Saturday, June 25, 2016

Maque Choux

     Maque Choux
     Maque Choux originally was a traditional Native American stew.  French Cajuns lived close with Native Americans a few hundred years ago and many culinary heritages were exchanged.  The French Cajun words Maque Choux are a phonetic translation of the Native American word that describes this stew.
     Maque Choux is made with chile peppers, tomato and corn.  Maque Choux appealed to Cajuns, because more often than not, the selection of chile peppers was on the spicy side.
     Cajuns adopted Maque Choux and there are now many recipe variations.  Some chefs add a little bit of Tasso Ham, or smoked meat for flavor.  When fatty meat is added, the rendered fat is used to sauté the vegetables.  Other chefs add no meat at all and they sauté the vegetables with butter or oil.  For those who like a Maque Choux that has a savory flavor, starting with a thick slice of hickory smoked hog jowl will yield plenty of rich rendered fat.
     The finished Maque Choux should not really look like steamed corn that is flavored with a few diced peppers and tomato.  That would be too pretty!  Maque Choux should look like the vegetables were stewed for a long time.  

     Maque Choux:
     This recipe yields
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of unsalted butter.
     Add a thick slice of smoked hog jowl that weighs 2 to 3 ounces.
     Gently sauté till the hog jowl is lightly browned on both sides and some fat is rendered.
     Step 2:  *There should be about 2 1/2 tablespoons of rendered fat in the pot.  If there is not enough, then add enough unsalted butter to make up the difference.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1/4 cup of diced celery.
     Add 1/3 cup of diced onion.
     Added 1/3 cup of red bell pepper.
     Add 1/3 cup of green bell pepper.
     Add 1 finely chopped Green Serrano Chile Pepper.
     Add 2 thin sliced green onions.
     Sauté till the vegetables are cooked al dente.
     Step 3:  Add 1 1/2 cups of white corn kernels.
     Sauté till the corn and vegetables are tender.
     Step 4:  Add 1 1/4 cups of imported Italian diced plum tomatoes and their own juices.
     Add 2 pinches of thyme.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon of Ground Cayenne Pepper.  (to taste)
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Use a fork to gently mash some of the corn, tomatoes and vegetables in the pan as it cooks.
     Step 6:  Add 1 1/2 cups of water.
     Gently simmer till the almost all of the liquid evaporates.
     Step 7:  Repeat step 6!
     *There should be no excess liquid in the pan after simmering.  The tomatoes should be able to cling to the corn.
     Step 8:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Add 2 teaspoons of chilled unsalted butter while stirring.
     Place the Maque Choux into a shallow casserole dish.
     Place the slice of smoked hog jowl on top, so it can be seen.
     Place the casserole dish on a serving platter.

     Some recipes say to add sugar.  If you use extra ripe tomatoes or Italian canned plum tomatoes and fresh white corn, then the flavor will taste naturally sweet and spicy!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Jamaican Oxtail Pepperpot

