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Friday, September 23, 2005

Childhood Food Memories Meme

I was tagged for this by my friend Caryn from Delicious! Delicious! in retaliation for a previous tag. :) The idea is to give 5 childhood food memories, so here goes:

1. My Mom's Thanksgiving dinner. The Thanksgiving meal is the one holiday meal that no one in the family wants messed with, all of the old standards are there, expertly cooked by Mom. The flavors are nostalgia; A little sadness, because they make you think of those who are no longer at the dinner table, and warmth because you know how much love went into the preparation of the meal. I'm fortunate enough to be able to build on this wonderful food memory once a year.

2. Sitting at my Grandmother and Grandfather's kitchen table after a trip to the Italian grocery with my Grandfather. Oldani Salami, Capicola and Provolone on Fresh Crusty Bread, Fontinella Cheese, Marinated Artichoke Hearts, the works. This meal is still my favorite comfort food. Although my Grandfather's Italian store is long closed, I have a great one a mile from my house with all of the same ingredients.

3. Oma's (Dutch for Grandmother) Beef Croquettes. Slow braised beef, shredded, a thick Veloute style sauce made with the cooking liquid, nutmeg. Shaped into little oblongs, dipped in egg whites, bread crumbs, egg whites bread crumbs. Fried. I can remember the smell in her kitchen, and her laugh. She would pull me aside as if it were the world's biggest secret and shove some money in my hand, closing my hand tightly around it, "That's for you". When I make Croquettes for the holidays it smells like Oma's house, more nostaligia. The beauty of sharing family recipes is passing on a piece of the family, through smell and taste.

4. Good old ballpark Hot Dogs at Tiger's Stadium with my Dad and Brother. The main memory from Baseball games as a kid were the Hot Dogs. I always remember us sitting down to the game and Dad ordering up some dogs, Mustard, the smell of the field and good company. My Dad and I still enjoy one game a year, but now it's a Hot Dog and a Beer and at a new stadium.

5. Standing at Mom's knee with a face full of chocolate cake batter, or cookie dough. I can still remember standing there, holding a big mixing bowl and scraping away with a big spoon, trying to get every last bit out of the bowl, making a huge mess. Then going to work on the beaters, you know the kind from the old hand held mixers. I always had a rough time reaching that center post.

I'm not going to tag anyone, for fear of more retaliation. ;)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Huevos Rancheros Recipe

I was talking with my friend Bill Moran from Texas Chef about Mexican Egg dishes the other day, so of course the Border Ranch classic Huevos Rancheros came up. I made Bill's recipe from his book Cookin' Texan for breakfast the other morning, delicious! What a wonderful combination of fresh flavors for breakfast! Also check out another Mexican Egg dish, Huevos Motulenos, at Texas Chef. Here is his recipe:

Bill Moran's Huevos Rancheros Recipe
(Ranch Style Eggs)

Eggs, depending on how many persons are served.
Use 2 eggs per person.

Viva! Salsa Ranchero (Recipe Below)

If you are preparing more than four eggs you will need to double the recipe for Ranchero Sauce. Most people like lots of sauce so prepare plenty.
Prepare the sauce per the recipe. Break the eggs into a small bowl (two per bowl) and when the sauce is simmering (not boiling), ease the eggs into the sauce and "poach" the eggs in the sauce. When done to order, remove eggs to a warm plate and keep warm. Repeat the process until all the eggs are cooked.
Some places serve the eggs atop a heated corn tortilla and top both eggs and tortilla with the sauce. Serve with warmed corn tortillas and hot Mexican chocolate.

VIVA! Salsa Ranchera Recipe

3 Medium-size Ripe Tomatoes, chopped, reserving juice or 1 - 15oz. Can Whole Peeled Tomatoes, drained, reserving juice.
1 Yellow Onion, chopped chunky
1/2 Cup Fresh Cilantro, chopped coarse
1 Large Chile Jalapeno, cut in half length-wise and seeds removed from one half, then chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, smashed then cut-up a little
2 Tbs. Oil

Heat skillet over high heat. Reduce to medium and saute onions, garlic, and jalapeno until onions are slightly brown.
Add tomatoes with their juice to onion mixture and simmer until sauce thickens a little. If tomatoes don't have enough juice, add a little tomato sauce if available - if not, add water.
At the last minute add cilantro and mix into salsa.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Mojito Cocktail

I love the Mint Julep, so I instantly fell in love with this Cuban classic, The Mojito (Moe-HE-toe), which is similar.

