Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Yankee Pot Roast

     Old Fashioned Hearty Pot Roast!
     Yankee Pot Roast is traditional classic American comfort food at its best.  Yankee Pot Roast is usually served when the weather is chilly.  Pot Roast is made by slowly braising a tough thick section of beef, like a Chuck Roast.  Chuck Roast is perfect for making pot roast.  Carrots, onions and potatoes are usually cooked in the braising liquid, so this recipe is a full meal cooked in one pot.
     A cast iron Dutch Oven is the best kind of pot for making Yankee Pot Roast.  Any deep sided braising pan or pot that a lidd fits on can be used.  The pot has to be high enough to allow the gravy to cover the meat.  The big Chuck Roast is slowly braised till it is tender, then it is usually finished by braising with the lid off, so the meat browns and the gravy reduces to a medium thin consistency.

     Yacht clubs are famous for serving old fashioned traditional American entrées.  When I worked at a yacht club for a few years, one night per week a "Good Old Days Menu" was offered.  The Good Old Days Menu featured old fashioned comfort food and classic American food.  Yankee Pot Roast was always offered and it was the top selling item.  The yacht club was one of the few places where I worked that offered Pot Roast on a menu and it was a good one made from scratch.
     American diner style restaurants seem to be the only other places that offer Pot Roast on a regular basis.  The Pot Roast at most diners is usually made with the wrong cut of beef, like bottom round or top round.  The rump section of beef has an outer fat cap, but the fat marbling in the meat is minimal, so the meat becomes very dry when braised.  Bottom round is better when it is roasted.  Roasts from the beef shoulder are best for stews and braising.

     This is not a fancy recipe by any means.  Yankee Pot Roast is rarely fancied up.  It is usually served "Plain Jane."  There are no fancy cut vegetables or extra ingredients in the gravy.  The presentation of this entrée is not fancy either.
     The art involved in cooking Yankee Pot Roast is to braise the chuck roast till it is tender enough for a guest to cut through the thick slices with only a fork at the table.  When Yankee Pot Roast is cooked just right, compliments from guests are plentiful.  Because chuck roast is a very cheap cut of beef, the portion size per serving also is plentiful and this adds to the appeal.  This is pure comfort cooking at its best!

     Yankee Pot Roast:
     This recipe yields enough pot roast and vegetables for 3 large portions!   
     Step 1:  Heat a deep sided braising pan over medium heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Place a 2 pound boneless chuck roast in the pan.
     Sear the chuck roast, till is thoroughly browned on all sides.
     Step 2:  Add 1/3 cup of small chopped onion.
     Sauté the onions with the roast, till the onions are lightly caramelized.
     Step 3:  Add 3 cups of beef stock.
     Add enough water to cover the roast with 1" of extra liquid.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 4:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 3 ounces of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour, while constantly stirring with a whisk, to make a roux.
     Constantly stir the roux, till it emits a hazelnut aroma and the roux is a blonde color.
     Remove the roux pot from the heat.
     Step 5:  Add just enough of the blonde roux to the broth in the braising pot, while stirring with a whisk, to thicken the beef broth to a very thin watery sauce consistency.  
     *Save any extra roux for thickening another sauce recipe.  Roux can be refrigerated for 7 days or it can be frozen.
     Step 6:  Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 1 pinch of ground celery seed.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Place the braising pot in a 300ºF oven.
     Braise till the beef is fully cooked and it just starts to become tender.  (About 1 1/2 to 2 hours of braising should be enough time.)
     Step 7:  Remove the lid from the pot.
     Add 3 medium size peeled whole onions to the braising sauce.
     Add 3 peeled large carrots that are cut in half.
     Add 3 celery stalks that are cut in half.
     Add 3 peeled medium size russet potatoes that are cut in half.
     Step 8:  Leave the pot uncovered.
     Return the pot to the oven.
     Braise uncovered, till the vegetables and chuck roast are tender.
     Step 9:  Use a slotted spoon to remove the vegetables and set them in a bowl.
     Keep the bowl warm on a stove top.
     Remove the chuck roast from the pot and place it on a pan.
     Keep it warm on a stove top.
     Step 10:  Place the pot with the braising gravy over medium/medium high heat.
     Boil and reduce the gravy, till it becomes a medium thin sauce consistency that can coat a spoon.
     Step 11:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Remove the bay leaf.
     Place the vegetables in the gravy to reheat them.
     Step 12:  Place the pot roast on a cutting board.
     Cut the pot roast into 3/8" thick slices.

