Monday, March 30, 2015

Scotch Eggs – This is an Easter Egg You Want in Your Basket

I’ve gotten so many requests for Scotch eggs over the years, I figured with the Easter holiday coming up, the timing was right to post this fried miracle of culinary engineering. In my version, I keep the egg soft, so when you bite in, you get that amazing contrast in texture between the molten yolk and the crispy sausage shell.

This is traditionally a picnic item, so the hard-boiled egg makes sense in that setting, but as far as serving it as a snack, or for a first course, maybe with a salad, I highly recommend the softer approach.

If you use the exact measurements below, the times given should get you pretty close to what you see here, but there are variables. In a carton of eggs, depending on the source, you’ll notice small, but significant size variations. You may want to test your times on the soft-boiled stage before proceeding.

Another factor is whether or not you chill these before frying. If you make them the day before, then I’d add a minute to the frying time. Keep in mind that the frying is to cook the sausage, and just heat the egg through, so you should cook the yolk to the doneness you want when the Scotch egg is cut open.

Your best bet is to make a few extra, and test your frying time before service. Trust me, you’ll enjoy this step. By the way, I have no idea if this works in the oven. I’m guessing it could, but I can’t help you out with any specifics. I really hope you give these amazing Scotch eggs a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 6 Scotch Eggs:
6 large eggs, right out of the fridge
*steam 6 minutes as shown for soft yolks

3.5 ounces of Italian sausage meat per egg (about 1/2 cup)
*I did 6, and used exactly 21 ounces of sausage.
pinch nutmeg
pinch cayenne
1/4 tsp mustard powder

white flour, 2 beaten eggs, and enough panko breadcrumbs to bread 6 eggs
(I don’t measure such things)

Fry at 350 F. for 5-6 minutes to keep a soft yolk center. Add another minute for Scotch eggs that have been thoroughly chilled before frying. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Demi-Glace: Part 2 – Half Again

I could’ve squeezed this stuff into the last video (Demi-Glace Part 1), but it was already too long, and I didn’t want to rush through what’s just as important information. Plus, I really wanted to show some more gelatinized sauce slapping. People really seem to enjoy that, maybe a little too much.

Once you go through all the trouble of making homemade demi-glace, you’ll want to make sure you portion and store it properly, so that it provides you with many months of stellar sauces. 

As seen in the video, you should get 16 nice blocks, each enough for about two servings, depending on the sauce. As amazing as this stuff is when used as a simple pan sauce, stay tuned for a few proper demi-based sauces at some point. I’ve always wanted to do a bordelaise sauce, and now we can. 

Besides using this for sauces, you can also throw a block into braised dishes like short ribs, or coq au vin, and you take something already pretty great, and make it truly memorable. I hope you give homemade demi-glace a try soon. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Demi-Glace: Part 1 – Feel the Veal

If you saw the post from earlier today, you know this video has been delayed do to mysterious, and near catastrophic audio problems, but finally we have the first “demi” of the recipe, and I hope it was worth the wait.

This is my technique for veal demi-glace, and there’s not much to it. I’m going for a pure veal stock reduction, fortified with nothing more than mirepoix and tomato. I don’t do the classic roux-based “espagnole” sauce, which is traditionally mixed with veal stock and reduced by half.

Modern versions like this forgo the flour, and simply reduce the stock until the natural gelatin from the bones thickens things up. You get a much more intensely flavored sauce, with a wonderfully luxurious mouthfeel. I also usually make a pure version of the stock without the traditional “bouquet garni,” which is a very classic bundle of herbs and spices, usually wrapped and tied in a piece of leek.

It looks pretty, but I can add any or all of those flavors anytime I want, and we’re also always going to use this as a base for other sauces and applications, all of which bring their own herb and spice blends. Basically, like to keep my options open.

Stay tuned for part two, where I’ll show you what to do with this life-changing liquid, as well as how to portion and store it for many months of brown sauce nirvana. I hope you call your butcher and order some veal bones soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 3-4 quarts of Demi-Glace:
10 lbs veal bones, joints and marrow bones
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 carrots, cut in 2-inch pieces
3 onions, cut in eighths (I did without thinking, but you don’t have to peel the onions)
4 ribs celery, cut in 2-inch pieces
1 (6-oz) can tomato paste
*10 quarts water

*While the stock simmers very, very gently for 18 hours, the level will drop a few inches in the pot, which is fine, but if it seems like the liquid level is getting low, add a few cups of water in.

We're Having Technical Difficulties!

