Monday, September 26, 2016

Baked Macaroni & Madrigal Cheese with Parsnips, Pushen Vrat and Portobello

     Gourmet Macaroni & Cheese!
     Both smoked pork shoulder and smoked pork neck are popular in the Balkan region of Eastern Europe.  I recently purchased some very nice Pushen Vrat (smoked pork shoulder) at the Jones Eastern European market in Las Vegas.  The smoked pork shoulder had nice fat marbling, so this cut of tender meat was the perfect choice for topping off a fancy baked macaroni and cheese.
     At the same Eastern European market, I purchased a wedge of imported Madrigal Cheese that was cut from a huge wheel.  Madrigal Cheese comes from the Loire Valley in central France and this cheese is popular in Eastern Europe.  Madrigal has large holes running through it, just like Emmentaler (Swiss Cheese).  Madrigal is a firm aged cow's milk cheese that has a slightly sweet hazelnut flavor.  The rind of Madrigal is dark and the cheese is a dark straw color toward the rind.  The center of the wheel has a pale straw color.  
     Sautéed parsnips have a flavor that goes well with smoked pork or rich tasting cheese.  Sautéing the parsnips till they are golden brown will bring out the most flavor.  
     Mushrooms are part of every Eastern European cuisine.  Fluted Mushrooms do add eye appeal to an entrée.  Fluting a mushroom with a paring knife does take some practice.  For many years, I used a paring knife to flute mushrooms in restaurant kitchens, till one day a French chef who taught culinary arts at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris said "Try this!"  He handed me a Swiss Forschner Channeling Tool (Fluter).  Next thing you know, I was fluting mushrooms faster than lightning!
     There are average quality kitchen tools and these cheap tools often only lead to frustration.  Spending a few dollars more for high quality professional grade kitchen tools is best, because quality tools will last a lifetime and they will perform tasks flawlessly.  I rarely recommend specific names of kitchen tools, but a Swiss Forschner Victorinox Channeling Tool makes it very easy to make fancy vegetable garnishes.    

     Madrigal Cheese Sauce: 
     This recipe yields about 1 2/3 cups.   
     The mother sauce for this recipe is basic béchamel.  For a small portion of béchamel sauce, it is easier to just add a loose onion and a clove and then strain the sauce before serving.  A small piquet of onion and clove does tend to fall apart and the sauce will need to be strained anyway.
     Béchamel can be any made to any consistency that is required by a recipe.  Béchamel can be made so it has a very thin consistency for white wine crème sauces or it can be made thick and heavy for dessert applications.  A béchamel cheese sauce for macaroni should not be made too thick, or the sauce will be like glue after baking! 
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour, while constantly stirring with a whisk, to make a roux.  (The roux should look shiny, not caky.)
     Constantly stir till the roux becomes a pale white color, with very little hazelnut aroma.
     Step 2:  Add 1 2/3 cups of milk while whisking.
     Add 1/3 cup of cream.
     Stir as the sauce heats and thickens to a very thin consistency.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of coarsely chopped onion.
     Add 1/2 of a spice clove.
     Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.  
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin sauce consistency that can coat a spoon. (The volume should be about 1 1/2 cups.)
     Step 4:  Pour the béchamel sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a second sauce pot.
     Place the sauce pot over very low heat.
     Add 1/3 cup of grated French Madrigal Cheese.
     Stir till the cheese melts into the sauce.
     Remove the pot from the heat. 

     Sautéed Parsnips:
     This recipe yields 1/3 cup.  (1 petite portion)
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/3 cup of thick demi lune sliced peeled parsnip.  (demi lune = half moon shapes) 
     Lightly season with sea salt.
     Sauté till the parsnips are a golden brown color.
     Step 2:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Drain off any excess butter. 
     Set the sautéed parsnips aside.

     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Cook 1 portion of macaroni pasta in boiling water till it is al dente.
     Cool the pasta under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the macaroni.
     Set the macaroni pasta aside.