     Jamaican Pepperpot should not be confused with Philadelphia Pepperpot or Ghana Pepperpot.  Only Jamaican Pepperpot has a spicy hot chile pepper kick!
     Plenty of tradition goes into Jamaican Pepperpot recipes.  A combination of Native Caribbean and African ingredients makes Jamaican Pepperpot such an interesting dish.
     Jamaican Pepperpot is a hearty soup that is rich enough to be called a stew.  Pepperpot is a nutritious meal that also helps beat the tropical heat.  Scotch Bonnet Peppers not only add a spicy flavor, they cause light perspiration that provides a welcome cooling sensation on a hot humid day.
     The recipe for Pepperpot varies from one cook to the next in the Caribbean Islands.  Jamaican Pepperpot is basically a stew of starchy root vegetables, greens, chile peppers and just enough meat to enrich the broth.  Goat, chicken, pork or secondary cuts of beef are used to make Jamaican Pepperpot.  Oxtail is one of the most popular offal choices, because this secondary cut of beef imparts plenty of flavor.  The price of oxtail has gone through the roof during the last 10 years, so it is best to mention oxtail in the recipe title, especially when serving this Pepperpot as a soup du jour in a restaurant.  
     The proportion of root vegetables is high in Jamaican Pepperpot, because the starchy vegetables make this soup filling.  Orange color Sweet Potato, Yellow Sweet Potato (Yellow Yam) and Cocoyam (Yautia-Malanga) are the traditional root vegetables.
     The leafy green vegetable in Jamaican Pepperpot is nearly always Callaloo.  Callaloo is also known as Amaranth Greens or Pigweed.  Fresh Amaranth Greens can be found in Mexican food markets throughout the Southwest.  Canned Callaloo can be found in Caribbean food markets.  If no Callaloo is available, then Collard Greens, Dandelion Greens or Turnip Greens are good substitutes.
     Scotch Bonnet Peppers are as hot as a Habanero Pepper, so be careful not to add too much.  The goal is to create just enough hot pepper flavor to provide relief from the tropical heat.  The Cocoyam (Malanga) also has a chemical that causes light perspiration.  As one can see, a traditional Jamaican Pepperpot is a recipe that was developed long before air conditioning came to be!          
     Jamaican Oxtail Pepperpot:
     This recipe yields 2 hearty servings.  (About 4 cups)
     Small oxtail pieces are best for this recipe.  
     Step 1:  Select 8 ounces of small oxtail pieces.
     Lightly season the oxtail with sea salt and black pepper.  
     Step 2:  Heat a wide large sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add the oxtail pieces.
     Sauté till the oxtail is lightly browned on all sides.
     Step 3:  Add 2 cups of water.
     Add 1 cup of beef broth.
     Add 2 cups of vegetable broth.
     Add 2 cloves of crushed garlic.
     Add 1/3 cup of chopped onion.
     Add 1/3 cup of diced carrot.
     Add 1/3 cup of diced celery.
     Bring the broth to a boil.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer till the oxtail meat starts to become tender.  Allow the volume of the broth to reduce to about 4 cups.    
     Step 5:  Add 2 chopped green onions.
     Add 1/2 cup of large diced green bell pepper.
     Add 1/4 cup of diced red bell pepper.
     Add 1 chopped Scotch Bonnet pepper.
     *For a mild flavor add 1/2 of a Scotch Bonnet.  For extra spicy hot, serve with a bottle of Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce on the side!
     Add 1/2 cup of large diced peeled Cocoyam (Malanga).
     Add 1/3 cup of large diced peeled Yellow Sweet Potato (Yellow Yam).
     Add 1/2 cup of large diced peeled Sweet Potato (orange color).
     Add 1 cup of chopped fresh Callaloo Greens (or 2/3 cup of chopped canned Callaloo).
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 2 pinches of allspice.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 6:  *If necessary, add enough water to cover the ingredients with 1" of extra liquid.
     Raise the temperature to medium heat.    
     Bring the soup back to a gentle boil.
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 cup of coconut milk while stirring.
     Gently simmer the soup till the vegetables are very tender.  (Do not stir after the Sweet Potatoes become tender or they will break apart.)
     *Only add broth or water if necessary.  The proportion of meat and vegetables should be higher than the amount of broth!
     Step 8:  Remove the bay leaf.
     Squeeze 1/2 tablespoon of lime juice over the Pepperpot just before serving.
     Ladle the Jamaican Oxtail Pepperpot into a large soup bowl.
     Serve with sliced bread on the side.
     No garnish is necessary!

     Jamaican Oxatil Pepperpot!  Yah Mon!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Fricassee Chicken with Tomato and Artichoke