Just a little heads-up that I’m having some serious issues with the audio on today’s video. Eventually I’ll figure it out, but there will be a delay publishing the video this afternoon. Wish me luck, and as always, stay tuned!


Friday, March 20, 2015

Avgolemeno Soup – Totally Epic

Avgolemeno is one of those soups that I’ve made many times, but rarely from scratch. It’s usually a “there’s nothing in the house” type of thing, made with a carton of broth. Even in its quick-and-easy form, it’s a delicious, and comforting meal, but when you use a fresh, whole chicken, it becomes epic.

By the way, I mean “epic” as in ancient Greek poetry, not hipster cliché. Okay, I mean it both ways. Speaking of whole chickens, that’s your big decision here. If you want chicken meat in your soup, then you’ll only want to simmer the bird for about an hour, or just until cooked through.

This way you get a nice broth, and the meat will still be flavorful when you add it back in. If you don’t want meat in the soup, which by the way, is how my wife Michele much prefers it, then keep simmering until the chicken falls apart and all the flavor has been extracted into the broth.

Some recipes call for orzo pasta in this, but I like the Arborio rice. I think it gives just the right amount of starchiness and body, but any rice or small pasta will work here. The perfect amounts of lemon and egg are also up to you, and experimentation is recommended. I really hope you give this classic Greek soup a try soon. Enjoy!

Makes 6 Servings Avgolemeno Soup: 
1 whole chicken, about 3 pounds
3 quarts cold water
2 tsp salt at least, plus more to taste
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp dried oregano leaves
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups finely diced onion
2/3 to 3/4 cup Arborio rice, depending on how thick you like it
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
pinch of cayenne

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Crunchy Spiced Chickpeas – Margaritas Sold Separately

There’s a Mexican joint Michele and I go to once in a while, that serves a complimentary bowl of spicy, fried chickpeas when you sit down to eat. In the restaurant biz they call this a “loss leader.”

That’s where you give away something cheap to help sell something expensive, and by something expensive, I mean handcrafted margaritas and artisan beers…sold to people like me, who, for some strange reason, are suddenly thirsty.

While I’m hip to the true motive, it’s still a very nice touch, and a periodic reminder of what a great, highly additive snack this is. As in, only make single batches at a time, because you will eat everything you make.

As I mentioned in the video, this works exactly the same using rinsed, canned beans, but dry beans are much cheaper, and get a little crunchier. Obviously, you have free reign with the spices, so I suggest making a few different batches, trying different combinations.

No matter what you come up with, it will be significantly better than any of those salty snacks from the supermarket. I hope you give these easy, oven-fried chickpeas a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 snack-sized portions Crunchy Spiced Chickpeas:
1 cup dry chickpeas, aka garbanzo beans, soaked for 24 hours
2 tbsp olive oil
season to taste with salt, freshly ground black pepper, cumin, paprika, and cayenne, OR literally any spices you like

- Bake at 400 F. for about an hour, tossing occasionally, until browned and crunchy/crispy.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Bacon-Wrapped Buffalo Meatloaf – What Have You Herd?

On paper, using ground buffalo in place of beef for something like a bacon-wrapped meatloaf is a no-brainer. It’s sustainably raised, low fat, and by most accounts, nutritionally superior to your average feedlot cow. The only problem is, it doesn’t work that well.

Most people who replace their ground beef with buffalo, in recipes like meatballs, burgers, and meatloaf, are usually disappointed. Ground buffalo is much leaner than ground beef, which is the biggest challenge. In case you’re new, it’s the fat that provides most of the flavor and moisture. Also, for whatever reason, pre-packaged buffalo is ground very fine, almost to a paste, which can lead to a rubbery meatloaf, unless you use a few tricks.

To make up for the lack of fat, we’ll not only wrap this in strips of bacon, but use some in the meatloaf mixture as well. To hedge our bets, we will also use lots of ground vegetables, and fresh breadcrumbs, which will provide much-needed moisture, and improve the tenderness.

This produces a meatloaf that really does melt in your mouth. The only dilemma you’re going to have is whether to tell your picky friends and family that this isn’t beef. Do you tell them before? Or, do you play it safe, and wait until they’re raving about it, before spilling the beans bison? Either way, I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 6 large portions Bacon-Wrapped Buffalo Meatloaf:
2 tbsp butter
2 strips bacon for frying in butter
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 carrot, cubed
1 rib celery, sliced
1 bell pepper, chopped (any color or combo will work)
4 button mushrooms, quartered
3 cloves garlic
2 cups (not packed) fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 cup milk
1 large egg
1/4 tsp dried rosemary, or 2 tsp of freshly chopped)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
*2 to 3 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
pinch of cayenne
2 lbs ground buffalo meat
7-8 strips thick cut bacon, or enough to wrap the meatloaf.