     Overlap a 10 to 12 ounce portion of the sliced Yankee Pot Roast across a plate.
     Arrange a portion of each vegetable on the plate, so they look nice.
     Spoon a generous amount of the gravy over the sliced pot roast and vegetables.
     Garnish with a few dandelion leaves.  (Dandelion greens are a nice choice of down home garnish.)
     Rich, hearty and satisfying is what yankee pot roast is all about!  The chuck roast is so tender, that it can be sliced with a fork from five miles away!  
     A copious amount of braising sauce is needed to braise the chuck roast properly.  Any extra gravy can be served with biscuits as lunch the next day or saved for later use. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Ham Salad Sandwich!

     The Better The Ham, The Better The Ham Salad!
     I always thought that the Ham Salad Sandwich was something that most people in America were familiar with.  When I first published this recipe 7 years ago, I found out that I was wrong when making that assumption.  Reader comments and email questions started pouring in shortly after the recipe was released.  Nearly every reader response stated something to the effect of "I never thought of making Ham Salad" or "I never heard of Ham Salad."
     Readers of my old food website reacted like Ham Salad was something novel and new.  The response was a surprise, because I thought that Ham Salad was more popular than it really was.  Apparently Ham Salad either was fast becoming a relic of the past or it already faded out of the limelight in many areas of the country.

     Ham Salad hit a peak in popularity in the 1940's and the 1950's.  In the 1960's, canned Ham Salad spread was popular with heavy industry workers, because it was a convenience item that had plenty of flavor.
     From what I can imagine, the popularity of Ham Salad more than likely started to fade away during the mid 1970's when the dining habits of the general public favored recent healthy cuisine trends.  Basically, anything that contained mayonnaise was deemed as being something to avoid back in those days.  Chicken was deemed as being the healthy meat choice and all pork products were cast aside.  The first round of health food trends in the 1970's caused many people to overreact and many old time traditional recipes, like Ham Salad, started to be made much less frequently.  Maybe this is why so many viewers never heard of Ham Salad by the year 2009, when I published the recipe.

     In the southern states, Dry Cured Virginia Ham (Southern Ham) is used to make a very unique tasting ham salad that is spread thin, because the salt content of that kind of ham is higher than average.  Smoked Ham also is a great choice for Ham Salad.  Most people prefer a mild tasting ham, like "Cure 81 Ham" to make Ham Salad with, because the semi sweet flavor is mild tasting.
     The better the ham is, the better the Ham Salad will be!  The same can be said for the sweet pickle relish.  A rich, sweet, mustard seed flavored pickle relish is best for Ham Salad.
     There are no surprises in today's recipe.  This is a very tasty Ham Salad recipe from back in the days when Ham Salad Sandwiches were a popular Saturday afternoon snack.  Those who have fond memories of those days will be pleased to see that the nearly forgotten classic Ham Salad Sandwich was revived!
     Ham Salad Sandwich:
     This recipe yields enough ham salad for 1 large sandwich or 2 petite sandwiches!
     Do not select a cheap low quality deli style pressed ham that is held together with gelatin!  That kind of ham has no flavor.  Select a nice quality roasted ham that is cured correctly.  Smoked cured ham is a good choice too.
     It is important to remember that ham contains plenty of salt, so no salt needs to be added to Ham Salad.  
     Step 1:  Trim the rind, fat or gristle off of 6 ounces of ham.
     Chop the ham into pieces that are smaller than a pea.
     Step 2:  Place the chopped ham in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons on small chopped onion.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of small chopped celery.
     Add 2 tablespoons of sweet pickle relish.
     Add just enough mayonnaise to bind the ingredients together.  (Too much mayonnaise will cause the ham salad to have loose runny texture.)
     Add 2 pinches of black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Step 3:  Place a couple lettuce leaves on a slice of bread or toast.
     Place a portion of ham salad on the lettuce and tack on the second slice of bread.
     Cut the sandwich in half and set it on a plate.
     Garnish the sandwich with pickled guero peppers that are speared with tooth picks.
     I highly recommend stone ground whole grain bread for a Ham Salad Sandwich.  The rustic wheat favor tastes nice with Ham Salad.  This is a classic sandwich that is liked by many people!