     A Light Lemony Fricassee!
     By French definition, Fricassee is a quickly made stew that is slightly thickened.  The first Fricassee recipe was published in France about 400 years ago and the basics of the recipe remain the same.  Fricassee is traditionally made with rabbit, game birds or chicken.  Lemon is a key flavor.  Fricassee is nearly always served with rice.
     The stewing sauce for Fricassee can be very thin when served during the hot summer months or it can be made a little thicker for when the weather is cold.  A winter Fricassee is usually meaty, while a summer Fricassee can have some light vegetables in the mix.  Artichoke and tomato add a nice flavor.
     Fricassee Chicken with Tomato and Artichoke:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty entrée.
     Step 1:  Cook 1 portion of long grain white rice ahead of time.
     Keep the rice warm on a stove top or in a 135ºF Bain Marie.
     Step 2:  Cut a 6 ounce chicken breast filet into thin bite size pieces.
     Dredge the chicken pieces in flour.
     Step 3:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add the floured chicken pieces.
     Sauté till the chicken pieces are a light golden color.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Add 1 clove of chopped garlic.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced shallot.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Add 1 thin sliced green onion.
     Gently sauté till the onions turn clear in color.
     Step 5:  Add 1 diced fresh plum tomato.  (About 1/4 cup)
     Add 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice.
     Add just enough chicken stock to cover the ingredients.  (About 2 cups.)
     Step 6:  Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Add 1 pinch of ground sage.
     Add 2 pinches of Herbs de Provence.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer the fricassee till the stewing sauce reduces by half.
     Step 8:  Add 4 artichoke hearts that are cut into wedges.
     Simmer and reduce till the stewing sauce is a thin sauce consistency that barely clings to the chicken.
     Step 9:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter while stirring.
     Remove the bay leaf and serve!

     Use a ring mold to place a portion of plain long grain white rice on a plate.
     Spoon the Fricassee Chicken with Tomato and Artichoke on the plate around the rice.
     Garnish the rice with parsley leaves and lemon slices.

     The light flavors of artichoke and tomato make this a very nice fricassee for summer! 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Blue Plate Special! ... Steak Milanese with Peppers & Onions over Pasta Marinara

     An American Diner Style Blue Plate Special!
     The level of quality can vary greatly at American diner restaurants.  The food at a top notch diner restaurant is all cooked from scratch and this includes the desserts, jellies and jams.  On the flip side, greasy spoon diners tend to rely on instant mix products, canned food and frozen desserts to maintain quality.  No matter how good or bad that a diner restaurant may be, all diners have one thing in common.  They all offer a Blue Plate Special!

     Every good diner offers a good Blue Plate Special.  The Blue Plate Special can be something simple like "all you can eat fish" on a Friday night or it can be something on the gourmet side.  A Blue Plate Special is not exactly as fancy as a special du jour at a fine dining restaurant, but nonetheless, it is meant entertain guests.  
     More often than not, the food for making Blue Plate Specials was purchased at a low price and the bargain is passed on to customers.  Low cost meats, secondary cuts and local peak harvest seafood are all fair game for a Blue Plate Special.  
     Tough cuts of beef can be purchased for a low price, but tough beef presents a challenge.  Marinating, stewing or braising will tenderize nearly any tough cut of beef.  Tenderizing a cheap tough steak with a meat mallet will leave the meat tender, while presenting an opportunity to sauté or pan fry.  A pan fried Beef Steak Milanese certainly sounds more exciting than beef stew and the cost still remains low. 
     Something like a Beef Steak Milanese should be an average portion size, like 6 to 8 ounces.  This means that the rest of the plate must be filled out with accompaniments or the customer's perception of value be in question.  In other words, if the Steak Milanese is small, the rest of the plate needs to be covered with vegetables, potatoes, rice or even pasta.  Serving breaded veal, beef or chicken over tomato sauce pasta actually is a classic diner style presentation.  Topping the breaded steak with grilled onions & peppers also is traditional.      
     Nobody ever said diner food is glamorous.  Diner food is short order cooking and the food presentations require minimal effort.  This means that the entrée has to look good on its own, because it is not heavily garnished.  Diner Blue Plate Specials are usually large size portions of cheap food, because customers will only be content if they have a belly full of food for a bargain price.  Today's recipe is a definitive diner style Blue Plate Special! 

     Marinara Sauce: 
     Diner restaurants usually serve a smooth pureed Marinara.  To make a smooth Marinara, allow the finished Marinara Sauce to cool.  Either run the Marinara through a food mill or place it in a food processor and pulse till the sauce is smooth.  
      Follow the link to the recipe.

