Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Alphabet Soup

     Classic Alphabet Soup!
     I saw a bag of Alphabet Pasta at the grocery store and I simply could not resist!  Making an Alphabet Soup that is modeled after the famous canned version seemed like a fun idea at the time.  Canned Alphabet Soup is a nice convenience, especially when ill or when there is just not enough time in a day.  Making Alphabet Soup from scratch with fresh ingredients is not difficult to do and the nutritional value is better than soup from a can.  The flavor is a bit more crisp on the palate too.
     There are no special cooking techniques involved in making Alphabet Soup.  The oldest soup recipes in the world only required boiling or simmering the ingredients in a pot.  Many traditional soups in the modern age are still made this way.  Uncomplicated soup recipes like Alphabet Soup help to relieve stress and the alphabet letter shaped pasta is entertaining.  Children and adults of all ages like spelling words while sipping on Alphabet Soup!

     Alphabet Soup:
     This recipe yields about 4 1/2 cups.  (2 large portions)
     Step 1:  Heat a large sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 4 1/2 cups vegetable stock.
     Add 1 tablespoon of small chopped onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of thin sliced green onion.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Step 2:  Add 1/4 cup of sliced celery.
     Add 1/4 cup of diced carrot.
     Add 1/4 cup of diced turnip.
     Add 1/4 cup of diced potato.
     Add 1/4 cup of frozen small lima beans.
     Add 1/4 cup of peeled and seeded diced fresh plum tomato.
     Add 2 tablespoons of corn kernels.
     Step 3:  Add 1 pinch of Herbs de Provence.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.  (2 to 3 pinches)
     Bring the liquid back to a boil.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer till the hard root vegetables just start to become tender.
     Step 5:  Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Bring the soup to a gentle boil.
     Add 1/4 cup of Small Alphabet Pasta.
     *Add 1 extra tablespoon if extra Alphabet Noodles are desired!
     Gently boil till the pasta is almost fully cooked.  (al dente)
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of frozen peas.
     Add 1/4 cup of small bite size green bean pieces.
     Gently simmer till the ingredients are tender and the volume of the soup reduces to about 4 1/2 cups.
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Ladle a 2 cup portion into large soup bowl.
     No garnish is necessary!

     It is okay to play with the food when eating Alphabet Soup!  Alphabet Soup is fun comfort food!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Grilled Truffaloaf, Tomato and Cheddar Sandwich!

     A Gourmet Diner Style Black Truffle Buffalo Meatloaf Grilled Cheese Sandwich!
     Fancy grilled cheese sandwiches have always been a associated with classic American diner restaurants.  In the old days, a grilled cheese with ham or bacon and tomato was just about as fancy as it got.  In recent years, the gourmet diner restaurant trend has brought gourmet comfort food into the limelight.  Gourmet diner restaurants now offer grilled cheese sandwich creations that are more competitive.  For example, the Pulled Pork BBQ Grilled Cheese Sandwich has reached a peak in popularity and it can be found on diner and pub menus from coast to coast.
     Meatloaf is a diner menu mainstay.  In the old days, customers often joked about how bad the meatloaf at a local diner was and most times the comments were true.  Diner style meatloaf had the negative reputation of being "the gift that keeps on giving."  
     In old fashioned diners, fresh baked meatloaf was usually sold during the dinner hours and the leftover cold meatloaf was grilled and served with gravy as a lunch special the next day.  Sometimes the grilled leftover meatloaf was offered as an open face sandwich.  A Meatloaf Grilled Cheese Sandwich was a lunch blue plate special option too.  
     Trendy modern diner restaurants have cast the old fashioned meatloaf recipes aside in favor of fancier meatloaf recipes that appeal to fans of gourmet comfort food.  Black Truffle Buffalo Meatloaf (Truffaloaf) is a good example of a modern gourmet diner style meatloaf.  One thing that has not changed is the fresh baked gourmet meatloaf is still offered during dinner hours and the leftovers are still served the next day as a lunch special of some kind.  A modern comfort food creation like a fancy Meatloaf Grilled Cheese Sandwich sure looks good on the lunch blue plate special board!
     Trufflaloaf Recipe:
     Truffaloaf is a gourmet style Black Truffle Buffalo Meatloaf.  The Truffaloaf recipe yields enough meatloaf for 3 entrées or 5 sandwiches.  
     For Grilled Cheese Sandwich, either fresh baked Truffaloaf or leftover Truffaloaf can be used.  Thick slices of leftover Truffaloaf can be heated on a cast iron griddle till they are browned.    
     Follow the link to the recipe in this website.

     Grilled Truffaloaf, Tomato and Cheddar Sandwich:
     This recipe yields 1 sandwich.
     Chilled leftover Black Truffle Buffalo Meatloaf is perfect for this recipe.
     Step 1:  Cut 2 slices of chilled leftover Black Truffle Buffalo Meatloaf that are about 3/8" thick.  (A 4 to 5 ounce portion is plenty.) 
     Step 2:  *Step 2, Step 3 and Step 4 should all be done at the same time!
     Heat a seasoned cast iron griddle over medium/medium low heat.
     Spread 1 tablespoon of melted unsalted butter on part of the griddle.
     Place the thick sliced Truffaloaf on the buttered griddle.
     Grill on both sides till the Truffaloaf is hot and light brown highlights appear.     
     Step 3:  Brush 2 slices of Stone Ground Wheat Bread with melted unsalted butter.
     Place the buttered bread on the griddle.
     Place a few thin slices of cheddar cheese on each slice of bread.  (About 2 ounces.)
     Step 4:  Place 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter on a small space on the griddle.
     Add 4 slices of Plum Tomato on the buttered griddle.  (About 1/" thick.)
     Briefly grill the tomato slices till they are warm.
     Place the grilled tomato slices on the one of the grilled cheese sandwich halves.
     Step 5:  Grill the sandwich bread till it is toasted golden brown and the cheese softens.
     Place the warm Truffaloaf slices on the tomato and cheese sandwich half.
     Place the two grilled cheese sandwich halves together.
     Place the sandwich on a cutting board and cut it in half.
     Place the sandwich halves on a plate.
     Garnish with pickles of your choice and Italian Parsley sprigs.