Bulgarian Style Pork Chop en Vine Leaves

     A Classic Balkan Region Entrée!
     Roasting meat wrapped with plant leaves is an ancient cooking technique.  Banana leaves are the most common leaf used for this purpose.  The leaf wrapped meat can be tossed into the embers of a fire and the meat will not burn when this technique is used.
     A classic method for reheating prime rib also requires using leaves.  A slice of prime rib is place on a broiler pan with a tiny splash of au jus.  Large romaine leaves are placed over the meat to protect the prime rib slice from direct contact with heat.  This keeps the meat from drying out and the red color is retained.

    Grape Leaves are often used to wrap meat or a rice filling in Eastern European and Mediterranean cuisine.  Bulgaria is famous for great pork and many chefs in this wrap pork chops with grape leaves before roasting them.  The grape leaves not only add flavor while protecting the meat from excess browning, the leaves seal in the flavor of the pork chop itself.  The pork chop turns out tender and juicy every time!
     Pickled Grape Leaves are used more often than fresh grape leaves to wrap meat.  Pickled Grape Leaves have a very long shelf life.  Pickling mellows the grape leaf flavor, which can be bitter when it is fresh.  I bought a big jar of Persian Pickled Grape Leaves at a Mediterranean food market to make this recipe with.  Iran is famous for very high quality pickle products and the price is good.

     There is no standard Bulgarian recipe for the seasoning or the aromatic ingredients that are wrapped in the grape leaves with the pork chop.  The flavorings are the choice of the cook.  Mushrooms, garlic, shallot, onions, herbs or dried fruits are good Bulgarian style items for flavoring a grape leaf wrapped pork chop.  Garlic and herbs flavored the pork in today's recipe.
     Selecting a big fresh leek is necessary for today's recipe.  Blanched leek ribbons are used to tie the grape leaf package.  The longer the leek ribbons are, the easier this task will be.

     Bulgarian Style Pork Chop in Vine Leaves:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium high heat.
     Add a few cups of water.  (The water should be about 1" deep.)
     Bring the water to a gentle boil.
     Separate the 1 or 2 outer layers of a leek.
     Cut the outside leek leaves into 3 or 4 long ribbons that are about 3/8" wide and about 12" to 14" in length.
     Blanch the long leek ribbons in the boiling water.
     Remove the leek ribbons after they start to wilt and become tender.  (This only takes a few seconds.)
     Cool the leek ribbons under cold running water and set them aside.
     Step 2:  Select a thick pork chop that weighs 10 to 12 ounces.
     Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of blended olive oil.
     Pan sear the pork chop, till it is lightly browned and so it is still uncooked in the middle.
     Season the pork chop with sea salt and black pepper.
     Set the pork chop aside.
     Step 3:  Leave the pan on the heat.
     Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Add a little bit of oil if necessary.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of sliced shallot.
     Add 1 sliced garlic clove.
     Sauté till the garlic turns a light golden color.
     Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside.
     Step 4:  Rinse a few pickled grape leaves with cold running water.  (About 5 to 8 leaves, depending on the size.)
     Trim the thick stem off of the leaves.
     Step 5:  Place 2 of the leek ribbons on a cutting board so they criss-cross.
     Place a bed of grape leaves on the center of the criss-crossed leek ribbons.  The bed of grape leaves should cover an area on the cutting board that is about 1.5 times the size of the area that the pork chop covers.
     Step 6:  Place the pork chop on the bed of grape leaves.
     Place the sautéed garlic and shallot on the pork chop.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of marjoram on the pork chop.
     Sprinkle 1 small pinch of oregano on the pork chop.
     Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil on the pork chop.
     Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice on the pork chop.
     Step 7:  Place 1 or 2 grape leaves over the flavorings on the pork chop.
     Tuck the excess grape leaf edges around the sides and under the pork chop, so it is completely sealed by the leaves.
     Step 8:  Pull the criss-crossed leek ribbons over the top of the grape leaves and tie them with a simple knot to keep the grape leaves in place.
     If the pork chop has a long bone, then the extra leek ribbon can be used to tie the grape leaves snug around the bone.
     Step 9:  Brush a roasting pan with olive oil.
     Place the sealed pork chop grape leaf package on the pan.
     Add 2 ounces of dry white wine.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1/2 cup of water.
     Drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the grape leaf package.
     Cover the baking pan with a loose fitting lid or aluminum foil that has a small hole poked in it.
     Bake the pork chop in a 325ºF oven, till the pork is fully cooked.  (A probe thermometer should read 145ºF in the center as a minimum, but 160ºF is best for this recipe so the flavors develop.)
     Serving the pork chop while it is piping hot will result in more aroma when the grape leaves are cut open at the table.   
     As soon as the grape leaf wrapped pork chop is fully cooked, remove it from the oven and place it directly on a serving plate.
     Serve with a vegetables of your choice.
     Garnish the plate with a parsley sprig and petite lemon wedges.
     Tender and delicious!  When the grape leaf package is cut open, the aroma is captivating!

