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Recover the American kitchen.

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Monday, January 28, 2013

HOCKEY IS BACK !!...and oh yeah, the Super Bowl.

I have to admit, I'm not an NFL fan. I know, something is very wrong with me. All I see are 2 minutes of action followed by 10 minutes of talk and commercials. Hockey on the other hand, now that's a sport. Speed, power, blood and sweat. GO COYOTES !!! ahem. Yes this coming Sunday is the greatest and most American of holidays. Super-Bowl Sunday. This week's post is about my version of the greatest sports-snack ever created. The Chicken Wing. Except; and oh yes, we're going to make it just a bit more fantastic AND learn a new trick or two. Here we go.

NICK'S STUFFED RED WINGS !!! Didja see how I slipped a hockey reference in there? So clever.

These don't suck. Unlike Detroit.
                                                                                                                                                                    (2 "Nick Thinks You're Cool Points" if you know where I got this formula from) 

For the sauce
Mise-en-place (hey that rhymes)

2 TB Sesame Oil
1/4 cup Chili Oil
3/4 cup Vegetable Oil
1 cup Ketchup
1 cup Powdered Sugar
1-2 hot peppers, minced up
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 Green Onions minced

Combine all in a medium pot, bring to a simmer and reduce by half.

a shimmering pot of love

1 Green Onion sliced neatly* for garnish

For the filling

chunk of Cream Cheese, beaten until lightened. Let it come to room temp and just whack it with a spoon in a bowl a whole bunch of times
minced green onions
Just mix these two together and set aside

For the Wings

If you have a good relationship with your butcher, get him to reserve the entire wing-joint. The tip I would usually tell you to trim off and reserve for the stock-pot but with our method today we need the tip as a handy handle. Hey, if you can't, then the winglets will still work they just won't be as dramatic.

Beaten Egg Whites, just until a little past foamy
a quantity of Corn Starch in a wide container

a deep pot full of oil for frying, 400 degrees

Garlic Salt
Black Pepper

 Take the bones out.....whistles a little bit...Oh what? Well sure I'll show you how that works
grab a clean, dry towel and a sharp knife. Let's go nuts. On the end, make a smooth but firm cut all the way around the joint. There are two bones with a strong tendon between them, slice that first. Stick your fingers under the skin GENTLY and slowly wriggle down. It's actually really easy just don't rush.

chicken wing finger puppet

Yep, you CAN do the same with the drummettes but I'm not gonna, it's a bitch.

Now stuff the cavity you just made and gather a portion of the end to cover and set aside. Use a piping bag if you got one, otherwise, fingers work.

Season the outside with the black pepper and garlic salt.

Refrigerate for a bit before the fry part, that will help prevent "flashing"...that's when the stuff inside leaks outside and we don't want that.

Heat up your frying oil. Dip the wing in the egg-whites and then dredge with the corn-starch

 and immediately drop into the hot oil.

They won't take long, the wings will cook fast, the drummetts a little longer. Don't crowd the pot. Take them out and let them drain on a plate lined with paper towels.

Here's the cool part. Heat up the sauce. Dump into a wide bowl and toss those chicken wangs around.

 Garnish with sliced Green Onions. Serve. Big bite of bird with the cream-cheese and onion. Next with a succulent mouthful of bird flesh off the bone. Doesn't get better than that.

Cooking poor, eating rich
get your grub on

Friday, January 18, 2013

The 50th article. Gratitude.

 Yes, that's right, it's my 50th time reaching out to you. As it so happens I have a story to tell.
Something happened to me this week, something wonderful. I'm struggling with words to tell you because nothing I can say will convey how overwhelmed I'm feeling today.

 As I was leaving for work this morning I spied a package sitting by the side-gate. I took it inside and opened it. The contents are the subject of the picture above, a purple Chef Coat. There's a letter, here it is in it's entirety.

 Dear Nick
 We're sorry this didn't make it for Christmas but the embroidery took longer than we thought. We just wanted to send you something that would let you know how much we love you.  You never forget our birthdays, you check up on us when we're down, you call us out of the blue to make us smile. You are always so positive and encouraging even in the worst times and we just wanted to say thank you. We know this last year was tough on you but please, keep smiling. 
 A bunch of us

No names, but if I know anything I know it was the WHS RAMS. Purple Pride!!

Now a few words of my own. You came to me during one of the worst times of my life. Each one of you is a treasure beyond price. You raise me up and give me joy everyday. I wouldn't have made it through without your friendship. Truly. I owe you all so much. Yes, the last few years have been hard for so many of us but I truly believe that if we stick together we will yet see our best days.

I'm going to wear this jacket with great pride. I'm a WHS RAM class of '84 and I'm feeling darn well blessed and magnificent today. A thousand times THANK YOU!! GO RAMS GO !!