*to check for seasoning, once everything is mixed, fry a small piece of the meatloaf mixture and taste. Adjust if necessary, and recheck.

For the glaze:
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard

- Bake at 350°F for about an hour, or until you reach an internal temperature of 155°F. If desired, remove the meatloaf halfway through the cooking time, and apply a glaze.

Serve with a gravy made from the pan drippings, or use this easy mushroom sauce recipe from another meatloaf video. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Attn: Lads and Lasses

I just wanted to take a break from the buffalo and bacon meatloaf video I'm working on to share a few St. Patrick's Day menu ideas. I know it's going to be hard to concentrate after hearing about buffalo and bacon meatloaf, but if you can pull it together, take a peek at some of my favorite Irish-inspired recipes below. Just click on the title to see the original post and ingredients. Enjoy!

Irish Pork Stew with Baby Cabbage

Okay, so they're Brussels sprouts, but still, this was one of the best Irish stews I've ever had. 

Shepherd’s Pie

A classic comfort food your flock will, well, flock to. 

Coconut Milk Corned Beef and Cabbage

I gave the most traditional St. Patrick's Day recipe a little twist. Actually, a pretty big twist.


The name has nothing to do with viking-killing leprechauns.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Scallop Gratin – When it Comes to Scallops, Dry is Good

As far as I’m concerned, a simple gratin is the most delicious way to cook fresh scallops. The technique is infinitely adaptable, and as long as you’re keeping an eye on things during the broiler step, not a lot can go wrong. In fact, the only real way to screw this recipe up would be to use the wrong scallops.

And by “wrong,” I mean any that have been soaked in a preservative brine. These are easy to identify, as they’re usually sitting in a pool of milky liquid. What you want are usually sold as wild “day-boat,” “diver,” or “dry-pack” scallops. They are really expensive, and worth every penny.

Brined scallops have an unpleasant aftertaste, leak out tons of water, and shrink down to nothing. Other than that, they’re great. Ideally you’re getting your scallops fresh, but frozen will work, as long as the ingredient label says nothing but “scallops.” You’ll also want to thaw them slowly, and pat dry thoroughly before using.

This is a great dish for parties, as you can prep your ramekins ahead of time, and then pop them in the oven when you’re ready. I can’t give exact times, since this will depend on the size of your scallops, and dish, but just start in a nice hot oven for a few minutes, and then finish under the broiler, until browned and just cooked through. When the scallops spring back to the touch, they should be done.

Like I said in the video, if you’re not confident cooking seafood, and/or haven’t worked with scallops before, this gratin is a great place to start. I hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 2 portions:
1/4 cup crème fraiche
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Pinch of cayenne
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup decent white wine
8 fresh scallops (mine were trimmed, but if need be, pull off any “feet,” which are tough, small pieces of muscle sometimes attached to the side of the scallop)
2 tablespoon melted butter, plus more as needed
2 tsp chopped fresh tarragon
2 tablespoon finely grated Parmesan
French bread to dip

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Irish Soda Bread – Better Than a Pot of Gold

St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner, and what better way to celebrate than with a loaf or two of Irish soda bread? If made correctly, this is one of the best quick breads (those leavened without yeast) you’ll ever have. Subtly sweet, with a light, tender crumb, and not at all dry. 

Done wrong, it’s worse than not having any at all. I’ve had some that were not only dry and crumbly, but had such a strong chemical aftertaste, I wondered if I was being poisoned. Okay, so I’m a bit paranoid, but the point is, this is not one of those recipes loaded with spoonfuls of baking powder and soda.

We’re using just enough soda to react with the acid in the buttermilk, and then hedging our bets with a teaspoon of baking powder. That’s really all you need. Speaking of buttermilk, this is one of those recipes, where you can substitute with your own homemade equivalent. Just use the same amount of whole milk, but add 1 tablespoon, plus 2 teaspoons, of either lemon juice or white vinegar to the wet ingredients. It’s the tanginess and acid we need, so that will work just about the same.

By the way, if you’re not into the more breakfasty version I did here, this is very simple to convert into a savory bread. Leave out the dried fruit, maybe cut down the honey a little, and you’ll have something wonderful to serve with soups and stews. I hope you give this a try very soon. Enjoy!