     Viola!  A tasty modern gourmet diner lunch blue plate special!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Cajun Boudin Blanc and Lima Beans ~ The Daily Beans!

     Plain Old Fashioned Louisiana Cooking!
     There are many kinds of boudin sausage in Louisiana.  Red Boudin, White Boudin and Black Boudin are the best known varieties.  Recipes for making Boudin can vary from one place to the next.
     Louisiana Cajun Boudin Blanc is quite different than the Boudin Blanc Sausage that is made in France.  Cajun Boudin Blanc contains a fair proportion of rice in the sausage meat mixture.  French Boudin Blanc is regulated by strict European authenticity and originality regulations and it contains no rice or cereal grain.  The addition of rice in Louisiana Cajun Boudin Blanc is a tradition of its own that Europeans and food historians praise for its originality, but Cajun Boudin Blanc cannot be marketed as Boudin Blanc in Europe unless the origin of this specialty sausage is clearly identified on the label, so the European originality regulations are not infringed upon.
     The addition of rice and Cajun spices to Boudin Blanc creates a unique texture and flavor.  Usually the rice is prepared as Cajun Dirty Rice, but liver is not added to the rice recipe.  No pork blood or pork parts that will turn the sausage dark are used.  There are many Dirty Rice recipe variations, but all have one thing in common.  Dirty Rice is one of the most flavorful rice dishes of them all, so it naturally is perfect for flavoring sausage.
     The Daily Beans is a hearty old fashioned meal of beans and a featured meat that is served with cornbread.  The Daily Beans can be made with any kind of beans and nearly any kind of meat or sausage.  Pork, ham or chicken are the most popular meat options.  Savory, smoked or spicy sausage of just about any kind are an option too.  In recent years, old fashioned farm food and western pioneer food have become popular comfort food items and The Daily Beans certainly certainly represents these nostalgic American cuisines.  By combining a specific kind of slow cooked beans with a specific kind of meat, The Daily Beans can represent traditional simple cooking from nearly any cultural region in this country.  For example, a big bowl of Cajun Boudin Blanc and Lima Beans definitely inspires memories of simpler times in Louisiana.      
     Paprika is a garnish that was often used to garnish seafood and egg recipes.  From the 1940’s through the 1980’s it seemed like every broiled or baked seafood entrée had a generous amount of paprika sprinkled on it.  Cream sauces often had paprika sprinkled on them back in the old days.  Lemon garnishes for chicken or seafood were usually dusted with paprika.  Egg entrees often were garnished with a sprinkle of paprika too.  The overuse of paprika finally came to an end in the 1990's, when new entrée presentation styles were en vogue.  Garnishing today's Daily Beans with just paprika adds a nostalgic touch.

     Cajun Boudin Blanc and Lima Beans:
     This recipe yields about 4 1/3 cups of beans with 14 to 16 ounces of sausage.  (2 hearty portions)
     The vegetable and herb ingredients in this recipe are added to the lima beans early, so they thoroughly flavor the Lima Beans. 
     Cajun Boudin Blanc may not be easy to find outside of Louisiana.  Some grocery stores and butcher shops do stock this sausage, but it can be ordered by special request.   
     Cajun Boudin Blanc is usually pre-cooked, so it only needs to be reheated.  Cajun Boudin Blanc must be handled gently, because the natural casing is thin and this sausage will easily break apart.     
     Step 1:  Soak 1 1/2 cups of Dried Large Lima Beans in a container of water overnight in a refrigerator.
     Drain off the water
     Rinse the beans.
     Discard any beans that are discolored.
     Step 2:  Place the soaked Lima Beans in a wide sauce pot.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1/4 cup of coarsely chopped onion.
     Add 1/4 cup of mixed small chopped green bell pepper and red bell pepper.
     Add 1/4 cup of canned diced tomato and a proportion of the juices.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of tarragon.
     Add 2 pinches of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Spanish Paprika.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Add 2 pinches of minced Italian Parsley.
     Step 3:  Add 1 teaspoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of bacon grease.
     Add 2 cups of chicken stock.
     Add enough water to cover the Lima Beans with an extra 2” of liquid.
     Step 4:  Place the pot over medium high heat.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Boil for 17 minutes.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Place a lid on the pot.
     Gently simmer the Lima Beans till they are tender.
     *Check the level of liquid occasionally.  If necessary, add just enough water to keep the simmering beans covered with 1/2" of extra liquid.
     Step 6:  Select a 14 to 16 ounce Cajun Boudin Blanc Sausage.
     Place the sausage on top of the beans.  (If necessary, cut the sausage in half to fit it in the pot.)
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Gently simmer till the sausage becomes hot.  (This only takes a few minutes.)
     This recipe yields 2 hearty entrées.
     Step 1:  Remove the Cajun Boudin Blanc and place it on a cutting board.
     Cut the Cajun Boudin Blanc into 4 equal size pieces, so the sausage will fit in a stew bowl.
     Step 2:  Remove the bay leaf.
     Place equal portions of the Lima Beans in 2 stew bowls.
     Place 2 pieces of the Cajun Boudin Blanc in each bowl of Lima Beans.
     Sprinkle 2 to 3 pinches of Spanish Paprika over the sausage and beans.
     Serve with cornbread and Louisiana Style Hot Sauce on the side!