Friday, April 24, 2015


     A Late 1800's Befstroganov Recipe Variation!
     Befstroganov has been a popular recipe for more than 150 years.  Befstroganov does have its roots in classic Russian cuisine.  In the mid 1800's, the original Befstroganov was a recipe that many fine dining restaurants featured.  The original Befstroganov recipe was quite elegant and so were many of the ensuing recipe variations that followed through the late 1800's.  
     The original name of the first printed Stroganoff recipe was quite long, because the recipe title included a reference to the Russian Stroganov family.  Eventually the name of the recipe was shortened, so it could be easily pronounced by fine dining restaurant customers.  Befstroganov, Beef Stroganoff and just plain old Stroganoff are what most people call this recipe in modern times.

     The original Befstroganov from the mid 1800's was made with cube shaped pieces of tender beef, mustard and beef bouillon.  The recipe was perfected with the addition of sour cream or crème fraîche soon after.  There were no onions or mushrooms in the original recipe.  At some time in the late 1800's, mushrooms and onions were added to the recipe.  This version is what today's Comfort Cuisine Website recipe is based upon.

     In the early 1900's, tomato paste was sometimes added to the Befstroganov recipe and many food experts demanded that the tomato paste be written as a required ingredient in all Stroganoff recipes.  Diehard fans of the original Stroganoff recipe refused to accept the addition of tomato as a required Stroganoff ingredient and I agree with this notion.

     There are a few modern Befstroganov recipes in Russia that have no resemblance to the original recipe and they are also quite interesting.  Breaded Fried Beef Strips with french fries and catsup is one such modern Russian street food style Stroganoff recipe version.

     Today's Befstroganov recipe blog entry is very close to the late 1800's version.  I learned this recipe while working for a German chef at a country club.  The German chef's family was from Russia, so he knew quite a bit about Russian cooking.  The beef that is used to make Befstroganov must have some marbling of fat in the meat grain, so that it will be tender after cooking.  A strong tasting mustard does make a difference in this recipe.  Russian Mustard or Dijon Mustard creates a good flavor.  
     Befstroganov Recipe:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty large portion or 2 medium size servings!  
     Beef stroganoff was originally a fine dining sauté recipe that was cooked to order back in the mid 1800's.  This is a late 1800's version of the original recipe.
     Step 1:  Cut 10 ounces of top sirloin beef steak into large bite size cube shapes.
     Lightly dredge the beef cubes in flour.
     Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add the beef pieces.
     Sauté the beef, till it is fully cooked and lightly browned.
     Step 2:  Add 1 minced small shallot.
     Add 1 cup of a mixture of button cave mushrooms and small portobello field mushrooms that are cut in half.
     Sauté till the mushrooms start to become tender.
     Step 3:  Drain off any excess grease.
     Add enough clarified beef stock (beef bouillon) to cover the beef and mushrooms.  (About 2 cups.)
     Bring the beef stock to a gentle boil.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of Dijon Mustard or Russian Mustard.
     Stir the mustard into the sauce.
     Add 8 to 10 pearl onions.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it is a medium thin consistency.
     Step 5:  Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1/4 cup of cream.
     Add 1/4 cup of sour cream.
     Stir the sauce till the ingredients are blended together.
     Step 6:  Simmer and reduce, till the sauce becomes a medium sauce consistency that easily clings to the beef.
     Keep the Befstroganov warm over very low heat.  Add beef bouillon if the sauce becomes too thick.
     The most popular way to serve Befstroganov is over egg noodles. 
     Step 1:  Cook 1 portion of egg noodles in boiling water, till they are tender.
     Drain the water off of the egg noodles.
     Place the hot egg noodles in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter, while stirring.
     Stir till the butter melts and coats the egg noodles.
     Step 2:  Place a bed of the egg noodles on a plate.
     Spoon the Befstroganov over the egg noodles.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.
     There is something about the flavor of a good beef stroganoff that is captivating!  Befstroganov has been popular for a very long time for one very good reason.  Befstroganov tastes fantastic!  