     Fluted Mushroom Garnish:
     This recipe yields 1 fluted mushroom garnish.
     The mushroom has to be firm and unopened or it cannot be fluted!  Save the peelings for making stock.
     The mushroom garnish can be made while the mac & cheese bakes.
     Step 1:  Select 1 medium size portobello mushroom that has not opened.
     Remove the stem.
     Scrape the gills off with a spoon.
     Peel the skin off of the mushroom cap.
     Step 2:  Either use a paring knife or a sharp channeling tool to flute the mushroom cap.
     Step 3:  Heat a small sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add the fluted mushroom cap.
     Lightly season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Gently sauté till the mushroom is tender and till a few golden brown highlights appear.
     Step 4:  Remove the pan from the heat.  
     Keep the sautéed fluted mushroom garnish warm on a stove top.
     Baked Macaroni & Madrigal Cheese with Parsnips, Pushen Vrat and Portobello: 
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.  
     Step 1:  Place the prepared portion of macaroni pasta in a mixing bowl. 
     Add enough of the Madrigal Cheese Sauce to generously coat the pasta.  (About 1 2/3 cups.)
     Add the caramelized parsnips.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Lightly brush a 7" or 8" wide single portion casserole dish with melted unsalted butter.
     Place the macaroni & cheese mixture into the casserole dish.
     Step 3:  Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons of plain fine French bread crumbs over the mac & cheese.
     Step 4:  Cut 6 slices of Pushen Vrat (smoked pork shoulder) that are about 3/16" thick.  (The portion should be 3 1/2 ounces.)  
     Arrange the slices of Pushen Vrat on top of the mac & cheese, so they look nice.  
     Lightly brush the Pushen Vrat slices with melted unsalted butter.
     Step 5:  Place the casserole dish on a baking pan.
     Place the pan in a 325ºF oven.
     Bake till the cheese sauce starts to bubble and the bread crumbs are very lightly toasted.  (The Pushen Vrat should only be warmed and not browned.)
     Step 6:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Allow the casserole to cool to a safe serving temperature. 
     Step 7:  Place the reserved fluted portobello mushroom garnish on the center of the baked macaroni and cheese.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of minced Italian Parsley over the mac & cheese.
     Place the casserole dish on a doily lined serving plate.    

     The flavor of this gourmet Eastern European style gourmet mac & cheese is comfortably rich!  This is a nice looking gourmet mac & cheese too.  

Friday, September 23, 2016

Sausage & Meatball Rotelle Pasta Casserole

     A Pizzeria Style Baked Pasta!
     The first time that I had a sausage and meatball casserole was at a pizzeria in Florida.  The pizza shop was 2 blocks away from my house, so it was a convenient place to grab a bite to eat. 
     The Italian owner of the local pizzeria did all the cooking and the food was pretty good.  The owner of the pizza shop also was an accomplished professional Elvis Presley impersonator.  The regular customers really got a kick out of ordering pizza from "Elvis!"
     Italian pizzeria chef "Elvis" had two casserole dishes on his menu.  One was a sausage & meatball casserole that was served over linguini pasta.  The pizzeria owner said that his casserole dishes were like Italian home cooked meals.  .
     I ordered the sausage and meatball casserole instead of a pizza, just to give it a try.  When I got home and opened the to-go container, the aroma was really nice!  My roommates took one look and immediately asked where I got the great food.  I kept answering by saying that I got the sausage and meatball casserole from Elvis, but the roommates just figured that I was joking.  Finally I explained the details about how "Elvis the King" had a pizza shop in the plaza next door.   
     The next thing I knew, my roommates bolted out the door and were headed over to pizza shop.  Both my roommates came back with to-go containers full of the sausage and meatball casserole.  My roommates started talking to each other while shoveling the food in their mouths.  One of them said, "You know, that guy really does look like Elvis!"  
     After that day, our household was ordering Italian food from "Elvis" every time that we were hungry on our days off.  The Elvis impersonator's sausage and meatball casserole turned into our favorite to-go food meal.
     Today's pasta recipe is a home style meal that is sometimes seen on casual Italian restaurant menus.  The quality of the Italian Sausage makes a difference in this recipe.  Fresh sausage from an Italian deli or local butcher shop is nearly always better than commercial sausage from a grocery store. 

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

     Polpettine (Small Meatballs):
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     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 1/2 tablespoons of finely grated parmesan cheese.
     Add 1 tablespoon of whisked egg.
     Step 2: Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced garlic.
     Add 2 pinches of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Add 2 pinches sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 3:  Thoroughly mix the ingredients together.
     Chill the meatball mixture to 41ºF.  
     Step 4:  Brush a small roasting pan with blended olive oil.
     Scoop cherry size portions of the meatball mixture and set them on a platter.
     Roll the little meat portions into tiny meatballs by hand.
     Place the little meatballs on the roasting pan.
     Step 5:  Place the pan in a 325ºF oven.
     Roast till the meatballs are fully cooked and lightly browned.
     Set the polpettine aside or chill them for later use.

     Italian Sausage:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Spicy Italian Sausage is best for this recipe.  
     Step 1:  Place a 5 to 6 ounce Italian Sausage on a small roasting pan.  
     Place the pan in a 325ºF oven.  
     Roast the sausage till it is fully cooked and lightly browned.
     Step 2:  Allow the sausage to cool to room temperature.
     Slice the sausage into large bite size pieces.
     Set the sausage aside or chill it for later use.