     Steak Milanese:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Select a thin Beef Top Round Steak that weighs 6 to 8 ounces.  The steak should about 3/8" thick. 
     Trim off any excess fat.
     Step 2:  Use a meat mallet to pound the steak till it is tenderized and evenly thin.
     Step 3:  Lightly season the steak with sea salt and black pepper.
     Dredge the steak in flour.
     Dip the steak in egg wash.
     Dredge steak in fine plain French bread crumbs.
     Step 4:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 2 1/2 ounces of blended olive oil.
     Adjust the temperature, so the oil is 360ºF.
     Step 5:  Place the breaded steak in the hot oil.
     Pan fry the steak on both sides, but try to only flip the steak one or two times.
     Pan fry, till the breading is crispy golden brown.
     Step 6:  Use tongs to place the steak on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan, to drain off any excess oil.
     Keep the Beef Steak Milanese warm on a stove top.

     Grilled Peppers and Onions:
     This recipe yields enough for 1 steak.
     Onion ring shapes (rondelle) is a diner style way of cutting onions for grilling. 
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of blended olive oil.
     Add 2 thick slices of onion that are separated into rings.  (About 3/8" thick.)
     Add 1/4 cup of red bell pepper strips.
     Add 1/4 cup of green bell pepper strips.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Step 2:  Gently sauté till the onions and peppers are tender, but not browned.
     Keep the peppers and onions warm on a stove top.
     Pasta Marinara:  
     This recipe yields 1 portion.  
     Any pasta can be used for this recipe.  Most American diners use Spaghetti for a Milanese entrée.  Mezze Occhi di Lupo Pasta translates to"Wolf's Eye Pasta."  I had some on hand, so Mezze Occhi di Lupo was the pasta choice in the photos.
     Step 1:  Cook 1 portion of a pasta of your choice in boiling water over high heat till it is al dente.  The sauce can be heated while the pasta cooks!
     Place a 5 to 6 ounce portion of the marinara sauce in a sauté pan over medium low heat. 
     Gently simmer the sauce till it is hot.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Step 2:  When the pasta is ready, drain the water off of the pasta.
     Add the pasta to the sauce.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Keep the pasta warm on a stove top. 

     Steak Milanese with Peppers & Onions over Pasta Marinara:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Step 1:  Place the pasta marinara on a plate as a bed for the steak.
     Step 2:  Place the Steak Milanese on the pasta.
     Squeeze about 1 teaspoon of Fresh lemon juice over the steak.
     Step 3:  Place the grilled peppers and onions next to the steak on the pasta.
     Sprinkle 2 to 3 pinches of grated Romano Cheese over the pasta.
     Sprinkle some minced Italian Parsley over the entrée.
     Garnish with a sprig of Italian Parsley.
     Serve with dinner rolls or garlic bread on the side.

     This hearty Blue Plate Special that can be cooked at home for just a few dollars!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Tunisian Couscous Royale with Tilapia

     The earliest couscous was actually millet grain.  Semolina pasta that was formed into tiny millet grain shapes became more popular than millet for couscous in the last few hundred years.  The reason that pasta style couscous retained its millet shape or ball shape was due in part by tradition and necessity. 
     Part of the reason that the pasta style couscous retained a small millet or small bead shape is the lifestyle of North African people.  Beduin nomadic people travel by horseback and camel.  The ride can be rough.  Long delicate pasta carried on the back of an animal would break apart and end up looking like tiny couscous by the end of the day.  
     Another reason pasta style couscous has a small shape is because water and firewood is scarce in desert regions.  An average Italian pasta takes over 8 minutes of cooking time in a pot of boiling water.  Couscous can be cooked with just enough water to reconstitute the couscous in about 4 minutes.  No water is wasted and not much firewood is needed!
     Couscous is usually accompanied by a wide variety of stewed vegetables and meats.  The stew is placed on the couscous and served.  The couscous can be flavored with a wide variety of spice mixtures.  
     Harissa is popular in Tunisia.  Tunisian Fish Couscous is fish and vegetables stewed in a spicy harissa sauce that is placed on a mound of couscous.  Tunisian Fish Couscous is quite saucy.
     Couscous Royale refers to grilled meat that is placed on couscous.  Couscous Royale is not saucy at all.  For a Tunisian style Couscous Royale the couscous can be flavored with harissa.    
     Harissa is a key ingredient in all North African cuisine.  Traditional harissa paste is only made with varieties of mild paprika peppers and red bell peppers.  Dried hot peppers are added only if a spicier flavor is desired.  
     For Couscous Royale the term grilling can refer to cooking over an open flame, like when using a chargrill.  Grilling can also mean cooking on a hot metal surface over an open flame.  When cooking small delicate fish, it is best to grill the fish on a cast iron griddle, so the fish does not break apart.      