East Coast Style Mussels Mariner

     Old School East Coast Fish House Restaurant Style Mussels Mariner!
     I noticed that there are many Mussels Marinière recipes on the internet.  Many of the recipes are made with personal taste and extra ingredients are used in the recipe.  When extra ingredients are added to a traditional recipe, the modification has to be noted in the name of the recipe.  Otherwise confusion can occur, especially if a reader is learning classic French cuisine.
     The classic Mussels Marinière recipe was standardized by both Escoffier and Larousse over 100 years ago.  It is supposed to be a very simple French recipe with no variation for a good reason.  Classic Mussels Marinière actually is used to create many other traditional French recipes.  
     Moules Poulette is a good example of a secondary French mussels recipe that calls for classic Mussels Marinière to be made as one of many components of the Moules Poulette preparation.  If the Mussels Marinière is made exactly how it is supposed to be, then the Moules Poulette will turn out as it should be. 

     Classic French Mussels Marinière is popular at established old American seafood restaurants and yacht clubs.  The original French recipe is so simple, that many over zealous chefs miss the mark.  Gourmand customers expect to taste mussels with mussel broth and not much of anything else when they order classic Mussels Marinière.  The original French recipe calls for no cream and only broth flavors the mussels.
     There is a American style version of the classic French Mussels Marinière recipe.  The American version usually is spelled in plain English instead of French.  Mussels Mariner sounds as simple as it gets, so the theme of the recipe follows suit.  Classic American Mussels Mariner also is a very simple recipe.
     Classic American Mussels Mariner was a popular item at seafood restaurants along the east coast seaboard.  I worked in many old time seafood restaurants early in my career and when Blue Mussel harvests were readily available, we ran Mussels Mariner on the daily special board.  The American style Mussels Mariner sold like hotcakes every time!
     Classic American seafood house restaurant style Mussels Mariner is the same as the classic French Mussels Marinière recipe, but it is finished with whole milk or cream.  That is the only difference!
     Why complicate perfection?  The simpler, the better, does apply to the old time American Mussels Mariner recipe too.  Even with the addition of dairy products, the American style Mussels Mariner recipe is far from being complicated.  The end result is simply delicious!
     East Coast Style Mussels Mariner:
     This recipe yields 1 appetizer size portion.
     Step 1:  Soak 12 to 14 large Blue Mussels in salted water with corn meal for about 15 minutes.  (This will cause the mussels to expel any sand inside the shell.)
     Clean and debeard the Blue Mussels.
     Rinse the mussels with fresh water.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add the mussels.
     Sauté and shake the pan for 30 seconds.
     Step 3:  Add 1/4 cup of dry white wine.
     Add 1 cup of fumet.  (Fumet is clear whitefish broth.)
     Add 1 small bay leaf.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Cover the pan with a lid.
     Poach the mussels in the boiling liquid for 1 minute, till the shells start to open up.
     Step 4:  Remove the lid.
     Inspect and discard any dead mussel shells that did not open up.
     Step 5:  Add 1 cup of l milk.
     Add 1/4 cup of cream.
     Bring the broth back to a gentle boil.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg. 
     Simmer and reduce the cream broth for 3 to 4 minutes, till the flavor becomes rich.  (The mussels should be fully open by now.)
     Step 7:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Remove the bay leaf.
     Arrange the mussels in a shallow soup bowl so the look nice.
     Pour the broth over the mussels.
     Serve with sliced French baguette bread and a soup spoon.
     Mussels Mariner is a throwback to the good old days of east coast fine dining seafood restaurants!

Caldeirada De Peixe

     Portuguese Fish Stew!
     This healthy Portuguese fish stew is cooked very slowly.  Basically this traditional stew is is perfect for those who are looking for a great tasting meal that requires very little effort to make.  Stirring the stew is not even required.  Stirring will break up the pieces of fish and the goal is to retain large pieces of fish.  There are no difficult techniques involved with cooking this Portuguese recipe.  In fact, the lazier the cook, the better the Caldeirada De Peixe will be!  