     This is a satisfying bowl of Louisiana style Daily Beans!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Truffaloaf and Sweet Potato Club Sandwich!

     A Gourmet Black Truffle Buffalo Meatloaf Club Sandwich!  
     Back in the 1990's I used to cook lunch in glamorous classic French fine dining restaurant that had a sister restaurant on the second floor of the building.  The second restaurant was French café that served trendsetting food and I cooked in this place at night.  Between the two restaurants, my average work day was 14 to 16 hours, so the pay was great.  Both restaurants were Michelin Star rated and the café won the coveted Gold Spoon Award for 29 years in a row.  The work environment lauded creativity and innovation.  We all cooked with passion and some of the food styles we created actually set new trends nationwide.    
     A food trend that us chefs enjoyed creating was gourmet comfort food, especially during the winter season.  We went to great lengths when making several complex classic food preparations, just to make one great modern comfort food item.  Needless to say, the gourmet comfort food was way ahead of its time and customers raved about this cuisine style.
     Occasionally, we offered a gourmet version of a classic American diner sandwich for lunch at the French fine dining restaurant.  Lunch in the classic French restaurant was not quite as formal as the dinner service and the special du jour items were often designed entertain guests by presenting a twist on well known food items of the past.  Occasionally we offer an innovative sandwich special du jour that no other restaurant would dream of serving.  Club Sandwiches made with gourmet food items or modern French health cuisine items were a hit every time they were offered on the special board.  Customers were familiar with the level of comfort that a Club Sandwich provided and they relished the thought of trying innovative new food items on this stylish triple decker sandwich.  Memories of working at the two French restaurants and designing gourmet comfort food items was the inspiration for today's Truffaloaf and Sweet Potato Club Sandwich recipe.   
     A basic traditional Club Sandwich is a made with three slices of toasted bread.  The bottom part of triple decker Club is a basic turkey sandwich that is garnished with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise.  The top deck of a classic Club is a BLT Sandwich (bacon lettuce and tomato).  Contrary to belief, there is no cheese on a classic Club Sandwich.  
     Modifying a classic Club Sandwich with deli meats other than turkey is what most chefs do.  Crating great food items specifically for a gourmet Club Sandwich is something that only innovative trendsetting chefs are willing to do.  For example, making a gourmet comfort food style Black Truffle American Bison Meatloaf, just to make a trendy modern Club Sandwich requires thinking well outside of the box, yet the design of such a Club Sandwich appeals to any guest that relishes the though of trying something new that has a familiar theme.  If a guest is a dedicated fan of gourmet comfort food, then the thought of a Truffaloaf and Sweet Potato Club Sandwich would be like a dream come true!    

     Trufflaloaf Recipe:
     Truffaloaf is a gourmet style Black Truffle Buffalo Meatloaf.  The Truffaloaf recipe yields enough meatloaf for 3 entrées or 5 sandwiches.  
     For a Club Sandwich, a few slices of Truffaloaf should be gently warmed in a low temperature oven, so the Black Truffles become aromatic.  
     Follow the link to the recipe in this website.

     Baked Sweet Potato:
     This recipe yields more than enough for one Club Sandwich.  
     Only the wide slices should be used and the small tips of the sweet potato can be snacked on.  
     Bake a 1 whole 8 ounce sweet potato in a 350ºF oven till it becomes tender.
     Chill the sweet potato in a refrigerator.
     Peel the skin off of the sweet potato.
     Cut the sweet potato into 1/4" thick slices.
     Keep the sliced roasted sweet potato chilled till it is needed.  

     Truffaloaf and Sweet Potato Club Sandwich:  
     This recipe yields 1 gourmet Club Sandwich.
     Step 1:  Toast three slices of stone ground wheat bread till golden brown highlights appear.
     Set the toast slices side by side on a countertop.
     Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on 1 side of each toasted bread slice.
     Step 2:  Place a thin layer of Boston Lettuce leaves on one slice of bread.
     Place a layer of 1/4" thic sliced roasted sweet potato on the lettuce.
     Step 3:  Place a thin layer of Boston Lettuce leaves on the second slice of toast.
     Place a thin layer of thin sliced tomato on the lettuce.
     Cut a 4 ounce portion of warm Truffaloaf into 3/8" thick slices.
     Place the Truffaloaf slices on the tomato and lettuce.  
     Step 4:  Place the third slice of toasted bread on top of the Truffaloaf.
     Place the Truffaloaf Sandwich on top of the toasted bread that has the roasted sweet potato and lettuce on it.
     Even up the edges of the toast, so the triple decker sandwich looks uniform.
     Step 5:  Spear the sandwich vertically with 4 long toothpicks or small bamboo skewers.  
     *Where to place the 4 toothpicks takes a little bit of thought.  If the Club Sandwich is vertically cut into 4 square sections, it will never be able to be plated correctly!  Cutting 4 diagonal shaped sections is how a Club Sandwich is properly made.  
     The bread should have a square or rectangular shape.  Imagine two lines that go from corner to corner and form an "X" on the middle of the toast.  The imaginary "X" will outline the 4 diagonal shaped sandwich sections.  Place a toothpick vertically in the center of each diagonal section.  
     Step 6:  Arch the fingers over the back of the knife blade to hold the sandwich in place.
     Cut the Club Sandwich vertically into 4 triangle shaped sandwich portions.  (This requires a very sharp knife.)
     Step 7:  Join 2 of the Club Sandwich quarters together.  
     Do the same with the other 2 Club Sandwich quarters.
     Set the 2 joined Club Sandwich halves side by side on a plate. 
     Garnish the plate with Italian Parsley sprigs and pickles of your choice.
     *Serve with French Fries, Chips or fancy Potato Salad on the side. 