     Tunisian Harissa Couscous with Tilapia:
     This couscous yields 1 large portion that can be shared by 2 guests.
     Step 1:  Cut a large russet potato into 8 large wedges.
     Boil the potato wedges till they are about 3/4 fully cooked and still firm.
     Remove the potato wedges from the hot water and set them aside.
     Step 2:  Cut a 6 ounce of tilapia filet into long wide strips.
     Heat a cast iron griddle over medium heat.
     Pour 1 tablespoon of blended olive oil on the griddle.
     Place the tilapia on the griddle.
     Season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of oregano over the tilapia.
     Sear the tilapia strips on both sides, till they are fully cooked and a few light brown highlights appear.
     Place the seared tilapia strips on a platter and keep them warm on a stove top.
     Step 3:  Heat a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 1/2 cup of thin sliced onion.
     Sauté till the onions turn clear in color.
     Step 4:  Add 1 clove of minced garlic.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Add 1 jalapeño that is cut in half lengthwise.
     Add 4 thick carrot sticks.
     Sauté till the vegetables start to cook.
     Step 5:  Add 3 cups of chicken broth.
     Add 1/2 cup of red lentils.   (Pre-cooked chick peas can be substituted.)
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cumin.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 1 pinch of saffron.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric.
     Add 1 pinch of dried mint.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Gently boil, till the lentils start to become tender.
     Step 6:  Add 1 tablespoon of tomato paste.
     Add 1/4 cup of harissa sauce (or 2 tablespoons of harissa paste).
     Stir the ingredients.
     Step 7:  Add 1 1/2 cups of couscous.
     Place the reserved blanched potato wedges on top of the couscous.
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Allow the couscous to boil and steam for 4 to 5 minutes.  (The couscous will absorb all the liquid in the pot.)
     Remove the lid after the couscous is finished, so the steam escapes.

     Mound the couscous high on the center of a plate, but try to leave the vegetables in the pot.
     Arrange the vegetables and the reserved seared tilapia strips vertically around the mound of couscous.
     Garnish the couscous with slices of Pickled Lemon and cilantro leaves.  (Pickled Lemon is available in Mediterranean food markets.)

     Tunisian Couscous Royale with Tilapia is perfect for a hot summer evening!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Ginger Malanga Kale Soup

     A Caribbean Soup That Provides Relief From The Heat!
     Malanga or Yautia are two names for the same tropical root vegetable.  Malanga is called Cocoyam in Jamaica.  Malanga is also known by its slang names, "cool root" or "sweat root."      
     The origins of Malanga can be found in Africa.  Malanga is sometimes classified as a yam, but this is a case of mistaken identity.  Malanga comes from the Elephant Ear Plant Family, just like Arrow Root and Taro.  Of all three of these rhizomes, Malanga has the most flavor.       
    Malanga also has medicinal value.  Malanga has a chemical in it that causes a very light misty sweat on the skin.  The light sweat effect makes a person feel like it is 10ºF to 20ºF cooler on a hot summer day!  That truly is a blessing in the tropics.