     Fish Stew or Fisherman's Stew is a popular meal anywhere that there is a lake, river or ocean.  Often there is very little difference between a fish stew and a chowder.  The original French chowder was made with a broth and no milk was in the recipe.  The same can be said about Portuguese fish stews.  After tomatoes, potatoes and peppers were introduced during the Colombian Exchange, Portuguese Fish stews transformed into the grandfather of the Manhattan style red clam chowder recipe.
     Portuguese fish stew is made with a dry white wine broth.  This fish stew is not spicy at all.  The flavors are very mild and healthy tasting.  Today's recipe is a very basic Portuguese fish stew recipe variation.
     Some Portuguese fish stews have extra ingredients like shrimp, mussels, clams and choriso sausage.  Portuguese fish stew is usually made with fish scraps or oily fish like bonito, mackerel or eel.  White fish scraps are nice in this stew.  From one coastal town to the next or from one household to the next, the list of ingredients varies with the catch of the day or a cooks personal touch.

     I chose a piece of Pacific Ling Cod for today's recipe.  Cod is a popular mild tasting whitefish and it used to be caught worldwide in cooler waters.  Atlantic Cod is nearly extinct from overfishing.  Pacific Ling Cod has been listed as sustainable in recent years, but the overall numbers are way down.  Always check the sustainability rating of Ling Cod before making a purchase.

     Choose a good dry white wine to make this stew with.  A bitter, cheap, poorly crafted white wine will not give this stew a nice quality flavor.  A well crafted bargain priced white wine that you would be happy drinking at a table is the best choice.  I used a French Domaine White Burgundy Chardonnay to make this stew with.  The French wine actually was sold for a bargain price of $3.00 per bottle at a close out sale!

     Traditionally, Caldeirada De Peixe is slowly simmered on its own, while fishing village workers get other tasks done.  This is a stew that you can walk away from without having to worry about something going wrong.  The golden rule is simple.  Never stir Caldeirada De Peixe!
     Caldeirada De Peixe:
     This recipe yields 1 large portion!  Any sustainable fish can be used to make this recipe.  
     For more than one portion of this Portuguese fish stew, simply add more layers of each of the ingredients in the pot.  Adjust the seasonings for the larger amount of ingredients and broth.
     Step 1:  Cut these vegetables into large bite size pieces:
     - 1/2 of a peeled russet potato
     - 1/2 of a green bell pepper
     - 1/2 of a medium size onion
     - 1 large peeled seeded 1 ripe tomato
     - 1/2 of a roasted red bell pepper
     Step 2:  Place the vegetables in a sauce pot.
     Add 2 minced garlic cloves.
     Add a 8 ounces of Pacific Ling Cod Filet, that is cut into large thick pieces.
     Add 2 bay leaves.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 10 whole cilantro leaves.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Spanish Paprika.
     Step 3:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1 1/4 cups of dry white wine.
     Add enough water to barely cover the ingredients.
     Step 4:  Place the pot on a burner that is set to medium high heat.
     As soon as the first signs of boiling are seen in the pot, reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Do not cover the pot with a lid!
     Very gently simmer the fish stew, till the vegetables are tender and a nice fish stew aroma develops.  (About 45 minutes.)
     *Do not stir the caldeirada!  If the stew is stirred, then the fish will break up into small pieces and the stew broth will look cloudy. 
     Step 5:  When the caldeirada de peixe is done cooking, remove the bay leaves.
     Carefully ladle the stew and broth into a bowl, so the large fish pieces do not break up.
     Sprinkle a little bit of chopped Italian Parsley on the stew.
     Drizzle a few drops of virgin olive oil over the stew.
     Serve with crusty baguette style bread.
     The aroma of this slowly simmered stew is nice!  Portuguese Caldeirada De Peixe is a very healthy meal!   