     Viola!  An American diner style gourmet Truffaloaf and Sweet Potato Club Sandwich!  

Monday, March 20, 2017

Strozzapreti e Salsa di Pomodoro

     Strozzapreti ... The Priest Choker Pasta!
     The Italian word Strozzapreti loosely translates to "Priest Choker or Priest Strangler."  There are a few stories as to how Strozzapreti Pasta got its name.  Each story has a similar meaning that ranges from wishing that a gluttonous priest would choke on the pasta that he eats to the resemblance of this pasta to a clerical collar that has the nickname "Priest Choker."  
     In this modern world of glorifying excessive violence in the mass media, it is all too easy to misconstrue the context and think that the origin of Strozzapreti Pasta comes from some kind of priest strangling incident long ago.  The meaning of Strozzapreti really has nothing to do with any violent incident and the meaning is more like a humble curse.  Everybody has heard the anger filled expression, "I hope that he chokes on it!"  This old expression is actually the same curse that applies to Strozzapreti Pasta.  
     The shape of Strozzapreti Pasta says it all.  This pasta resembles a curtain or a sash that is twisted like a rope, which could be used to choke or strangle a victim.  In reality, the only way this pasta could strangle somebody is if too much Strozzapreti was eaten too fast.  This is quite possible, if the Strozzapreti is served with a great tomato sauce!
     Strozzapreti is a twisted ribbon pasta that can hold plenty of sauce.  This is why Strozzapreti has such gluttonous appeal.  As far as vengeance filled deadly food designs go, Italian Strozzapreti Pasta is ingeniously clever! 
     As one can plainly see, not all Italian food is romantic or compassionate.  Emotional drama plays a major part in Italian cuisine and when angry emotions fill the air, preparing food items that are filled with angst is apropos.  When Strozzapreti is served, guests at the dining table surely will have an opportunity to act dramatically, just like they are playing a role in a comedic opera scene.    
     Strozzapreti definitely is an angry pasta, just like Pasta Arrabiata.  Adding a few pinches of crushed red chile pepper to the tomato sauce adds fuel to the fire.  Strozzapreti Pasta is poetry in motion and those who curse gluttony, will surely enjoy serving this angry Italian specialty! 

     Salsa di Pomodoro Recipe:
     This classic Italian Tomato Sauce takes a ew hours to make.  Follow this link to the Salsa di Pomodoro Recipe in this website.
     • Salsa di Pomodoro

     Italian Pasta Dough and Making Fresh Pasta Sheets:
     Follow the link to the recipe in this website.

     Strozzapreti Pasta Shape:
     About 20 pieces of Strozzapreti equals 1 hearty portion.
     Step 1:  Roll a thin sheet of pasta that is 6" wide and 15" long.
     Cut the sheet of pasta into 6" long ribbons that are about 5/8" wide.
     Step 2:  Place 1 pasta ribbon between two clasped hands.
     Gently rub the hands together back and forth, so the ribbon becomes twisted like a fabric chord.
     Repeat this step till all of the pasta ribbons are shaped like Strozzapreti.  
     Step 3:  Place each Strozzapreti on a sheet pan that is lined with parchment paper.
     Place the sheet pan in a refrigerator.
     Let the Strozzapreti Pasta chill and partially dry for about 1 hour.

     Strozzapreti e Salsa di Pomodoro:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty pasta entrée.
     Step 1:  Place a pot of lightly salted water over medium high heat.
     Bring the water to a gentle boil.
     Step 2:  Place a wide sauté pan over medium low heat.
     1 1/3 to 1 1/2 cups of Salsa di Pomodoro.  (This pasta can be served saucy!)
     Add 1 or 2 pinches of crushed dried red pepper.  (optional)
     Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Step 3:  Place 1 portion of Strozzapreti in the boiling water.  (About 20 pieces.)
     Use a wooden pasta stick to gently stir the pasta for a few seconds, so the pasta does not stick together.
     Boil the Strozzapreti Pasta till they are fully cooked and the pasta floats on the surface of the water.
     Continue boiling for about 30 seconds more, so the thick pasta shapes gain a soft palatable texture.
     Step 4:  Use a long handle pasta net to gather the pasta.
     Use the net to drain off any excess water.
     Step 5:  Add the Strozzapreti Pasta to the gently simmering Salsa di Pomodoro in the sauté pan.
     Toss the sauce and pasta together.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Step 6:  Use a large serving spoon to mound the Strozzapreti e Salsa di Pomodoro on the center of a plate.
     Drizzle 1 or 2 tablespoons of virgin olive oil over the pasta and onto the plate.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of crushed dried red pepper over the pasta.  (optional)
     Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of fine grated Parmigiana Cheese over the pasta.
     Sprinkle 2 pinches of minced Curly Leaf Parsley over the pasta.
     Garnish with a Curly Leaf Pasta sprig.

     Viola!  A tasty Strozzapreti Pasta that surely will inspire dramatic conversation!  

Friday, March 17, 2017

Collard Greens and Turkey Neck Bones with Pot Liquor ~ Soul Food!