     Rotelle Pasta:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.     
     Cook 1 portion of Rotelle Pasta in boiling water over high heat, till the pasta is al dente.
     Cool the pasta under cold running water.
     Drain the water off the pasta.
     Set the pasta aside.

     Sausage & Meatball Rotelle Pasta Casserole:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty entrée.
     This is not supposed to be a "cheesy" recipe.  Only a small amount of Parmigiana Cheese is needed to add a nice flavor.
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  
     Add 1/3 cup of thin sliced white onion.
     Add 1/3 cup of sliced green bell pepper.
     Sauté till the onions turn clear in color.  
     Step 2:  Add 6 pitted black olives that are cut in half.
     Add 1/4 cup of roasted red bell pepper that is cut into wide strips.
     Add the reserved sausage slices.
     Add the reserved polpettine (little meatballs).
     Briefly sauté till the ingredients start to heat up.
     Step 3:  Add 1 3/4 cups of the tomato sauce.
     Add 1/3 cup of chicken broth.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Step 4:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Add the rotelle pasta to the sauce in the sauté pan.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Step 5:  Mound the pasta ingredients in a large single serving casserole dish.  Try to set most of the polpettine and sausage slices on top, so they can be seen.
     Sprinkle 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiana Cheese over the casserole.  
     Step 6:  Place the casserole in a 350ºF oven.
     Bake till the casserole is piping hot and the cheese softens.
     *Only a few minutes of baking time are needed!  Too much time in the oven will cause the pasta to dry out and burn. 
     Step 7:  Place the casserole on a doily lined serving platter.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.
     Serve with garlic bread on the side! 

     Since all of the ingredients were hot before being placed in the casserole dish, the baking time is greatly reduced.  This is a nice Italian casserole for a chilly night!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Bistecca Alonzo

     Ribeye Steak Alonzo!
     Bistecca Alonzo is another recipe that has nearly become a forgotten relic of the past.  To be more precise, the name of this recipe is now rarely used to describe this steak entrée.  On a modern speciale di giorno menu board, today's steak entrée title usually reads as "Beef Steak with Garlic, Peppers and Tomato Sauce."  In years past, many chefs called this steak entrée by the name "Steak Alonzo."
     How did today's steak recipe get its name?  The answer lies in the context of the name itself.  The Italian name Alonzo basically translates to "Brave Victor."  That is food for thought!  The name "Alonzo" is a variation of the Italian name "Alphonso."  The name "Alonzo" has a casual context, while "Alphonso" is the formal spelling.  Steak Alonzo actually is a casual variation of a classic Italian American recipe called Steak Alphonso.    
     Steak Alphonso is a beef steak that is topped with tomato sauce, melted mozzarella cheese and sautéed bell peppers.  Steak Alphonso is usually presented nicely and it is served at formal fine dining  restaurants.  A recipe example of Steak Alphonso can be seen at my Classic Cuisine Website.  Here is the link:  Bistecca Alfonso.
     The casual variation of Steak Alphonso is Steak Alonzo.  The only difference is that Steak Alonzo has no mozzarella cheese melted on the tomato sauce and the presentation style is more casual.  In other words, Steak Alonzo is a hearty working class version of Steak Alphonso.  Steak with garlic, peppers and tomato sauce (Steak Alonzo) is usually offered at casual Italian restaurants and classic American diners in the northeast.
     The Steak Alonzo tomato sauce is made to order with Italian dry red wine and hand squeezed imported Italian San Marzano Tomatoes that are packed in their own juices.  San Marzano Tomatoes are so good, that a minimum of cooking time is required.