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Bulgarian Moussaka

     The Wide World Of Moussaka!
     Moussaka has its oldest origins in Arabic cuisine.  In fact, every variation of the spelling of the word Moussaka can be traced to the Arabic language.  Arabic Moussaka is traditionally prepared as a chilled dish that is served as mezze or as an entrée.  
     After its Arabic origins Moussaka became a traditional Turkish entrée many centuries ago.  At about the same time in history, Moussaka became popular in Greece.  Later in culinary history, old Egyptian versions of Arabic moussaka were modified and topped with a bechamel sauce, during both the French and Italian occupations of North Africa.  
     Northern Grecian cuisine is basically Balkan Mountain region cuisine.  The Turkish Ottoman Empire occupation influenced Balkan cuisines, but the steadfast culinary traditions of the original inhabitants lived on.  
     Southeastern European cuisine has minor Turkish influences, but after the Ottoman occupation, the strong influences of Turkish cuisine was toned down or abandoned by the locals as an act of cultural preservation.  Many of the popular Turkish recipes from that age were completely reworked by local cooks, so the recipes had the signature look of traditional Balkan region food.

     I have published recipe articles in the past for Grecian and Egyptian style Moussaka.  Both of those styles of Moussaka are made with eggplant.  Bulgarian Moussaka has more of its own Eastern European cuisine influence and it is quite different than those two versions of Moussaka.  Bulgarian Moussaka contains no eggplant at all and this is due in part to the rejection of the Ottoman Empire culinary influences.  Eggplant is a main food staple in Islamic cultures, not Bulgarian culture.
     Potato replaces eggplant in Bulgarian Moussaka.  The potatoes can be sliced or diced this style of Moussaka.  I chose to dice the potatoes for this recipe.
     Instead of lamb, Bulgarian Moussaka is usually made with pork or beef.  Sometimes it is made with a combination of those two meats.  Bulgarian Moussaka is mildly spiced and it has a comfortable hearty flavor that is perfect for a cold day.  
     Béchamel sauce is not used for the topping in this recipe.  Bulgarian Moussaka requires a simple egg and yogurt custard topping.  This style of topping is often used for both Greek and Turkish Moussaka.  
     Sometimes cheese is added to the Bulgarian Moussaka yogurt custard topping.  I chose to add a little bit of Bulgarian Kashkaval sheep's milk cheese to the topping.  If you add cheese, then a small splash of milk should be added too, so the texture remains light. 

     If you happen to not like eggplant, then Bulgarian Moussaka will be to your liking!  Bulgarian Moussaka is the best version of Moussaka to make on a cold winter day.  This style of Moussaka fills the tummy with comfort and warmth! 

     Bulgarian Moussaka:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty individual portion!
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of lard or unsalted butter.
     Add 2 tablespoons of small chopped onion.
     Add 1 minced clove of garlic.
     Sauté till the onions turn clear in color.
     Step 2:  Add 6 ounces of lean ground pork or ground beef.  (Or a mixture of the two ground meats.)
     Sauté till the meat begins to brown.  Break up any clumps of ground meat in the pan as it cooks.
     Step 3:  Add 1 cup of diced peeled russet potato.
     Sauté till the potato starts to cook.
     Step 4:  Add 1 cup of pork broth or chicken broth.
     Add 3/4 cup of imported Italian canned crushed tomato.
     Add 1 minced seeded fresh plum tomato.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Add 1 pinch of Hungarian Paprika.
     Step 5:  Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes thick enough to coat the ground meat and potatoes with a thin layer of sauce.  
     *The potatoes do not need to be fully cooked at this point.  The potatoes should be about halfway cooked.  The potatoes will finish cooking when the moussaka is baked.
     Step 6:  Place the moussaka mixture into a shallow single serving size oven proof casserole dish.  Use a spoon to smooth and even the moussaka in the casserole dish.  Be sure to leave about 3/8" of empty space at the top of the casserole dish, so the custard topping can be added. 
     Step 7:  Pace 1 large egg in a mixing bowl.
     Whisk the egg till it is blended.
     Add 3 tablespoons of grated Bulgarian Kashkaval Cheese.
     Add 1/4 cup of goat milk yogurt.  (Greek Yogurt)
     Add 2 tablespoons of milk.
     Add 2 tablespoons of cream.
     Whisk the ingredients together.
     Pour a thin layer of the custard over the moussaka in the casserole dish.
     Step 8:  Place the moussaka casserole dish on a baking pan.
     Bake in a 325ºF oven.
     Bake the moussaka, till the filling is piping hot and the custard topping becomes a golden color.
     Step 9:  Set the moussaka aside and let it cool to a safe serving temperature.
     Place the casserole dish on a doily lined serving plate.
     Garnish with an Italian parsley Sprig.
     Warm, filling and comfortable to eat!  Bulgarian Moussaka is a simple recipe that is very satisfying on a chilly day.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Zitoni al forno e polpettine