The Mojito

1 Tbsp Simple Syrup
4 Mint Leaves
1/4 oz Fresh Lime Juice
2 Oz. White Rum (I use Bacardi)
4 Oz. Club Soda
Crushed Ice

In a cocktail glass Muddle the Mint leaves with the simple syrup (See Note*). Add the lime juice and the Rum, stir well. Cover with Crushed Ice, add the Club Soda, and stir gently, trying to keep the mint leaves on the bottom of the glass. Serve garnished with a lime wedge and a sprig of mint.

*Note - Simple Syrup is equal parts (by volume) water and sugar, cooked just until the sugar disolves. I make a 1 Cup batch and keep it in a squeeze bottle in the refrigerator.

Makes 1 Cocktail.

Check out my Mint Julep Recipe at New Orleans Cuisine!

Monday, June 20, 2005

Sandwich Cubano

My latest cultural cooking interest is Cuban, another fascinating melting pot of flavors. Spanish with its Arabic accents, Creole, and many wonderful tropical flavors. I started off simple with Sandwich Cubano, which I believe is more of a Miami Cuban invention. I use Pork Tenderloin in my version. This sandwich is on my list of favorites, along with the Po' Boy, Muffuletta, and the Reuben.

1 10" French or Italian Loaf (I like one a little on the lighter side for this sandwich)
1-2 Tbsp Mojo Criollo (Recipe Below)
4 oz. Roasted Pork Tenderloin (Recipe Below) Thinly sliced against the grain
4 oz. Sliced Baked Ham
Thinly Sliced Pickle Slices
4 Slices Swiss or Gruyere Cheese
2 Tbsp Creole Mustard
1 Tbsp Unsalted Butter at Room Temperature

Cut the bread in half lengthwise. Spread the mustard on the inside of both sides of the bread. On the bottom half, place the tenderloin slices, then drizzle with the Mojo. Continue the assembly with 2 slices of cheese, Ham, the remaining cheese, the pickles, and the lid. Butter both sides of the outside of the sandwich with the unsalted butter.

The pressing method: If you have a sandwich press, press until both sides are golden brown and the sandwich is warmed through.

Or do it the way I did. I have a 12" Cast Iron skillet and a 10" Cast Iron Skillet. Place these into a 400 degree F oven for about 20 minutes. When they're good and hot, lay the sandwich in the Large skillet, and place the smaller skillet on top of the Cubano. Press it down and place the whole works in the oven for about 10 minutes. The sandwich should be golden brown, crispy on the outside and warmed through. Slice it in half lengthwise, from corner to corner. Enjoy!

Makes 1 Sandwich.

My Roasted Pork Tenderloin for the Sandwich Cubano

1 Pork Tenderloin, membrane removed
1 Tbsp Cumin
Kosher Salt
Black Pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Rub the tenderloin with the cumin and season liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 15-20 minutes, or until medium doneness. Let it rest, then chill until ready to serve (it's easier to slice thin when it's cold.)

This will make enough for few sandwiches.

Mojo Criollo

1 Garlic Clove, Minced to a paste
1 Tbsp Fresh Orange Juice
1 Tbsp Fresh Lime Juice
2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
Kosher Salt

Whisk together the garlic paste and juices. Warm the oil and whisk into the Juice mixture until well blended. Season to taste with the salt.

This makes enough for 2-3 sandwiches.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The World's First All-glass Underwater Restaurant

Underwater Dining
Originally uploaded by Danno1.
Check out this link that my brother forwarded to me. The Hilton Maldives opened this underwater restaurant with 270 degrees of panoramic underwater view. Talk about ambience! I wonder how the food is? I would sure love to find out! Here is the link. Thanks Brad!