     Garlic Peppers and San Marzano Tomato Sauce (a la minute):
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     For Steak Alonzo, the sauce is usually made while the steak is cooking.  If you prefer a rare to medium rare steak, then start the sauce first. 
     The juice from a can of San Marzano Tomatoes is so rich, that it looks like tomato puree!  The can label should read something like "Pelato di Pomodoro San Marzano con Basilico."
     Step 1:  Place 1 1/4 cups of imported Italian canned whole San Marzano Tomatoes and a proportion of their own juices in a small mixing bowl.
     Squeeze the tomatoes by hand, till they are crushed into small pieces.
     Set the hand crushed San Marzano tomatoes aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 2 to 3 thin sliced garlic cloves.
     Sauté till the garlic is a golden color.
     Step 3:  Add 1/2 of a red bell pepper that is cut into long strips.
     Add 1/2 of a green bell pepper that is cut into long strips.
     Sauté the peppers till they are al dente.
     Step 4:  Add 1/3 cup of Italian dry red wine.
     Rapidly simmer till the volume of wine reduces by half.
     Step 5:  Add the reserved hand crushed San Marzano Tomatoes.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thin tomato sauce consistency and the peppers are tender.
     Step 7:  Add 2 pinches of minced Italian Parsley.
     Add 1 teaspoon of virgin olive oil while stirring the sauce.
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.
     Bistecca Alonzo:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty entrée.
     Step 1:  Select a 12 to 14 ounce Ribeye Steak.  (The steak in the photos was a Certified Black Angus Ribeye.)
     Lightly brush the steak with blended olive oil.
     Season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 2:  Heat a chargrill or cast iron ribbed griddle to a medium/medium high temperature.
     Place the steak on the grill.
     Grill the steak on both sides.  Try to flip the steak, so nice looking crosscheck marks appear.
     Cook the steak to the desired finished temperature.
     Step 3:  Place the steak on a wire screen roasting rack and let it rest for 1 minute.
     Place the steak on a plate.
     Step 4:  Use tongs to gather the peppers from the reserved pan of tomato sauce.
     Mound the peppers on the back half of the steak.
     Spoon the remaining tomato sauce in the pan over the peppers and steak.
     Step 5:  Garnish the plate with an Italian Parsley sprig.
     Serve with a vegetable and potato of your choice.  (Descriptions of the vegetables in the pictures are written below.)
     Serve with garlic bread on the side!
     Romano Potatoes:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Blanch 4 thick potato slices.
     Drain off the water.
     Step 2:  Brush the blanched potato slices with olive oil.
     Place the potato slices on a roasting pan.
     Season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of Pecorino Romano Cheese on each potato slice.
     Step 3:  Bake in a 350ºF oven till the potatoes are golden brown.

     Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta: 
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Blanch 4 brussel sprouts.
     Drain off the water.
     Cut the blanched brussel sprouts in half.
     Step 2:  Heat a small sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of small chopped pancetta.
     Add 1 tablespoon of small chopped onion.
     Season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 3:  Gently sauté till the brussel sprouts become al dente.

     Bistecca Alonzo is a tasty steak recipe!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fettuccine Campagnola a Salsiccia

     Italian Country Style Fettuccine with Field Vegetables and Sausage!
     I learned this recipe while working in a small Italian family restaurant several years ago.  Pasta Campagnola was one of the few items that I liked on the menu, because it was a modest Italian country style recipe.  Surprisingly, Pasta Campagnola was the worst selling item on the menu.  This was because the restaurant had a midwestern clientele base that preferred standard Italian American red sauce food offerings.  Olive oil sauce pastas were something that the clientele was not familiar with.
     The chef made this pasta recipe with chicken like many people do.  In Italy, chicken is rarely used in a pasta, and chicken is not often seen on restaurant menus.  In America, Italian chefs usually put 1 or 2 chicken items on a menu, because chicken is popular here.
     Traditional Pasta Campagnola is a peasant style pasta that is made with only field vegetables.  If meat is added, the meat has to be cheap.  Chicken, pork or sausage are good choices for this pasta.  By far, Italian sausage fits best with the modest theme.

     Fettuccine Campagnola a Salsiccia:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty portion.
     Sweet Italian Sausage or Spicy Italian Sausage can be used in this recipe.  Sweet Italian Sausage creates a comfortable flavor.  
     Step 1:  Place a 5 to 6 ounce Sweet Italian Sausage on a roasting pan.
     Place the pan in a 325ºF oven.
     Roast the sausage till it is fully cooked and lightly browned.
     Step 2:  Cool the sausage to room temperature.
     Cut the sausage into 3/16" thick slices.
     Set the sliced sausage aside.
     Step 3:  Cook 1 portion of fettuccine pasta in boiling water till it is al dente.
     Cool the pasta under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the pasta.
     Toss the pasta with 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil.
     Set the pasta aside.
     Step 4:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/4 cup of olive oil.
     Add 1/3 cup of peeled russet potato that is cut into 1/4" thick quarter slices.
     Pan fry the potatoes till they are a golden brown color.
     Step 5:  Add 1/2 teaspoon of finely chopped garlic.
     Sauté till the garlic is a golden color.
     Step 6:  Add 1/4 cup of sliced of celery.
     Add 1/4 cup of sliced onion.
     Sauté till the celery and onions just start to turn clear in color.
     Step 7:  Add the reserved sliced Sweet Italian Sausage.
     Add 1/3 cup of thick bite size pieces of unpeeled eggplant.
     Sauté till the eggplant starts to cook.  (About 1 minute.)
     Step 8:  Add 1/4 cup of thick zucchini slices that are cut into quarters.
     Add 3 small portobello mushrooms that are cut into wedge shapes.
     Add 1/3 cup of large bite size pieces of mixed red and green bell pepper.
     Add 1 green onion that is cut into medium size pieces.
     Step 9:  Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed red pepper.
     Sauté the vegetables till they become al dente.
     Step 10:  Add 1/3 cup of rich chicken broth.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Add the reserved portion of al dente cooked fettuccine pasta.
     Add 1 tablespoon of virgin olive oil.
     Step 11:  Bring the liquid to a simmer.
     Toss the ingredients together till the pasta warms.
     Step 12:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Mound the Fettuccine Campagnola a Salsiccia on a plate.
     *Try to expose a little bit of each ingredient on the surface of the pasta.
     Sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon of finely grated Pecorino Romano Cheese over the pasta.
     Garnish with Italian Parsley sprigs.
     This is a nice pasta for the autumn season!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Baba Ganoush