     Baked Zitoni Pasta, Tomato Sauce, Tiny Meatballs And Cheese!
     Zitoni Pasta is fun to eat!  Foot long tubes of Zitoni flop all over the place when they are eaten.  Kids love this pasta because of the sounds that can be made with hollow pasta tubes.  Parents kind of dread Zitoni because this pasta can sling the sauce all over the place.  Pasta Bibs are definitely recommended!
     Polpettine translates to "little meat balls."  Lots of little meatballs are in today's baked pasta entrée.  Large thick pieces of mozzarella cheese are baked on top of the pasta and the gooey strings of cheese really inspire a pasta munching craze at the table!
     A big bowl of Zitoni al forno e polpettine and really fill a tummy up to the brim.  It is best to eat very light all day long, before tackling a big bowl of this heavy weight champion Italian pasta.
     Zitoni al forno con le polpettine originates in Napoli, Italy.  This is a great Southern Italian entrée, especially when the weather is chilly!

     Salsa di Pomodoro:
     Follow this link to the recipe in this website:
     • Salsa di Pomodoro

     Polpettine (Small Meatballs):
     This recipe yields enough for 1 pasta entrée.
     These are simple little meatballs that are not made with an extensive list of ingredients.
     Step 1:  Place 6 ounces of lean ground beef in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of water soaked bread pith that is squeezed dry.
     Add 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs.
     Add 1 tablespoon of whisked egg.
     Add 1 tablespoons of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of oregano.
     Add 4 cloves of minced garlic.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Scoop cherry size portions of the meat mixture and set them on a plate.
     Roll the little meat portions into smooth tiny meatball shapes by hand.
     Step 3:  Brush a small roasting pan with blended olive oil.
     Bake the meatballs in a 325ºF oven till they are lightly browned and fully cooked.
     Set the polpettine aside.
     This recipe yields 1 large portion. 
     Some chefs prefer to break each long Zitoni tube in half before cooking.  Others like to serve the Zitoni whole.  If the Zitoni breaks or splits while cooking, it is okay.
     Step 1:  Boil a large pot of water over high heat.
     Add 1 large portion of zitoni pasta.
     Gently stir the zitoni occasionally with a pasta stick and try not to break the fragile long zitoni tubes.
     Boil the zitoni till it is al dente.
     Step 2:  Place the pot of pasta under cold running water.  (Never shock Italian pasta with ice water!  Shocking pasta causes excessive starching.)
     Drain the water off the Zitoni.

     Zitoni al forno e polpettine:
     This recipe yields 1 big hearty bowl of pasta that can be shared by two guests.  (If a guest can coax a person to share this great tasting Italian pasta after the first bite!)
     Step 1:  Ladle 3 ounces of salsa di pomodoro on the bottom of an extra large single serving casserole dish or a large oven proof deep pasta bowl.
     Place 1 third of the cooked zitoni pasta on the sauce.
     Spoon several dollops of ricotta cheese on the pasta.  (about 6 ounces)
     Step 2:  Place the rest of the zitoni pasta on top of the ricotta.
     Ladle enough salsa di pomodoro over the pasta, to coat the pasta with flavor.  (About 6 ounces)
     Place some large thick pieces of mozzarella cheese on top of the pasta.  (A total amount of 5 to 7 ounces is good.)
     Place the polpettine (little meatballs) on top of the pasta.
     Spoon a few dabs of salsa di pomodoro over the pasta.
     Step 3:  Place the pasta bowl in a 325ºF oven.
     Bake till the cheese is melted and the pasta becomes hot.
     *Do not brown the pasta and cheese or the flavor will become bitter!  The cheese should only be soft and melted.
     Step 4:  Remove the pasta bowl from the oven and let it cool for 1 or 2 minutes.
     Set the pasta bowl on a doily lined serving plate.
     Sprinkle some chopped Italian Parsley over the pasta.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.
     This is a great hearty filling pasta recipe!  The tiny meatballs, a great tomato sauce and gooey strings of mozzarella cheese tangle with the long zitoni pasta in a messy fun way.  Be sure to wear a pasta bib when eating zitoni al forno e polpettine!