     Soul Food!
     While attending a Las Vegas culinary arts college in 2012, I decided to make a bunch of recipes for Thanksgiving that were different than what the mainstream food writers were doing at that time.  I made country style food,  Southern food favorites and traditional Soul Food recipes that were published during that Thanksgiving week.  While many other food writers battled it out over the same old fancy Cranberry Sauce recipes and Deep Fried Turkey recipes that year, I was making simple poor folk food, because I was basically penniless while living on a college student budget.  
      Other food writers were making fake inedible "wax" Thanksgiving food for photo presentations or they spent hours using Photoshop to make their Thanksgiving food photos look perfect for publication.  A glossy retouched waxed and oiled food example for photo presentations not only looks fake, it actually is a misrepresentation and a deceptive marketing practice.  If the food in a photo looks too good to be true, then it probably is not real food that is meant to be eaten.  The dubious practice of making fake "wax" food for recipe photos does cause frustration in home kitchens, because a home cook will wonder why the recipe did not turn out to be like what was seen in the photos.   
     As a food writer, doing things the honest way is the best way to go.  Photographing real food that just finished cooking and was quickly plated, just like in a real home or a real restaurant, is exactly how I photograph every food photo example for every recipe that I write.  I decided to do my food writing the honest way from the start, when I published my first series of recipes while working in Chicago back in 2009.  As always, I also ate every recipe food example that I made as a daily meal out of necessity.  
     The honest food photo presentation style and cooking poor folk food for Thanksgiving out of necessity actually paid off.  I only had a few dollars for a Thanksgiving meal in 2012, so I went shopping at a grocery store that catered to low income neighborhoods in North Las Vegas.  I figured that I would make the best out of what a couple dollars would buy, so I got onions, a bunch of collard greens and some turkey neck bones that were marked down to a very low price.  This was the making for some good old fashioned down home Soul Food for Thanksgiving dinner! 
     I made the old fashioned Collard Greens and Turkey Neck Bones with Pot Liquor on Thanksgiving morning and photographed this Soul Food specialty as soon as it was done cooking.  Photographing recipe examples quickly is how I work, so I can enjoy a hot meal before the food cools down.  As always, the good Soul Food delivered plenty of strength and energy, so it was easy to write the recipe and publish the article by noon, which just happened to be the time that many people went on the internet in search of Thanksgiving recipes.  
     I realized that there would be plenty of people looking for ways to cook turkey neck bones on Thanksgiving day and the public interest in Soul Food was at an all time high at that time.  My Soul Food recipe for Collard Greens and Turkey Neck Bones with Pot Liquor recipe actually got well over 1,000 views in the first hour and it moved up to the most popular recipe of the week in a very short time.  That really put a smile on my face and the positive public reaction was far more rewarding than having plenty of money for a big Thanksgiving dinner spread.  The simple Soul Food Thanksgiving dinner saved the day and it filled my soul with pride! 
     This real recipe background story is a good example of what Soul Food is all about.  Even though I only had enough money for one cheap home cooked meal on Thanksgiving, sharing was still part of the deal.  Sharing the published recipe on Thanksgiving day was all that could be done and that act turned out good enough to make a few other souls feel better that day.  No matter how tough the economic times are or how down low things may be, there is always simple down home style food to uplift the soul.     

     *This entire recipe yields 1 hearty portion!

     Turkey Neck Bones Preparation:
     Select 12 to 14 ounces of turkey neck bones.
     Use a sharp butchers cleaver to cut the turkey necks into 2" long pieces.
     Chill the turkey neck pieces till they are needed.

     Collard Greens Preparation:
     Step 1:  Select 1 bunch of crisp fresh collard greens.
     Soak the collard greens in cold water and rinse the greens clean.
     Shake the water off of the collard greens.
     Step 2:  Place each collard leaf on a cutting board with the thick vein side facing up.
     Trim off the thick fibrous stalks.
     Use a sharp knife to shave the thick leaf veins, so they are thinner and will cook tender.
     Step 3:  Cut the trimmed collard leaves into 6" wide pieces.
     Set the collard greens aside.

     Collard Greens and Turkey Neck Bones with Pot Liquor: 
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of bacon grease (or roasted pork lard).  
     Add the prepared turkey neck pieces.
     Sauté the turkey necks till brown highlights appear on all sides.
     Step 2:  Add 1/4 cup of small chopped onion.
     Add 1 small chopped green onion.
     Add 1 small chopped green jalapeño pepper.
     Sauté till the onions start to get some light brown highlights.
     Step 3:  Add the prepared collard greens.
     Stir till the greens start to wilt.
     Step 4:  Add enough light chicken broth (or light pork broth) to cover the ingredients.  (About 3 cups.)
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of white vinegar (or cider vinegar).
     Add 1 pinch of garlic powder.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Cover the pot with a loose fitting lid.
     Gently simmer till the collard greens start to become tender. 
     Step 6:  Remove the lid from the pot.
     Raise the temperature to medium/medium low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till about 1/2 cup of liquid remains in the pot.  
     *The reduced braising liquid is the Pot Liquor!  By this time, the pepper and onions should be soft and mushy enough to become part of the Pot Liquor.
    Keep the Collard Greens and Turkey Neck Bones with Pot Liquor warm over very low heat.
     Step 7:  Place a bed of the collard greens in a shallow wide stew bowl.
     Place the turkey neck bones in the center of the greens.
     Pour the rich pot liquor and any remaining vegetables over the turkey necks and greens.

     Good tasting old fashioned down home food for the soul!     