**NEW**Here is the Ithaa Undersea Restaurant menu.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Pomme Frites or Homemade French Fries

I have a tremendous backlog of recipes to get to on this blog, I've been doing some intense cooking lately, more cooking than blogging. Braised Beef Short Ribs, Sandwich Cubano, Gnocchi with Bolognese Ragu, Lasagne (last night) with left over Bolognese that I turned into more of a sauce, (also with Bechamel), Barbecued Beef Back Ribs, Pommes Frites, Celeriac Remoulade as a root recipe to my Shrimp Remoulade recipe at New Orleans Cuisine, and Chicken Saltimbocca with Sage Beurre Blanc. :0 I will get to them, I swear! I have them all handwritten. First things first, the good old American French Fry, or Pommes Frites in the French Bistro world. It always amazes me how many restaurants serve French Fries in the States, and how few places actually make them decently! Try them at home sometime, it's a bit of a process, but well worth the effort. The recipe:

Pommes Frites or French Fries

Large Russet Potatoes (about 2 per person)
Peanut Oil preferably, or Vegetable Oil alternatively (3 inch depth in a large saucepan)
Kosher Salt

Cut the Potatoes, skin on, into 1/4" thick strips, a Mandolin will save you a hell of a lot of time, Not to mention, conformity of size = even cooking! I cut mine by hand, because I don't have a Mandolin at home. Cut the potatoes in half, then in half again, then starting on the flat side, in 1/4 " slices. Stack the slices and cut into Fries. Discard any misshapen, would be Fries. Cover these in cold water. Change the water at least three times, or until the water is clear, then soak for about 1 hour.

First Frying:

The first frying is basically to cook the potatoes through. If you've ever tried to make Pommes Frites by skipping this step, you now know the necessity of the first frying. Heat the oil to 320 degrees F. Drain, then dry the Frites with paper towels, I also put mine through a salad spinner. Water will break down your frying oil (as will salt). When the oil is hot and the Frites are dry, drop them in batches, DO NOT over crowd! Fry for about 4-5 minutes or until they're cooked through, but NOT Browned. Remove to a paper towel lined plate. Reserve the oil. You can do these a few hours ahead, leave them, as is, at room temperature.

Second Frying:

Heat the oil to 365-375 degrees F. When you're ready to serve the Frites, drop them in batches, as in the First Frying. Fry until they're a nice Golden Brown and Crispy! Remove onto a plate or baking sheet lined with dry Paper Towels. Season liberally with Kosher Salt. Serve immediately.

**In a future post at New Orleans Cuisine, I will showcase Souffle Potatoes, which are fried Potatoes filled with air, made famous by Antoine's, Galatoire's, and a few more of the "old line" restaurants. They're wonderful, and the frying technique is similar to this one, you'll see. Coming very soon!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Homemade Flour Tortillas

I love to make things that most people would never think of making at home, because they are so readily available, like Tortillas. Sure, you can find good quality Tortillas just about anywhere, especially in the Detroit area, which has a large Mexican population, but I enjoy learning how things are made. Now that I know how to make a Tortilla, I can change the ingredients around a bit and do something creative with it, like sweeten it and make a Mexican dessert. Maybe Cinnamon Ice Cream wrapped with Banana Tortillas; there are a lot of possibilities.
I used lard in my Tortillas, sue me, I like lard for certain things. As my Mom always says, Lard makes the absolute best pie crust! Do you know how often I eat a piece of pie? Maybe twice a year, why not make it with the good stuff! It's all about moderation. By the way did you know that lard has half of the cholesterol of butter? You can just as easily use vegetable shortening in this recipe, if the four letter word LARD freaks you out.
This recipe is changed just a little from the one in the book The Southwest: Williams-Sonoma New American Cooking which I heard about from Cookie Jill's site, Cookies in Heaven. The Tortillas came out picture perfect, and tasted even better. The Recipe:

Homemade Flour Tortilla Recipe

2 1/2 Cups A.P. Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
5 Tbsp Lard (or Vegetable Shortening)
3/4 - 1 Cup Warm Water

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in the solid lard until it is in pea sized pieces. Add the water a little at a time, working it in until the mixture comes together in a cohesive mass. Knead the dough for about a minute, if the dough is sticky, add a little more flour. Form into a ball and wrap with plastic, let the dough rest for about 30 minutes.
When the dough has rested, cut the ball in half, then cut each half into 6 equal pieces, roll them into balls. With a rolling pin, roll the balls into rounds of about 1/8" thickness (I like them a little oddly shaped, it makes everyone sure that they're homemade).
Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, add 1-2 tortillas at a time if they'll fit. When they start to bubble, check the underside, if there are brown spots, flip them over. The second side doesn't take quite as long, cook them just until the bubbles turn light brown. Serve immediately or cool and stack them, place them in a plastic bag and refrigerate. I say if you're going to all the trouble, make them to order in front of your guests, they cook very quickly, and are wonderful when right off of the skillet!

Makes 12 Tortillas