     Ginger Kale Soup is an old traditional Caribbean soup.  Ginger Kale Soup is very soothing and it has great health benefits.  I used to sell Ginger Kale Soup as a soup du jour long before running across Malanga.
     I kew about Malanga, but I never cooked it in a restaurant till a friend of mine from the Cayman Islands got into the root vegetable delivery business.  One day, he showed up at an English pub where I was working with a couple cases each of Yama Blanco and Yautia Malanga.  He gave me a great promotional price, because he was just starting his business, so I bought a few cases of the tropical root vegetables.
     That same day I was planning to make a traditional Ginger Kale Soup.  I thought that Malanga would add nice flavor and heartiness to the soup.  I ate the first bowl of soup, just for the misty sweat effect of the malanga soup, because the kitchen was very hot and humid.  The effects were immediate!  It felt like somebody installed a brand new air conditioner in that kitchen.
     I offered a bowl to the English pub owner and explained how Malanga got its nickname.  He complimented both the flavor of the soup and its quick chilling effect!
     That same day, a few Irish patrons were seated at the bar and it was easy to strike up a conversation about potato soup, with the intent of getting them interested in trying "a new kind of potato."  The "new potato species" that I used in the sales pitch, just happened to be Malanga.    
     After the first few spoonfuls of soup, the Irish customers kept asking "What kind of potato is this? ... It tastes really good!"  The Irish customers continued to rave about the Ginger Malanga Kale Soup and this caused nearly everybody at the bar counter to order a bowl of the soup du jour.  Even the bar maid tried a bowl.
     After a few minutes, the medicinal effects of the Malanga sweat chemical made its presence known.  Everybody at the English pub exclaimed that they were feeling chilly.  The light misty sweat effect of the Malanga Root definitely was working!  Some of the customers actually started sneezing when the ceiling fans blew fresh air their way!  Good old Malanga was the cause of the chills and not one customer figured it out till they were told!

     Ginger Malanga Kale Soup:
     This recipe yields 1 large bowl of soup.  (About 2 1/4 cups.)
     There is nothing fancy about the techniques involved with making this soup.  Like many Caribbean soups, the ingredients are simply boiled and simmered.  
     It is best to peel Malanga with a paring knife, because the root skin is coarse and tough.
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 2 1/2 cups of light chicken broth.
     Add 2/3 cup of large diced of malanga root.  (1/2" cube shapes.)
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped celery.
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped onion.
     Add 1 1/3 cups of chopped green kale leaves.
     Step 2:  Add 1 clove of minced garlic.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced ginger.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Step 3:  Bring the ingredients to a boil.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer till the diced malanga and kale become tender.  Allow the volume to reduce to about 2 1/4 cups.  (Add a splash of water if the volume of the soup is too low.)
     Step 5:  Keep the soup warm over very low heat or in a 135ºF bain marie.
     Ladle into a soup bowl.
     No garnish is necessary!

     Ginger Kale Soup has a nice healthy tropical Caribbean flavor.  It was a natural to add Malanga to this soup.  Malanga has an interesting root vegetable flavor of its own and the texture is lighter on the tummy than potato. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Carambola and Kefalograviera Tossed Salad with Tangy Pomegranate Honey Dressing