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Rigatoni with Sweet Peppers and Turkey Sausage Ragù

     A Hearty Healthy Italian Style Pasta!
     The Italian word Ragù usually refers to a sauce that is stewed or stewed meat for pasta.  There are many classic Italian Ragù recipes that never change.  Many of the traditional Italian Ragù recipes are made with pork, duck, beef or veal.  In recent years, turkey has become a popular alternative healthy meat option in Italy.  Turkey has more flavor than chicken and it is easily adapted to traditional pork sausage recipes.  Italian style Turkey Sausage actually tastes great and it is much lighter on the tummy than pork sausage.  
     Today's Rigatoni with Sweet Peppers and Turkey Sausage Ragù recipe is made with traditional Italian techniques and ingredients, but this recipe is modified for Italian style fresh turkey sausage.  Soffritto vegetables, broth, tomato and red wine create a nice traditional Italian stewing sauce flavor that goes well with turkey sausage.  Olive oil replaces traditional pork lard for the sauté medium.  Sweet Orange Bell Peppers added late in the recipe give this Ragù Sauce Pasta a complimentary garden fresh flavor.  The result is a comfortable hearty Sausage Ragù Pasta with greatly reduced levels of fat and cholesterol.  In modern times, this is the kind of pasta that health conscious people seek.    

     Rigatoni with Sweet Peppers and Turkey Sausage Ragù:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty portion.
     A Ragù does not necessarily have to simmer all day, especially if the Ragù is a sauce for cooked sausage.  The stewing technique does mellow the flavor of the sauce.
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of blended olive oil.
     Add 2 fresh Italian style Sweet Turkey Sausages that weigh 5 to 6 ounces apiece.  (The word "sweet" means sweet mild peppers were used to flavor the sausage instead of hot spicy peppers.)
     Sauté till the sausages are almost fully cooked and lightly browned.
     Step 2:  Add 6 strips of Sweet Orange Bell Pepper that are about 1/2" wide.
     Sauté till the sausages are fully cooked and the peppers start to become tender.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Remove the peppers and sausages from the pan and set them aside on a platter.
     Discard the oil from the pan.
     Step 4:  Place the sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 3 tablespoons of small diced carrot.  (Brunoise - 1/8" dice)
     Add 3 tablespoons of small diced onion.
     Add 2 tablespoons of small diced celery.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Briefly sauté till the soffritto vegetables just start to cook and become aromatic.
     Step 5:  Add 2 tablespoons of imported Italian tomato paste.
     Stir till the tomato paste just starts to lightly caramelize.
     Step 6:  Add 1 1/4 cups of minced seeded fresh ripe plum tomatoes.  (The tomatoes can be minced in a food processor.)
     Sauté till the tomatoes start to become tender.
     Step 7:  Add 1/2 cup of dry red wine.
     Scrape and deglaze the pan as the sauce comes to a gentle boil.
     Step 8:  Add 2 cups of beef broth.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Step 9:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Cut the reserved cooked turkey sausages into large bite size slices and return them to the pan.
     Add 1 pinch of rosemary.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of rubbed sage.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced Italian parsley.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil leaves.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.  (About 2 pinches.)
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thin consistency that easily clings to the sausages.
     Keep the ragù warm over very low heat.
     *The pasta can be cooked while the ragù sauce simmers!
     Step 10:  Cook 1 portion of Rigatoni Pasta in a pot of boiling water till it is al dente.
     *Use a wooden spoon or a pasta stick to occasionally stir the Rigatoni, so it does not stick to the pot or break.
     Drain the water off of the pasta.
     Step 11:  Add the hot Rigatoni Pasta to the ragù sauce.
     Add the reserved sautéed Sweet Orange Pepper Strips.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Step 12:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Mound the Rigatoni with Sweet Peppers and Turkey Sausage Ragù in a large pasta bowl.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of minced Italian Parsley over the pasta.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.
     Serve with a ramekin of fine grated Parmigiana Cheese on the side.
     Viola!  A hearty healthy turkey sausage ragù pasta!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Truffaloaf with Cognac Glacé Viande

     Gourmet comfort food was a trendy cuisine during the recent Great Recession.  When economic times are tough, the dining public seeks comfort and value.  Gourmet style comfort food that is offered for a nice price definitely fits the bill of fare.  Many fine dining chefs capitalized on this idea during the recession, while uncompromising fine dining restaurants had the highest business failure rate of all time.  French fusion restaurants that offered tiny portions of gourmet food for an inflated high price suffered the worst.  Items like gourmet Meatloaf, Shrimp 'n; Grits and fancy Macaroni & Cheese sold like wildfire back in those days, because this was the style of food that the dining public really wanted to eat.
     In the western world, a Buffalo is an American Bison.  In modern times, American Buffalo are mean tough animals that are raised on free range ranches.  Buffalo meat is very lean and drug free.  The flavor is milder than deer meat and it is slightly stronger tasting than beef.  Sustainable free range Buffalo is much better for the environment than cattle and the meat is a healthy alternative choice.
     Mushrooms of any kind taste good with Buffalo.  For the most part, the woodsier the mushroom flavor, the better it tastes with Buffalo.  Black Truffle has a deep rich aromatic mushroom flavor that is highly prized by gourmands.  The problem is that Black Truffles are rarely available in American food markets and they do command a high price.  Fortunately, all it takes is one small piece of Black Truffle to flavor a modest size Buffalo Meatloaf.
     I purchased a couple of small Black Truffles that were packed in oil at a specialty food market.  When making such a purchase, it pays to do some research ahead of time, because not all Black Truffle products are made with the real thing.  Winter Truffles from Australia or Asia are basically fake and they have very little flavor.  Black Truffle products from France or Italy are practically guaranteed to be genuine.
     The proper way to slice Black truffles is to use a Truffle Slicer.  A good stainless steel Truffle Shaver from Italy costs about $10 to $20 and it is a lifetime investment.  I used the clean Black Truffle shavings for a couple of recipes that visually featured sliced Black Truffles.  The leftover Black Truffle scraps and end pieces were chopped and used to flavor today's Buffalo Meatloaf.  A little bit of Black Truffle goes a long way.
     Since inventing a catchy name for an entrée is part of modern restaurant marketing strategies, applying a nifty name to today's recipe simply had to be done.  Combining the words Truffle and Buffalo Meatloaf resulted in an interesting gimmick name.  The name "Truffaloaf" sounded good and it created interest, so the name stuck!
     The coating on the meatloaf is my signature way of finishing a meatloaf.  The coating is always tomato based and ketchup can be used.  Combining ketchup and Creole Mustard creates a meatloaf coating that caramelizes and adds a very appealing flavor.  The coating also helps keep the lean buffalo meat from drying out while roasting.
     An ordinary Brown Gravy would not do today's gourmet meatloaf justice.  Choosing a simple rich sauce is best, because a complex tasting sauce would compete with the Black Truffle infused Buffalo flavor.  Glacé Viande is a rich reduction sauce that is fairly easy to make.  Glacé Viande can be portioned and frozen for later use.  Cognac flavored Glacee Viande is a nice choice for accompanying Truffaloaf.  