     A Lebanese Style Baba Ghanouj!
     Baba Ghanouj (Baba Ganoush) originated in the ancient Levantine (Bilad ash-Sham) region.  The old Levantine region runs along the eastern Mediterranean coastline from Southern Turkey to the Palestine and it runs east through Northern Iraq.  Syria, Jordan and Lebanon are in this region.  Many modern middle eastern recipes have their roots in the Levantine region.
     Both Syria and Lebanon have boasted a great food reputation for thousands of years.  My step grandfather was a great chef from Lebanon and I learned a lot from him.  His style of cooking made the most amount of flavor from the fewest ingredients.  That cooking philosophy seems to be the key to all Mediterranean cuisine.
     There are many modern versions of Baba Ganoush.  Colombian Exchange ingredients, like peppers and tomatoes, have found their way into some Baba Ganoush recipes.  Regional herbs and spices add character to local recipes.  Mayonnaise has even taken the place of tahini in some modern Baba Ganoush recipes.  No matter how fancy a modern interpretive recipe may be, it is best to focus on the basics when making Baba Ganoush for the first time.    
     There are four basic ingredients that are required for making a classic Baba Ganoush.  Eggplant, tahini, lemon and garlic are the basic ingredients.  Onion is usually added too.  Many Lebanese Baba Ghanouj recipes require the spice seeds to be toasted and then coarsely ground.  For today's recipe, toasted cumin seed adds a traditional flavor.  
     Today's Baba Ganouj has an old fashioned flavor.  It is not how many ingredients that are added that makes Baba Ganouj great.  It is the proportions of the basic ingredients and good simple cooking techniques that make Baba Ganouj a classic mezze!

     Baba Ganoush (Baba Ganouj):
     This recipe yields about 2 1/3 cups.  (2 to 3 portions)
     One thing to keep in mind is that tahini (sesame paste) readily absorbs liquid and the tahini will thicken a liquid just like roux.  A little bit of tahini goes a long way!
     Step 1:  Roast 2 long Chinese Purple Eggplant over an open flame or chargrill. 
     Roast the eggplant till the skin turns black.         
     Step 2:  Place the roasted eggplant on a platter.
     Allow the eggplant to cool to room temperature.  
     Scrape the charred skin off of the eggplant.  Be sure that no small bits of charred skin remain!
     Finely chop the roasted eggplant.
     *The yield should be about 1 3/4 cups of minced roasted eggplant. 
     Step 3:  Place the minced roasted eggplant in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of tahini.
     Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of lemon juice.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced bermuda onion.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Add 2 pinches of black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of dried mint.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Step 4:  Place a sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of virgin olive oil.
     Add 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds.
     Gently sauté the cumin seeds till they are toasted and no more popping noise is heard. 
     Step 5:  Add 2 tablespoons of coarse chopped garlic.
     Sauté till the garlic is a golden color.
     Step 6:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Pour the hot cumin garlic flavored oil through a fine mesh strainer into the mixing bowl with the other ingredients.
     Step 7:  Place the roasted cumin seeds and garlic on a cutting board.
     Finely mince the cumin seeds and garlic.  
     Add the minced cumin and garlic to the eggplant mixture.
     Step 8:  Thoroughly mix and mash the ingredients together.
     Chill the Baba Ganoush for 1 hour, so the flavors meld.
     This recipe describes 1 mezze platter for 2 or 3 guests.
     Jars of Persian Preserved Lemons can be found in Mediterranean food markets.
     Step 1:  Place the Baba Ganouj in a shallow casserole dish.
     Allow the Baba Ganoush to warm to room temperature.
     Step 2:  Garnish the Baba Ganoush with:
     - black olives
     - sliced preserved lemon 
     - Italian Parsley leaves
     Step 3:  Place the garnished Baba Ganouj dish on a serving platter.
     Cut 4 or 5 warm small pita bread into triangle shapes.
     Place the pita bread on the platter.  