     Simply throwing a few ingredients into a salad bowl and thoughtlessly adding a manufactured salad dressing product rarely yields something to write home about.  It is better to maintain a goal of creating something worthwhile rather than settling for the same old salad choices.
     Many classic and modern salads feature lettuce greens with fruit and cheese.  There are classic cheese and fruit pairings that are well known, like Camembert and cherries or Chevre and figs.  All it takes is a little imagination to figure a good cheese and fruit pairing that would work well in a salad recipe.      
     Greek Kefalograviera Cheese and Carambola (Star Fruit) go well together.  A mild sheeps milk cheese like Kefalograviera is perfect with the light refreshing tropical flavor of Carambola fruit.  These mild fruit and cheese flavors are best when served with mild lettuce greens, like Romaine, Boston or Bibb.
     Deciding on a salad dressing that is best for a combination of Romaine, Kefalograveria and Carambola does take some thought.  Buttermilk, yogurt or mayonnaise based salad dressings would mask the delicate flavors.  A vinaigrette would be okay, but the acidity might compete with the Carambola flavor.  A dressing with a natural sweet tangy flavor combination would be a better choice.  
      Pomegranate Molasses has a tangy deep pomegranate flavor with a hint of sweetness.  Pomegranate Molasses is usually used in hot food recipes and to flavor warm bulgar wheat grain desserts.  Pomegranate Molasses is a nice choice for making a tangy sweet sour flavored salad dressing.  Just a dab of honey is all it takes to balance the tangy flavor, so it tastes nice with mild cheese, light tropical fruit and mild lettuce greens.
     Pomegranate Molasses can be found at Mediterranean food markets.  Some bottles are labeled as Tangy Pomegranate Molasses.  The color is reddish brown.  Pomegranate Molasses is not a true molasses.  Pomegranate Molasses is more like a thick concentrate, so a little bit goes a long way.  
     Tangy Pomegranate Honey Salad Dressing:
     This recipe yields 2 portions.  (About 1/2 cup)
     Step 1:  Place 2 teaspoons of rice vinegar in al mixing bowl.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1 pinch of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1 small pinch of ground oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Let the ingredients stand for 5 minutes.
     Step 2:  Slowly add 2 tablespoons of pomace olive oil while constantly whisking.
     Add 3 tablespoons of honey while stirring.
     Add 3 tablespoons of tangy pomegranate molasses while stirring.
     Set the dressing aside for 5 minutes, so the flavors meld.
     Stir before serving.
     Carambola and Kefalograviera Tossed Salad with Tangy Pomegranate Honey Dressing:
     This recipe yields 1 large salad portion.
     Step 1:  Place 3 cups of bite size pieces of romaine lettuce in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 small ripe carambola fruit that is cut into thin slices.  (About 3/4 cup)
     Step 2:  Cut 2 1/2 to 3 ounces of Greek Kefalograviera Cheese into thin bite size slices.
     Add the cheese to the salad greens and fruit.
     Step 3:  Add 1/4 cup of diced tomato.
     Add a few julienne carrot strips for color.
     Add 2 tablespoons of julienne sliced peeled broccoli stalk.
     Step 4:  Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of the Tangy Pomegranate Honey Salad Dressing.  
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Step 5:  Mound the tossed salad on a plate.
     Try to expose some of the star fruit and cheese on the surface of the salad.
     Spoon about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the Tangy Pomegranate Honey Salad Dressing over the salad.
     No garnish is necessary!
     This is a nice refreshing Mediterranean style salad that is worth trying!  

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Caribbean Fried Chicken with Mango Chutney

     Tropical Paradise Fried Chicken, Mon!
     If there is a place in the world where fried chicken is one of the most popular food choices, then that place would have to be the Caribbean Islands.  Every cook on each island has their own way of making fried chicken and each cook's fried chicken just happens to be the best on the island!    
     Some like fried chicken that is fried dark.  Some like a light color.  Some like dark meat and some like the white sections.  Some like it crispy and some like it greasy.  Some like fried chicken spicy and some like it sweet.  Some like it buttermilk dipped and some like egg dipped.  Some doctors tell their patients not to eat fried chicken and the patients eat it anyway.  Some even sing songs about fried chicken.  By all counts, fried chicken is hard to beat!  
     What condiment goes good with fried chicken?  Plain old salt for some.  Pepper Vinegar, Sherry Pepper Sauce, Honey, BBQ sauce, Sweet & Sour and Hot Sauce are just to name a few.  Mango Chutney also goes well fried chicken, especially if the coating is spicy.  Mango Chutney provides relief from the spicy heat.  Mango Chutney is a common accompaniment in Floribbean and Caribbean cuisine. 
     Most cooks from the Caribbean Islands that I have worked in the past preferred to use egg wash and a seasoned flour to cook fried chicken.  Sometimes honey is added to the egg wash.  Other Caribbean cooks used highly seasoned buttermilk wash.  I like buttermilk dipped fried chicken the best, because it is easy to get that crispy golden brown coating that nearly everybody likes.  
     I made both of these recipes at the Le Cordon Bleu campus Technique Restaurant while working there as a sauté cook and saucier.  The Caribbean Fried Chicken was a personal meal for myself!  The Mango Chutney was my own recipe that I have used in several restaurants in the past.  