     Glacé Viande:
     This recipe yields about 2 to 2 1/2 cups of glacé viande.  A little glacé viande goes a long way!
     Step 1:  Place 4 pounds of veal bones, lamb bones, beef bones, pork bones and lean meat scraps in a roasting pan.
     Add 5 ounces of tomato paste.
     Add 8 to 10 ounces of rustic un-peeled mirepoix of carrot, celery and onion.
     Stir the mixture together.
     Step 2:  Roast the mixture in a 350ºF oven, till the bones and vegetables caramelize to a deep brown color.  (Stir the ingredients occasionally.)
     Step 3:  Place the roasted bones and mirepoix in a stock pot.
     Deglaze the roast pan with water and add the jus to the stock pot.
     Step 4:  Cover the bones with 2 " of extra water. 
     Bring to a gentle boil over medium high heat.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat 
     Simmer for 4 hours.
     Add water occasionally to cover the bones.
     Occasionally skim off any fat and impurities from the surface.
     Step 6:  Remove most of the bones from the pot and discard them.  
     Pour the stock through a fine mesh strainer into a second pot.
     Discard the bones and vegetables.
     Skim off all of the grease that floats to the top.
     Step 7:  Place the pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Simmer the meat stock, till the volume reduces by a little more than half.
     The glacé viande should be able to glaze the back of a spoon with a thin coating.
     Step 8:  Remove the pot from the heat and cool the sauce to room temperature.
     Place the sauce in a container and chill till it is needed.  
     *Glacé Viande can also be frozen in portions for later use.  When the thin Glacé Viande is used in recipes, it will be reduced to a slightly thicker consistency.

     Black Truffle Buffalo Meatloaf (Truffaloaf):
     This recipe yields 1 large meatloaf that weighs about 20 ounces.  (Enough for 3 portions.)
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/4 cup of diced carrot.
     Add 1/4 cup of diced peeled celery.
     Add 1/4 cup of diced onion.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Gently sauté till the vegetables start to become tender.
     Step 2:  Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of finely chopped black truffle.
     Gently sauté till the vegetables are tender and the truffle becomes aromatic.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place the vegetables and butter from the pan in a mixing bowl.
     Step 4:  Add 1 pound of ground Buffalo Meat.  (American Bison)
     Add 1/4 cup of plain fresh French bread crumbs.
     Add 1 large egg.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.  (About 1/4 teaspoon of each.)
     Step 5:  Thoroughly mix the ingredients together.
     Chill the meatloaf mixture till it becomes stiff.
     Step 6:  Lightly brush a deep roasting pan with vegetable oil.
     Mound the meatloaf mixture on the center of the roasting pan.
     Use your hands to shape the meatloaf mixture into a smooth tall bread loaf shape.
     Step 7:  Place the pan in a 325ºF oven.
     Roast the meatloaf till the outside is firm and lightly browned.  (About 15 minutes)
     *Only the outside of the meatloaf should be cooked at this point.  The center will still be undercooked.  Try not to handle the partially cooked meatloaf, so it is not damaged.
     Step 8:  Remove the meatloaf pan from the oven.
     Set the pan aside.
     Step 9:  Place 3 tablespoons of Creole Mustard in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/4 cup of Organic Ketchup.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Worcestershire Sauce.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Step 10:  Use a spoon to spread the Creole Mustard and Ketchup Glaze evenly on the partially cooked meatloaf.
     Step 11:  Return the meatloaf pan to the 325ºF oven.
     Roast the meatloaf till it is fully cooked.  (The center temperature should be 165ºF.)
     Step 12:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Let the meatloaf rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
     Keep the meatloaf warm on a stove top.

     Cognac Glacé Viande:
     This recipe yields about 1/2 cup.  (3 or 4 petite portions)
     The Cognac Glacé Viande can be prepared while the meatloaf finishes roasting.
     Step 1:  Place a small sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 2 teaspoons of minced shallot.
     Gently sauté till the shallots turn clear in color.
     Step 2:  Add 1/3 cup of cognac (or brandy).
     Add 1/2 cup of thin Glacé Viande.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Step 3:  Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Rapidly simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin consistency that can glaze the back of a spoon.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of chilled Unsalted Plugra Butter while stirring with a whisk.
     Keep the Cognac Glacé Viande warm over very low heat or in a 135ºF bain marie
     Truffaloaf with Cognac Glacé Viande:  
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Step 1:  Cut 2 to 3 thick slices of the Truffaloaf.  (A 6 to 7 ounce portion is good.)
     Place the Truffaloaf slices side by side on the front half of a plate.
     Step 2:  Place a vegetable and potato of your choice on the plate.  (Baked Sweet Potato and Buttered Snap Peas are a nice choice!)
     Step 3:  Pour about 2 1/2 tablespoons of the Cognac Glacé Viande on the plate around the meatloaf.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig. 
     Needless to say, this is one of the finest tasting wild game meatloaf entrées that can be imagined!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