Cooking poor, eating rich
get your grub on

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A little Thai, a little 1950's era American diner...sure

Holiday leftovers. No no no, don't close the page, stick around, it's ok really. 
 Just like you I have a freezer full of turkey carcass and stuffing. Yes, I could make turkey soup, I love turkey soup. I could make turkey tetrazzini (also called turkey spaghetti) except I'm not going to.
 What I'm going to do is grab some coconut milk, lemon grass and ginger and make something new; and I hope, wonderful.

 I like Thai, I like everything about it. Complex and contrasting flavors with exotic spices. I also truly love classic American grub. Born out of necessity with roots in all the diverse cultures and places our immigrant ancestors came from.
  I was contemplating a traditional Thai coconut curry soup with turkey instead of the usual shrimp and blah-blah. I was also thinking of using some of the recipes from my collection of old cookbooks dating back to early and middle 20th century. Then it hit me. Use both, why not? WELL??? Right.

 Turkey Croquette islands in a Thai Curry ocean.

 Yes, you'll need to make turkey-broth. Just get as much of the flesh off before-hand and reserve (2 cups), we'll need that later. All those cooked bones, throw in a pot with mirepoix and water. Won't take long. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer. Got some herb stems lying around? Super, use those to.
 OH BUT NICK WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THIS AND STOCK? Simply, stock is made from raw bones, broth is made from cooked.

 Once all the mirepoix is translucent, strain out with the bones and reserve the liquid part of the program.
 Hey look, if you don't have any bones but just left-over turkey flesh, just use some chicken or vegetable stock, it's fine really. I hope you have as much as I have, it came to about 6 cups. Anything you don't use, freeze.

 Now some words about the Thai stuff.

  Curry. Yes you think India invented curry. Here's the truth. The word Curry comes from an ancient, south-eastern Asian language, it literally means "A blend of some shit we made because all the blue-eyed barbarians said they wanted something spicy but they didn't really mean it so now we're stuck with this crap." Or something close to it. I might have translated wrong.
 It contains Turmeric, Cardamom, Cumin, Coriander, Chili-powder. Use whatever ratio works best for you. Because I'm doing Thai I'd use more of the Coriander and Cardamom than I usually do. If you have access to Thai red-curry where you are then sure, use it. I did.

 Lemon-Grass. WTF is this? It's an Asian herb that contains a terrific amount of citronella. Looks like a small stalk of bamboo and is getting pretty easy to find in most grocery stores. Smells and tastes more lemony than lemons. Also it repels mosquitoes. That's important somehow. Anyway....
 Look for firm and fresh green stalks. If the outer sheathes are brown and wrinkled then it just sucks. We're only using the big white ends but save the greener parts, still lots of flavor there and while inedible you can throw those in the soup and retrieve later.

Thai soup mise-en-place
 Coconut milk. Not really milk, no cows involved but it's easy to find in the canned form. You'll need two. Cans, not cows.

1 large onion, julienne
2 peeled carrots, cut on the bias
2 stalks celery, same
1 red Bell pepper cut into thin strips
1 green-onion, sliced thin
The diced peel and juice of 1 Lime
1-2 small hot peppers, if you can find Thai peppers great, if you can't just use Serrano or Jalapeno ok? Just chop those up, seeds and all. I WANT NOSES TO RUN!! If you don't, please omit.
I also used some Snow-Peas but a handful of baby spinach is good too
some chopped up fresh Cilantro
about 1 TB grated fresh ginger
same for minced Lemon-Grass
1 TB Red Curry paste (or more if you're completely nuts) I'm completely and totally nuts.
some Kosher salt

First up, heat up a big pot. Add some oil and all at once dump in the vegetables, except for the snow-peas. A pinch of salt would be a good thing to add here.

We want to leave some texture and crunch for later. Sweat those around for just a bit, add the red curry paste, lemon-grass and ginger. Add in the lime peel and juice. Next add the stock, let that come up to a near boil.

Add the coconut milk and maybe a whole stalk of lemon-grass.
Let simmer for maybe 20 minutes. Again, Thai is a cuisine of contrasts so we don't want mushy vegetables.

Add the chopped hot pepper.

Let it go for another five and add the snow-peas. You got any fresh cilantro? Add it now.

Take off heat, our carry-over heat is going to do the work for us. We move on.

CROQUETTES didn't see that coming did you?
Time was mid-20th century there wasn't an American diner that didn't have croquettes. What are they? Well they are a great way to use up left-overs. They utilize chopped up meats and starches and can include almost anything. Usually meat and old mashed potato. Today of course I've got Turkey and Stuffing. I KNOW, RIGHT??? Who doesn't love stuffing. It's then egged, breaded and fried. For some wacky reason my Chef brain kept putting the flavors of the traditional Holiday Turkey dinner together with Thai. No, I don't know why.