     Mango Chutney: 
     This recipe yields about 3 cups of chutney!
     Step 1:  Boil 2 cups of water in a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 3/4 cup of cider vinegar.
     Add 1 cup of sugar. 
     *Taste the liquid.  The mixture should taste like a balanced sweet and sour flavor.  Adjust the amount of sugar or vinegar as necessary. 
     Step 2:  Rapidly boil till the liquid reduces to a very thin syrup consistency.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat. 
     Add 1 chopped peeled apple.  (About 3/4 cup.)  
     Add 2/3 cup of chopped onion.  (The apple and onion will create natural pectin.)
     Simmer till the apple and onion becomes very tender.  Add water as necessary to keep the liquid at a very thin syrup consistency. 
     Step 4:  Add 1/3 cup of minced dried fruit.  
     *Dried cherries, dried cranberries, prunes, white raisons or dark raisons are best for making chutney.    
     Add 3 tablespoons of minced fresh ginger. 
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of chopped garlic.
     Add 3 tablespoons of lemon juice. 
     Add 1 tablespoon of thin chiffonade sliced fresh lemon zest.
     Step 5:  Add 2 finely chopped green onions.  (Only use the white sections of the green onions.)
     Add 1/4 cup of small chopped green bell pepper.
     Add 1/4 cup of small chopped red bell pepper.
     Add 2 finely minced seeded jalapeño chile peppers.  
     Step 6:  Add 2 cups of diced peeled mango.
     Add 1/3 cup of mango puree or mango juice.
     Step 7:  Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.  
     Add 2 to 3 pinches of white pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of allspice. 
     Add 1 pinch of turmeric.
     Add 1 pinch of Indian Yellow Curry Powder.
     Step 8:  Bring the ingredients to a gentle boil over medium heat.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Gently simmer till the chutney reduces to a thick fruit preserves consistency. 
     Step 9:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Let the chutney cool to room temperature.  
     Place chutney in a container.  
     Chill the chutney for at least 3 days.  (2 weeks is best because the flavors will completely meld.)
     *Chutney can be kept in a refrigerator for almost 6 months, just like fruit preserves!

     Caribbean Fried Chicken:
     This recipe yields 1/2 of a chicken or 4 pieces.  (I chose 4 pieces of dark meat legs and thighs for the fried chicken in the photos.)  
     Step 1:  Cut 1/2 chicken into 4 pieces.
     *The bones and skin should always left on fried chicken!  Just trim off any excess fat
     Step 2:  Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360ºF.  (Old fashioned deep frying lard is traditional!) 
     Step 3:  Place 2 cups of flour in a mixing bowl.
     Season the flour with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 4:  Place 1 1/4 cups of buttermilk in a second mixing bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of honey.
     Add 2 to 3 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of allspice.
     Add 2 pinches of ground ginger.
     Add 1 teaspoon of Indian yellow curry powder.
     Add 2 pinches of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of ground celery seed.
     Whisk the ingredients together.
     Step 5:  Lightly dredge the chicken pieces in the flour mixture.
     Step 6:  Place the chicken pieces in the buttermilk mixture and completely coat each piece.
     Step 7:  Place the seasoned buttermilk coated chicken pieces back in the flour mixture.  Gently shake the mixing bowl, to coat the chicken with flour.
     Step 8:  Place each fried chicken piece in the hot oil, one at a time, so the oil does not foam.
     Fry the chicken pieces till they are fully cooked and crispy golden brown.  
     *A probe thermometer inserted to the center of a piece of chicken next to the bone should read 165ºF+ for 15 seconds.  The cooking time depends on the size of the chicken pieces. 
     Step 9:  Use a fryer net to place the fried chicken on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan.  Keep the fried chicken warm on a stove top.

     Caribbean Fried Chicken with Mango Chutney:
     Place a bed of leaf lettuce on a plate.
     Place a ramekin of the Mango Chutney on the back half of the plate.
     Garnish the plate with 2 lime halves.
     Place a pinch of chopped fresh herbs on each lime half.
     Mound the Caribbean fried chicken on the front half of the plate.

     The best Caribbean Fried Chicken!