsalted, 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons)

Combine hot sauce and butter. Heat oven medium heat until butter is completely melted. Mix to combine evenly.

Motherland of Man

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, British occult writer James Churchward became known for his studies of the lost continent of Mu, spanning the breadth of the Pacific Ocean and connecting the Polynesian Islands. Expanding on the ideas of Augustus Le Plongeon, Churchward claimed that the island was the site of the Garden of Eden and the native Naacal people spawned the great ancient civilizations of the ancient world such as the Maya, the Egyptians and the Babylonians.

mumap2

Churward’s own map, drawn in 1931, shows the migration of the Naacal eastward towards South America, through the great Amazon Sea, with distinct groups parting ways near the southern coast of Atlantis. However, as such civilizations normally do,  Mu was destroyed in a single day and night and lost beneath the waves, its knowledge and technology with it. Modern science has definitively shown that Mu, Atlantis and other lost continents exist purely in the realm of pseudoscience, because the planet doesn’t work that way. It’s a fun story nonetheless.

The 45th week of Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge brings us to the Pacific Islands. I’ve always had a fascination with mysteries of the ancient world, much like Mu. Rapa Nui, better known as Eastern Island, is one of those mysterious things that’s just incredibly captivating. While they’ve pretty much figured out what’s up with the Moai, the cuisine of the island hasn’t been looked into much with modern eyes and ears.

img_4025 Po’e is a traditional dessert served throughout Polynesia. Typically made with banana or plantain with various tropical fruits, the Pascuanese version is known for using pumpkin. The fruits are mashed until smooth before being mixed with sugar, starch and a bit of vanilla. As with most traditional dishes in the area, it would normally be wrapped in banana leaf and baked in an buried oven. Once cooled, it’s cut into pieces and served with fresh coconut cream.

All the recipes I read refer to Po’e as more similar to a pudding, but that doesn’t really seem right. I would say it’s more like a less bready-y banana bread. Whatever you want to call it, it’s certainly delicious and makes for a filling breakfast or a light dessert to cap off a meal.

Po’e

makes about 3 servings

  • Banana, medium, 4 each*
  • Pumpkin, canned, 1 can*
  • Brown Sugar, 1/2 cup
  • Cornstarch or Arrowroot, 1 cup**
  • Vanilla Extract, 2 teaspoons
  • Coconut Cream, as needed***

Preheat oven to 375F. Puree bananas and pumpkin in food processor until completely smooth. Sift together brown sugar and cornstarch. COmbine dry ingredients with puree and vanilla, mixing to combine evenly. Butter a 9×9 baking dish and add banana mixture. Baking at 375F about 35 minutes, or until center is set. Allow to cool completely before cutting and serving with coconut cream.

*A lot recipes suggest trying it with mango, pineapple or papaya. The goal is to have 4 cups of puree total, regardless of its constituents.

**Arrowroot is more traditional, but also more expensive. Your call.

***Full-fat canned coconut milk will separate when refrigerated. Chill the can, scoop fat from the top, and add enough of the milk to make a sauce with the consistency of a loose custard.

As I mentioned earlier in the year, failure can often be a great learning tool and is, in fact, always an option. This week is definitely one of those cases, so I’ll keep it short and sweet (pun intended, you just don’t know it yet).

The theme of the week is dehydrating. One of the oldest known methods of preserving food, dehydration is the process of removing water from foods to increase their longevity. Crucial to astronauts on the ISS, dehydrated foods are among the most common snacks we have around; Go to any gas station and I guarantee you’ll find at least 5 kinds of beefy jerky. and from grocery store kits to sit-down restaurants you’ll find any number of dried fruits accompanying your favorite greens.

Out of the bounty of dried fruits that are available nowadays, my favorite has always been pineapple. As a kid, whenever my mom would come back from the natural foods store with whatever diet craze was popular at the time, she’d always have a bag of crystallized pineapple for me.

img_3986

Crystallized pineapple is cooked in sugar before being dehydrated, making it rich and chewy. As it turns out though, the process isn’t as simple as it may appear. I followed this recipe (don’t judge) pretty much to the T. After oven-drying didn’t pan out, I threw together an Alton Brown-style box fan dehydrator, which still didn’t quite do the trick even after 36 hours. For whatever reason, these suckers just didn’t want to dry. The flavor and texture came out just as they should have, but the outside was still sticky and tacky. I think this is definitely one I’ll have to revisit. Being so close, yet so far is definitely going to eat at me.

Je ne parle pas français

As one, slightly dickheaded Chef instructor in college put to our class “The Japanese were developing cuisine while the Neanderthals were crawling out of caves in Europe.” While that statement is more or less completely inaccurate, there is evidence of advanced stone tools existing in the area tens of thousands of years before they were developed in other regions, and French cuisine didn’t really come into it’s own until the 14th Century. So why is that French cuisine holds this status as the biggest and the best? Partially, I think it’s due to the hollywood image of chefs: the white coats, the tall hats, the precise execution of classical dishes. That being said, when it comes to the food itself, the French really know what they’re doing.