     This traditional Baba Ganoush has an old fashioned comfortable flavor that is very appealing!  

Monday, September 5, 2016

Braised Beef Short Ribs with Parsley Butter Wagon Wheel Pasta

     Old Fashioned Comfort Food! 
     Braising is a classic cooking technique.  Braising brings makes tough cuts of meat tender.  The braising sauce infuses flavor, even when a recipe is very simple.
     Beef Short Ribs are traditionally braised till the meat is almost tender enough to fall off of the bone.  These beef short ribs are usually braised in brown gravy and aromatic mirepoix vegetables can be added late in the recipe to increase the flavor.  The braising pan is covered, so the savory flavors stay locked in.
     Braised Beef Short Ribs are usually served with mashed potatoes or buttered boiled potatoes.  In Penn Dutch Country, Beef Short Ribs are often served with egg noodles.  Buttered Wagon Wheel Pasta also is a traditional favorite with braised food in the Northeast and Midwestern states.  Wagon Wheel Pasta is called Rotelle in Italian language.  

     Braised Beef Short Ribs:  
     This recipe yields 1 hearty portion.
     Never follow the old expression of braising till the meat actually falls off of the bones!  That would result in some very overcooked short ribs.  The meat should just be tender enough to easily pull away from the bones!
     Step 1:  Select 4 to 6 beef short ribs that are cut 2" to 3" long on the bone.  The total amount of meat attached the short rib bones should be about 8 ounces for 1 hearty portion.
     If there is excess fat covering the meat, then trim the fat so it is less than 3/16" thick.
     Season the beef short ribs with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 2:  Heat a wide sauce pot or braising pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Place the short ribs in the pan.
     Sauté the ribs till they are thoroughly browned on all sides.
     Step 3:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Remove the short ribs and set them aside on a platter.
     Remove the excess grease, but leave 1 1/2 tablespoons in the pot.
     *If the short ribs are extra lean, then add enough butter to the pan grease to equal 1 1/2 tablespoons.
     Step 4:  Place the pot back over medium heat.
     Add just enough flour to soak up the grease, while stirring with a whisk, to make a roux.  (About 1 1/2 tablespoons.)
     Stir till the roux turns a light brown color.
     Step 5:  Add 2 cups of beef stock while stirring.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil while occasionally stirring.
     Step 6:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Return the short ribs to the braising sauce in the pot.
     Add enough water, so the sauce almost covers the short ribs.
     Step 7:  Place a lid on the pot.
     Place the pot in a 300ºF oven.
     Braise the short ribs for 1 hour.
     Step 8:  Remove the pot from the oven.
     Add 1/3 cup of thick carrot slices.
     Add 1/4 cup of coarsely chopped leek.
     Add 1/4 cup of coarsely chopped onion.
     Add 1/3 cup of coarsely chopped celery.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 1 small pinch of ground celery seed.
     Add 2 pinches of thyme.
     Adjust the seasoning with sea salt and black pepper.
     Stir the gravy in the pan.
     Step 9:  Cover the pot with a lid.
     Place the covered pot back in a 300ºF oven.
     Slowly braise till the short rib meat starts to become tender.  (About 45 minutes.)
     Step 10:  Remove the pot from the oven.
     Remove the lid.
     Place the pot over medium low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the braising sauce is a medium thin consistency that can coat a spoon.
     Keep the braised short ribs warm over very low heat.
     Remove the bay leaf before serving.

     Parsley Butter Wagon Wheel Pasta:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  About 10 minutes before the short ribs are finished simmering, start cooking 1 portion of Wagon Wheel Pasta (Rotelle Pasta) in a sauce pot of boiling water over high heat.
     Cook the pasta till it is al dente.
     Drain the water off of the pasta.
     Step 2:  Return the pasta to the sauce pot.
     Immediately add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of chopped Italian Parsley.
     Step 3:  Place the pot over very low heat.
     Gently stir till the butter melts.
     Keep the Parsley Butter Wagon Wheel Pasta warm on a stove top.
     Braised Beef Short Ribs with Parsley Butter Wagon Wheel Pasta:
     This recipe describes 1 entrée.
     Step 1:  Place a ring of the Parsley Butter Wagon Wheel Pasta around the border of a plate.  Leave the center of the plate bare.
     Step 2:  Use a slotted spoon to place the tender braised vegetables on the center of the plate as a bed for the braised beef short ribs.
     Step 3:  Place the short ribs on the vegetables on the center of the plate.
     Spoon a generous amount of the braising sauce over the short ribs.  (About 3/4 cup.)
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.