English Umble Pie with Brazilian Peppercorn Gravy

     A Heavy Rich Old Fashioned English Offal Pie For A Cold Day!
     Umble Pie is a traditional English savory pie that is made with offal.  The word "Umble" refers to secondary cuts of meat or organ meat that are not really desirable.  Early references to Umble Pie date back earlier than the year 1000.  Translators of old literary works from that age in history changed the word "Umble" to "Humble" when referencing this type of food item.  Aesthetically, eating an Umble Pie was considered to be a humble act, therefore, the names Umble Pie and Humble Pie are interchangeable.
     Gravy almost always accompanies English meat pies.  A peppery gravy tastes nice with offal.  Brazilian Pink Peppercorns add a mild smokey black pepper flavor to the gravy.  Brazilian Peppercorn Gravy is a nice match for Umble Pie.   

     Pâte Brisée:
     Subsitute chilled pea size pieces of lard for half of the chilled butter in this recipe to make an Irish Pastry Crust texture.  Follow the link to the recipe in this website.

     English Umble Pie Filling:
     This recipe yields about 1 1/2 cups.  (Enough for 1 single portion pie.)  
     Any combination of offal can be used to make this recipe.  
     Step 1:  Place a small pot of water over medium low heat.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 1/4 cup of small bite size pieces of trimmed Beef Book Tripe or Honeycomb Tripe.
     Add sea salt.
     Simmer the tripe, till it is fully cooked and gelatinous. 
     Drain the water off of the tripe and set it aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of pork lard.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced celery.
     Sauté till the onions turn clear in color.
     Step 3:  Add 1/2 cup of bite size pieces of calves liver.
     Add 2 coarsely chopped chicken livers.
     Sauté and stir till the livers are fully cooked.
     Step 4:  Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of flour while stirring.
     Stir till the flour absorbs the excess grease.
     Step 5:  Add the reserved tripe pieces.
     Add 1/2 cup of sherry. 
     Stir and deglaze the pan.
     Step 6:  Add 1 1/2 cups of beef stock. 
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 pinch of ground clove.
     Add 2 pinches of nutmeg or mace.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.  (About 2 pinches)
     Step 7:  Bring the liquid to a gentle boil while occasionally stirring.
     Step 8:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the mixture is a heavy thick consistency, with a minimum of excess sauce.
     *Stir more often as the mixture thickens!
     Step 9:  Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
     Remove the bay leaf.
     Place the offal mixture in a mixing bowl.
     Add 4 ounces of lean ground pork.
     Add 2 tablespoons of diced pork fat. 
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Step 10:  Place the Umble Pie Filling in a container. 
     Chill to 41ºF. 

     English Umble Pie:
     This recipe yields 1 single portion pie.
     Step 1:  Lightly brush a 5" diameter shallow pop-ring tart pan with melted unsalted butter.  The tart pan should be about 3/4" tall.
     Step 2:  Cut 2 round shape sheets of the pie dough that are 8" in diameter.
     Step 3:  Drape 1 round sheet of pie dough over the pop-ring pan and press it into place.
     Roll a rolling pin over the rim of the pop-ring mold to trim off the excess dough.
     Step 4:  Mound the chilled Umble Pie filling tall in the center of the pie shell.  Fill the shell, so the edge of the filling is 1/8" from the top edge of the pie dough around the rim.
     Step 5:  Brush the top edge of the pie shell with egg wash.
     Drape the second round sheet of pie dough over the filled pie.
     Press the top sheet of pie dough onto the egg washed edge of the pie shell.
     Trim the excess dough off with a knife.
     Press the crust edge, so it looks even and nice.
     Step 6:  Brush the top of the pie with egg wash.
     Cut 2 small steam vents on the top center of the pie.
     Step 7:  Place the Umble Pie on a baking pan.
     Place the pan in a 350ºF oven.
     Bake till the crust is golden brown.
     Step 8:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Allow the Umble Pie to cool to a safe serving temperature.
     Brazilian Peppercorn Gravy:
     This recipe yields about 3/4 cup.  (3 portions)
     The gravy can be made while the pie bakes.
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour while constantly stirring to make a roux.  (The roux should look shiny, not caky.)  
     Constantly stir till the roux becomes a dark brown color.  
     Step 2:  Add 1 1/2 cups of beef broth.
     Whisk as the gravy heats, so the roux combines.
     Whisk occasionally, till the gravy comes to a gentle boil and it thickens to a very thin sauce consistency.
     Step 3:  Add sea salt to taste.  (About 2 pinches.)
     Add 1 tablespoon of partially crushed Brazilian Pink Peppercorns.
     Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the gravy is a medium thin consistency that can coat a spoon.
     Keep the gravy warm over very low heat or in a 135ºF bain marie.

     English Umble Pie with Brazilian Peppercorn Gravy:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.  
     Step 1:  Remove the pop-ring tart pan mold from the Umble Pie.
     Use a spatula to place the umble pie on a plate.
     Step 2:  Spoon a generous portion of the Bazilian Peppercorn Gravy over the Umble Pie and on the plate.  (About 1/4 cup.)
     Step 3:  Garnish the Umble Pie with an Italian Parsley sprig.
     Serve with a vegetable of your choice.

     Warm, hearty and very rich!  Umble Pie certainly is humble!