Makes 2 loaves of Irish Soda Bread:
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup quick-cooking oatmeal or regular rolled oats
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda (make sure it’s fresh)
1 teaspoon baking powder (make sure it’s fresh)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter, cubed
2 or 3 tablespoons honey
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
1 large egg
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 cup dried currants
1/3 cup gold raisins

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Celebrating National Meatball Day

Tomorrow is National Meatball Day, and to commemorate I wanted to post something really delicious, and incredibly ironic. These meatless meatballs are both.

That's right, we're going to celebrate National Meatball Day with a meat-free version that will have your guests wondering if they heard you correctly. Thanks to the magic of mushrooms, these really are amazing, and garner rave reviews from our vegetarian friends...okay, friend, but still. You can follow this link to read the original post and get the ingredient amounts. Enjoy!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Falafel – The Opposite of How These Will Make You Feel

Unlike most of America’s other favorite fast foods, falafel is rarely attempted at home, which is a shame, since it’s very simple to do, and even a relative novice like me can get some very decent results. One word of warning: you do need to know you’re going to have a craving for this a full day before you actually want to eat it.

Whipping up a batch of these after a late night at the bar is not going to work, since soaking the dry beans overnight is a crucial step. While you can use canned beans for this, word on the street is not to do it. Those are cooked, and apparently just aren’t as good.

As you’ll see, you don’t really need a deep fryer to do this, as they pan-fry quite nicely, but the model you see me using has some advantages. In addition to being less messy, a small fryer lets you achieve the precise temperature, which means your food crisps up perfectly, while absorbing virtually none of the fat. People have done studies, measuring the oil before-and-after frying, and when done properly, it’s remarkable how little oil is used.

No matter what method you use to cook yours, I think you’ll be surprised how close this is to your favorite falafel stand, assuming they used the exact ingredients and amounts I did, which may not be the case. So, be sure to taste and adjust until you get it just right. I really hope you get this try very soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 12 falafel balls:
1 cup dried garbanzo beans aka chickpeas
1/2 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 rounded tablespoon flour
2 tsp lemon juice
- Fry at 350°F for about 5 minutes or until browned and crispy

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

How to Make Tahini Sauce with Too Much Garlic

This was supposed to be a simple tahini sauce video for teasing our upcoming falafel episode, but it turned into a demonstration on how not to adjust a recipe. Usually this delicious Middle Eastern condiment has just a touch of garlic, if any, for whatever reason I was in a garlicky mood, and decided to put in some extra… all at once.

This is a classic rookie move, and usually a recipe for disaster, pun intended. If you’re going to significantly increase the amount of an ingredient, you can’t just dump it all in and cross your fingers. You have to add it little by little, tasting as you go, otherwise you’ll end up like me; the proud owner of a perfectly fine garlic sauce.

There’s nothing wrong with garlic sauce, unless you really wanted tahini sauce.  The good news is, my mistake shouldn’t affect you in the least. The technique is very simple, and every ingredient is “to taste.” So, please use the ingredient amounts below as a guide, and then add more of whatever until you have it exactly how you want it.

Once you get the formula down, you’ll be enjoying one of the world’s great cold sauces. Perfect with everything from steamed vegetables to grilled meats, and of course, homemade falafel. So, stay tuned for that, and in the meantime, I hope you get this delicious tahini sauce a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 1 cup of tahini sauce:
1/2 cup tahini (pure sesame seed paste)
1 clove finely crushed garlic (I used 4 cloves in the video,  but you probably shouldn’t)
pinch of salt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil, optional (most classic recipes do not include)
enough warm water to achieve the desired consistency (this sauce is usually very thin)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Buckwheat Pancakes – Our Gang Loved Them

There’s nothing like a Little Rascals reference to make sure everyone knows you’re at least 50, but I just couldn't help it. 

I decided to do this video for buckwheat pancakes for a few reasons: I get lots of requests for anything breakfast; I’m trying to cook with more whole grains (see age reference above); and I heard someone say it’s almost impossible to make a great pancake using 100% buckwheat flour.

Conventional pancake wisdom says you need to cut this nutty, earthy flour with regular flour to lighten the texture and taste, but I’m happy to report that’s not true. It took a few days of experimenting, but I was really pleased with how these came out.

As I mentioned in the video, you can probably make this using regular milk, but I highly recommend using the buttermilk. Not only does its natural acidity add a nice tanginess to the flavor, it also reacts with the soda to create bubbles, which really helps the texture.

Sure these are gluten-free, high-fiber, and just generally more nutritious than something made with white flour, but that’s not why you should make them. You should try these because they're just really good pancakes. I hope you give them a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredient for 8-10 small buckwheat pancakes:
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups buttermilk (always shake the container first)
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
unsalted butter to grease pan, and top pancakes