     Braised Beef Short Ribs with Parsley Butter Wagon Wheel Pasta is the perfect comfort food for the chilly autumn and winter seasons!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Spicy Southern Comfort BBQ Rib Tips

     Get Yer Bubba Koo On!
     Summertime holiday weekends are my favorite times for publishing barbecue recipes.  Aspiring backyard BBQ chefs always look for recipe ideas.  I happen to be an experienced professional BBQ chef who is happy to share BBQ ideas.  
     Many BBQ fanatics do the "secret recipe" thing when describing their barbecue product.  The old cliche "secret recipe" spiel is kind of a joke for two reasons.  First, a restaurant or manufacturer legally has to disclose a list of ingredients for any recipe or food product upon request.  Secondly, a good chef can figure any secret recipe out after taking one taste.  So, when it comes to BBQ, there really are no secrets!
     All modern western hemisphere BBQ styles originated in the Caribbean Islands.  BBQ was not just a Pre-Colombian flavor sensation, it was method of preserving food in tropical heat.  A combination of salt, chile peppers, allspice and smoking effectively preserved meats.  Chile peppers are the base element of traditional BBQ and the original Caribbean Island barbacoa preparations were very spicy hot.  
     Becoming familiar with chile pepper varietals is the key to making great BBQ sauces.  Dried chile peppers like guajillo, puya, cascabel, New Mexico Peppers, ancho, chipotle and morita are in the mild to medium spicy heat range and they all are good for making BBQ sauces. 
     Bourbon BBQ Sauces have been popular for many years.  Bourbon adds a unique corn liquor flavor to a BBQ sauce, especially if the bourbon was aged in a dark roasted oak barrel.  
     There are several jazzed up liquors that use bourbon as the base liquor.  Southern Comfort is a bourbon liquor that was created in Louisiana back in the 1870's.  The original Southern Comfort was made with bourbon whiskey and not neutral spirits.    
     The original Southern Comfort Liquor was whiskey infused with a combination of clove, cinnamon, vanilla bean, lemon, cherry and orange.  These flavors are perfect for creating a unique tasting BBQ sauce.  When featuring liquors like brandy, whiskey, bourbon or Southern Comfort in a sauce, a generous amount must be added, so the flavor of the liquor is pronounced.      
     Any good BBQ chef knows that bottled pre-made BBQ sauces are taboo.  Dressing up a pre-made bottled sauce is basically cheating.  BBQ sauces made from scratch are the best and pride can be taken when a tasty BBQ sauce gets raves from the guests.  There are pre-made bottles of Southern Comfort BBQ Sauce available at grocery stores, but these products do not taste as good as today's Spicy Southern Comfort BBQ Sauce recipe! 
     Some BBQ chefs argue against the use of ketchup when making barbecue sauce.  These same BBQ chefs will start their barbecue sauce recipe by simmering a puree of tomato, spices, chile pepper, sugar and vinegar.  This combination of ingredients actually is ketchup! 
     Ketchup was originally designed to be a cooking sauce and not a condiment.  Using ketchup in a BBQ sauce is okay, as long as the ketchup product is organic.  Organic ketchup is as close to the original recipe as it gets.  Ketchup that contains GMO corn syrup and modifiers will not produce a good sauce.     
     Rib Tips are the scrap ends and trimmed rib section flaps from a full rack of pork spare ribs.  A rack of ribs turns from rib bones to to cartilage toward the belly end and the cartilage section carries plenty of tender pork meat.  Rib tips vary in size and shape.  When barbecuing rib tips, care must be taken not to scorch the smaller rib tip pieces. 
     Rib Tips are great for serving a large crowd at a backyard BBQ event.  Rib Tips usually sell for less than $1.50 per pound, so a lot of people can get a belly full of great barbecue for cheap!    
     Toxic Metal Contamination:
     I rarely mention toxic metal contamination, but it is a serious health issue.  Aluminum pots should not be used to make acidic sauces, like barbecue sauce.  The vinegar will corrode the aluminum and traces of aluminum will end up in the food.  After a period of time, the traces of aluminum will collect in soft organ tissue, like the human brain.  Aluminum Oxides have been proven to contribute to Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease symptoms.  
     Any time that an acidic sauce is made, only a stainless steal pot should be used.  Stainless steel is a nonreactive metal.  The ultimate pan for making any sauce is a copper pot that has a stainless steel lining.  This style of copper pan is very expensive and I do have a set of these copper pans that I only use for cooking demonstrations.  Regular stainless pots that have a thick bottom are the next best thing. 