While my introduction to French cuisine didn’t really happen until college, I myself have a long French ancestry. While records can date my family line back to the first century in across the Atlantic, my family is not from France. As much as I’d like to not admit it, as long as the province has existed, my family is from Quebec. When you grow up spitting distance to the northern border, the Quebecois are not necessarily your favorite people. It would be an unfair assumption to say that all the people of Quebec behave the way that visitors to Vermont do. I’m sure when you or I travel to a different country and don’t speak the language, we’re probably not exemplifying the best and brightest of our origin. Speaking solely from a restaurant perspective, however, the Quebecois are a group of people you want to interact with as quickly and infrequently as possible. But alas, the Great White North is an inescapable part of me; It’s in my blood. As we start to work our way down in Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Cooking challenge, rather than rehash the ideals of haute cuisine that were drilled into my head for three years, I wanted to pay tribute to *gulp* my heritage.

When people think of Canadian cuisine, the first and possibly only thing that comes to mind would be Poutine (french fries and cheese curds smothered in brown gravy), and in the past ten years or so every “tavern” that opens thinks they need to have it on the menu. Poutine is great, but there’s much more to Canadian cuisine. One of my favorite dishes hails from Quebec and it exemplifies the rich French history of the region: Tourtière

img_3894

Tourtière is essentially a meat pie. Rich, buttery crust filled with meat, spices and occasionally vegetables. Depending on what part of the country you’re in, you’ll encounter various types of fillings; Usually pork, but also beef, chicken, lamb and game are all fairly common. In eastern Quebec, the meat is normally prepared in chunks or cubes, but as you move westward the filling becomes more sausage-like in consistency. This version is a bit of hybrid. Slow braised pork had a good bite the the filling while ground pork makes the texture a bit more homogeneous. The real secret is in the spice blend. Traditionally any variety of warming spices are used, like allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon or clove. The butcher shop I would normally buy tourtière from won’t give out their recipe, but I know it has mace. Served with mustard, relish, cranberry sauce or gravy, tourtière is a great addition to you Thanksgiving dinner, or just a great way to stay full and warm for the cold winter to come.

Tourtière du Montreal, adapted from Martin Picard

For the Crust:
  • All-Purpose Flour, 3 1/3 cups
  • Butter, unsalted, 1 pound (cut into 1/2″ cubes)
  • Kosher Salt, 1 teaspoon

Pulse flour, butter, and salt in a food processor until pea-size pieces of butter form. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add 1/4 cup ice water and stir just until loose clumps form, adding a small amount of water if dry. Divide dough in half; flatten each half into a disk. Wrap disks in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.

For the Filling:
  • Chicken Stock, 1 1/2 cups
  • Onion, medium, small diced, 1 each, divided
  • Garlic, chopped, 4 cloves, divided
  • Black Peppercorn, 5 each
  • Thyme, fresh, 5 sprigs
  • Bay Leaves, 2 each
  • Pork Shoulder, 1 1/2 pounds (cut into chunks)
  • Butter, unsalted, 1 tablespoon
  • Button Mushroom*,  finely minced, 8-10 each
  • Red Wine, 1/2 cup
  • Ground Pork, 1 1/4 pounds
  • Cinnamon, ground, 1/8 teaspoon
  • Clove, ground, 1/8 teaspoon
  • Russet Potato, peeled, shredded, 3/4 cup

Preheat oven to 325F. Combine broth, 1/2 diced onion, 1 clove garlic, peppercorns, thyme, and bay leaves in a medium pot. Add pork shoulder; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover pot. Transfer to oven and braise until pork shoulder is tender and shreds easily, about 2 hours. Remove from oven and let cool.

Transfer pork shoulder to a work surface. Shred meat with your fingers and transfer to a medium bowl. Strain pan juices through a fine-mesh sieve; add 1/2 cup juices to pork; discard solids in strainer.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add remaining 1 chopped onion and 3 chopped garlic cloves; cook, stirring often, until soft, 5-7 minutes. Add mushrooms; cook, stirring often, until almost all liquid is evaporated, 5-7 minutes. Add wine; stir, scraping up browned bits. Bring to a boil; cook, stirring often, until liquid is almost evaporated, about 5 minutes.

Add ground pork, cinnamon, and cloves. Cook, stirring to break up into small pieces, until pork is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add potato. Cook until potato is soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in shredded pork with juices. Season to taste with salt and pepper; let cool slightly. Chill until cold, about 1 hour

*The original recipe calls for buttons, but I’m not normally a fan. Use about 2 cups whatever kind of mushrooms you prefer.

To Assemble:
  • All-Purpose Flour, as needed
  • Egg Yolk, beaten, 1 each

Roll out 1 dough disk on a lightly floured surface into a 12″ round. Transfer to pie dish, leaving overhang. Fill with cooled meat mixture. Roll out remaining dough disk into a 10″ round. Place dough over meat filling. Fold overhang over top crust and crimp edges. Brush crust with egg yolk. Cut three 2″ slits in top crust. Chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400F. Bake tourtière for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 350F; bake until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling, 40-50 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes before serving.