 2 cups finely-chopped up left over Turkey
2 cups left over stuffing

salt and pepper
1 egg for the mix, 2 eggs beaten for coating
a wide shallow bowl of bread-crumbs
a pot for frying and some oil

Easy stuff, think of these as meatballs 'cus they kinda are. Or maybe they're meat donut-holes. Finely chop up the meat part, the finer the better. Stir together with the Stuffing, if you got any fresh Parsley around chop it up and add it, check seasoning. Mix around with one egg. That's our binding agent.

Heat up a pot of frying fat, either oil, shortening....whatever

 Roll up into balls, doesn't have to be perfect. Roll in bread-crumbs, dip in egg and roll in bread-crumbs again. Fry up until dark brown. Set aside. did you get that? We roll in crumbs, then egg, then crumbs again. THEN fry.

look how pretty

Grab a bowl. Add a ladle of Thai, introduce some of our American croquettes. Let them say "howdy."
 I just can't get over how well the curry-coconut thing works with the American turkey-and-stuffing thing.

Eat up.

here we are with just some left-overs and our imagination.

Cooking poor, eating rich
get your grub on

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Beans for luck in 2013.

We made it through 2012 my friends. Another year done and in the books. There is an old tradition to serve beans early in the new year. Beans symbolize potential growth and luck for the new year. Great way to use up that Christmas ham-bone, grab a tug of herbs from your winter garden, some aromatics and go nuts. You DID save that ham-bone didn't you?



1 ham-bone. Trim as much flesh off as you can. Reserve until later. If it's not perfectly bare, that's just fine.
Mirepoix. Carrots, celery, onion.
fresh clove garlic
handfuls of whatever fresh herbs you have lying around, today I have some Cilantro, Rosemary and Basil but Sage, Thyme, Parsley, all work. No wrong answers.
2-3 dry Bay-leaf
2 pounds of rinsed, dried great northern beans.
maybe some spicy sausage, I did today but you don't have to. I had some Cajon Andouille.
Dry Sherry (hey, if you don't have Sherry, use a touch of dry Vermouth or nothing at all, it's ok)
One big pot

If you have time, soak the beans overnight in water. If you don't (and I don't) you can cheat.

Rinse off the beans in a colander, pick out anything that looks weird.

Can I just say how much I love my French enameled colander? 

check out the long-handled wooden spoon I got for Christmas
Dump all beans into your pot and fill with 3 times the volume with water (1 pound is 16 oz, three times the volume is..?) . Put in 1/2  Onion, skin on. Some Carrot ends, Celery ends. Some of the Herb stems. Bring it up to boiling. Add that ham-bone and immediately take off heat and let it sit for 3 hours. Yes, three hours, it's a lot shorter than over-night isn't it?

FUN FACTS about beans. All Legumes contain complex carbohydrates and simple proteins. If you combine them with another complex carb' they make a complete protein. That's why Mom gave us whole wheat bread with our peanut-butter. That's why, down-south they do beans and rice. That's why in Asia, it's soybeans and rice. Neat huh?

 While your beans are soaking, medium dice up the mirepoix. Also smoosh up that garlic clove. Mince up those herbs. Get some Black Pepper ready. This is really just a chop and dump.
herbs and mirepoix

 Dig out the vegetable scraps and herb stems from the pot, discard. Reserve the ham-bone. Turn the heat on high. What that soaking did was create a big pot of ham-and-bean stock. It also allowed those beans to soften and that reduces our cooking time by like a million years. Seriously, a million. Dinosaurs would evolve into pigeons in the amount of time it would take otherwise.

 If you're adding some spicy sausage to stretch this out, just chop it up and brown off in a large, wide pan. Remove to paper towels and let drain. Reserve until later.

Browned Andouille
did I mention the long-handled wooden spoon I got for Christmas? 
 Your pot is getting hot now isn't it? Add those dried Bay-leaves now. Once you reach boiling, check the surface, if you see any brown scum gathering on the surface, remove with a sharp-sided spoon and make it go away. Add all the vegetables. Take back down to a long, slow simmer. Add the herbs and a big pinch of cracked black pepper.

 Notice I haven't said anything about salt yet? Ham is our salt today. Didn't see that coming did you?

 Simmer until beans are done, maybe 2 hours. Grab one or two and smear between your fingers (hands are the best tools)
If they smear with no resistance they're done. If you have any scraps of Ham from the bone, add now. Add the sausage and turn off heat. Stir. Shhh add a scant handful of rice while still simmering to maximize the protein. It'll be our secret. Let it cook for another 20 minutes or so.

HEY Nick !! What about the Sherry? I didn't forget. Add a glug to the pot just before serving. Stir some more.

add the Sherry

 Maybe a bit right on top the bowl. Garnish with a sprig of fresh herb. Serve with some good crusty bread. It's my hug to you across the miles.
it's good now, even better the next day

My friends, I bid you much joy and prosperity for 2013. Whatever comes next, at the very least we are...

..Cooking poor, eating rich 
Get your grub on