     Rib Tips Dry Rub:
     This recipe yields enough dry rub to season 16 ounces of rib tips.
     Step 1:  Place 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
     Add 2 tablespoons of Spanish Paprika.
     Step 2:  Add 1 teaspoon of cumin.
     Add 2 teaspoons of coriander.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of allspice.
     Step 3:  Add 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of onion powder.
     Step 4:  Mix the ingredients together.
     Place the dry rub spice mixture in a container or large spice shaker.  

     Rib Tips Preparation:
     This recipe yields 2 portions.  (16 ounces)  
     Step 1:  Place 16 ounces of rip tips in a mixing bowl.
     Lightly dust the rib tips with the dry rub mixture, while tossing the rib tips in the bowl.
     Use your fingers to rub the dry rub spices onto the rib tips.
     Step 2:  Chill the spiced rib tips for at least 1 hour, so the spice flavors penetrate the meat.
     Step 3:  Place the rib tips on a wire screen roasting rack on a roasting pan.
     Place the pan in a 275ºF oven. 
     *Or cook the rib tips in a smoker that is set to 275ºF.  Lightly smoke the meat with wisp of hickory and oak chip smoke.  
     Slowly roast the rib tips, till the meat is fully cooked and tender.  (The meat will shrink and the ends of the bones or cartilage will be slightly exposed, when finished.)
     Step 4:  Set the slow roasted dry rub BBQ rib tips aside or chill them for later use.

     Spicy Southern Comfort BBQ Sauce:
     This recipe yields 3 cups of thin BBQ sauce.  (Enough for 2 to 3 pounds of rib tips.)
     The key to making this sauce is to let the flavor of the Southern Comfort Liquor take center stage.  The rest of the ingredients should meld with the Southern Comfort Liquor flavor.  
     Step 1:  Place a large stainless steel sauce pot over low heat.
     Add 3 cups of water.
     Add 2 seeded chile guajillo.
     Add 3 seeded mild New Mexico Chile Peppers.
     Add 2 teaspoons of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
     Step 2:  Add 1 teaspoon of cumin.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of coriander.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder.
     Add 2 teaspoons of onion powder.
     Add 1 pinch of allspice.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ginger powder.
     Step 3:  Add 3/4 cup of tomato puree.
     Add 1/3 cup of peeled seed chopped fresh tomato.
     Add 1/3 cup of Organic Ketchup.
     Step 4:  Add 1 tablespoon of Dijon Mustard.
     Add 1/2 cup of light brown sugar.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of granulated sugar. 
     Add 1/4 cup of cider vinegar. 
     Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Step 5:  Gently simmer the ingredients till the chile peppers become very tender.
     Step 6:  Remove the pot from the heat and let the sauce cool to room temperature.
     Puree the sauce with a blending wand (immersion blender), food processor or a blender.
     Step 7:  Return the sauce to the sauce pot and place it over low heat.
     Season the sauce with sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it can thinly coat a spoon.
     Step 8:  Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of Southern Comfort Liquor.
     Bring the sauce back to a gentle boil.
     Step 9:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin consistency that can glaze a spoon.
     Step 10:  Place the sauce in a container.
     Keep the sauce warm on a stove top or chill it for later use.

     Spicy Southern Comfort BBQ Rib Tips:
     This recipe yields 1 pound.  (2 portions)
     *For those who do indoor BBQ because of weather or environmental regulations, use a ribbed cast iron griddle to start the ribs, so grill marks appear.  Finish the rib tips under a broiler that is set to a moderate temperature and brush with the BBQ sauce till the rib tips are glazed.
     Step 1:  Heat a chargrill to a medium temperature.
     Grill the roasted dry rub rib tips on all sides, till caramelized grill marks appear.
     Step 2:  Start brushing the rib tips with the Southern Comfort BBQ sauce.
     Grill till a few dark highlights start to appear.
     Step 3:  Move the rib tips to a lower temperature spot on the chargrill.
     Continue brushing the rib tips with the BBQ sauce, till the rib tips are thoroughly glazed.
     Place the Southern Comfort BBQ Rib Tips on a platter and keep them warm until served.
     This recipe describes 1 entrée.
     Pour about 2 tablespoons of the Southern Comfort BBQ sauce on the front half of a plate.
     Mound 1/2 pound of the Spicy Southern Comfort BBQ Rib Tips on the sauce.  
     Serve with BBQ picnic style accompaniments of your choice!
     *The Spicy Southern Comfort BBQ Rib Tips in the photos were served with Buttered Egg Noodles and Green Onion, seasoned with salt and black pepper.  Not everybody realizes this, but buttered egg noodles are a popular side dish at BBQ restaurants in the American South! 

     This is some lip smackin' good barbecue!