Friday, March 29, 2019

Khachapuri – Georgia (Cheese Bread) On My Mind

There’s no way to prove that corporate pizza chain restaurants got the idea for stuffing their crusts with cheese from Khachapuri, but that’s definitely the story I’m going with. 

Nevertheless, this Georgian cheese bread is such an amazing treat, it’s probably only a matter of time before these things are being delivered all over the country, right along side the usual pizza, garlic knots, and chicken wings.

While they do take a little bit of finesse to pull off at home, the dough is very simple, and the pay off is well worth the effort. You can obviously customize the cheese blend, but I strongly suggest that feta be part of the equation. The stretchy mozzarella, and creamy Jack are nice, but they’re not the most flavorful cheeses ever, which is why the sharper bite the feta brings works so well.

Besides working with the wet, sticky dough, the only real challenge here is not over cooking your eggs. In fact, I have it on good authority that some folks don’t even place these back in the oven after the eggs are introduced, but rather just stir the raw egg into the molten hot, cheesy center, and “cook” it that way. That’s up to you, but the point is, we want…we need, a runny yolk here. Anyway, since you can’t get this delivered quite yet, I really do hope you give these gorgeous Khachapuri a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 2 Khachapuri:
For the dough:
1/2 cup warm milk
1/3 cup warm water
1 package dry active yeast (2 teaspoons)
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus about 1/4 to 1/2 cup extra for final kneading
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (3/4 teaspoon fine salt)
For the cheese blend:
4 ounces mozzarella cheese
4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese
8 ounces feta cheese
For the rest:
1 tablespoon butter, cut in 4 slices
2 large eggs
sea salt for the top
cayenne, optional

- Bake at 475 F. for 15 minutes, fill with egg, and bake another 3 or 4 minutes, until the egg is almost, but not quite set.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Ropa Vieja (Cuban Beef) – Back Off, Marie Kondo!

This Cuban braised beef dish literally translates to, “old clothes,” because apparently some people thought it looked like old, tattered clothing, but as I touched on in the video’s intro, don’t make this because of the cool name. Make this because it’s one of the most delicious dishes ever, and will most definitely spark joy.

Of course, you have to be into big, bold flavors, since there’s nothing subtle about the seasoning here. Above and beyond a warning, that also should serve as a reminder to adjust the amounts below to match your personal preferences. Compared to some recipes, my version is actually fairly subdued.

Some folks like to braise the meat until it’s falling apart before tearing it, but I prefer the method seen herein. I’ll cook the meat until it’s just starting to get tender, then tear, and finish it in the sauce. I believe that makes for an even better texture, as well as possibly absorbing more flavor, although I can’t prove any of this. You can also, use skirt steak, or big pieces of chuck, but flank is my favorite. No matter what you use, I really hope you give these “old clothes” a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 6 portions:
1 flank steak (about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
cayenne to taste
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 large red onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce, or finely crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
2 bay leaves
2 or 3 bell peppers, sliced (I also used a poblano chili)
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 cup pimento stuffed green olives, sliced
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Friday, March 22, 2019

Baked “Fried” Rice – Once Cooked

If you have a bunch of cold, leftover rice around, you should probably just use the classic method, but if you don’t, this easy oven method for making fried rice will not only produce something very similar in taste, but the texture of your rice comes out perfectly every time.

That’s because we’re using the same method as we do for rice pilaf, where the grains of rice get coated in fat before absorbing the cooking liquid. This ensures plump, tender, separate grains, and never sticky clumps of rice. By the way, this technique will work no matter what you include in your mixture, as long as you’re using long-grain rice, and cooking it in a similarly sized pan.

That’s not to say you can’t use other types of rice, or other size pans, but that will change the cooking time, so just something to keep in mind. Also, as I warned in the video, some sesame oils can be very strongly flavored, and if that’s the kind you have, the amount I poured over the top of my egg could overpower the dish, so be careful. Okay, that’s it for the warnings. I really do hope you give this baked “fried” rice a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 large portions:
(I used a 11.5” x 8” x 2.5” pan, but your standard 9” x 12” casserole dish will work the same)
2 cups white long grain rice
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil (mine was mild, so you may need to adjust this down)
optional 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt, depending on the saltiness of your broth and ham.
3 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/2 cup diced peppers
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup green peas
1 cup diced ham or Chinese barbecue pork
3 cups boiling hot chicken broth
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons chili paste, optional

- Bake at 400 F. for 32 minutes, and let rest for 10 minutes before unwrapping and fluffing.
- To brown the top, place in a 475 F. oven for 7 to 10 minutes, or under the broiler for a few minutes until the surface is nice and crusty.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

"Instant" Mac and Cheese – Thinking Outside the Box

I’ve wanted to do another “one-pan” pasta video, where we cook everything right in the sauce, like we did in our famous Orecchiette with Sausage and Arugula recipe, but then I happened to see someone eating mac and cheese on TV, and those plans changed.

I decided to adapt the same approach, and see what would happen if I cooked the macaroni right in the milk, before making the cheese sauce, and what happened was something just as creamy, cheesy, and delicious as recipes using more traditional techniques. Besides loving the taste, and texture, the whole procedure only took a few minutes longer than the boxed stuff; not to mention we avoided about a dozen ingredients we probably shouldn’t be eating.

This is a simple procedure, but there are a couple things to keep in mind. Be sure to turn your heat off as soon as the cheese has melted, or almost melted in. If you continue to cook the cheese it will separate and get grainy. Also, please buy high-quality cheddar, and grate it yourself. Pre-grated cheeses are of lower quality, and the shreds are coated in a cellulose power that can give the final product an odd texture.

Thanks to being a little arrogant, and a lot delusional, I assumed I had stumbled on to some new, game-changing recipe here, only to find out that literally thousands of people had discovered this great trick way before me. Which is fine, since deep down I know I could’ve invented it, but simply didn’t need to. Regardless of who gets the credit, or which high-traffic YouTube chef eventually claims to have invented it, the technique works quite well, as so I really do hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 2 portions:
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon fine salt), plus more to taste
pinch of cayenne
pinch of dried mustard, optional (I didn’t add, but many people do)
very small pinch of nutmeg
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup small elbow macaroni
2 packed cups freshly grated cheddar cheese (about 6 to 8 ounce by weight)

For the panko topping:
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons butter
- Cook crumbs in the butter over medium heat until golden brown.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Coney Island Knishes – St. Patrick’s Day Leftovers Edition

One of my earliest “exotic” food experiences was eating potato knishes with my Dad when we’d visit Coney Island. There were the square variety, and we’d buy them from a hot dog cart, and since potatoes were my favorite food growing up, I was in heaven. I mean, mashed potatoes in a warm, flaky pastry? I’ll have two, please.

Back then they were still made with copious amounts of chicken fat, also know as “schmaltz,” which was the real secret behind their awesomeness, but you can make a perfectly fine version without that, especially if you have some leftover corned beef around. Regardless of how you fill these, the technique seen herein will work, and half the fun is trying new versions. As long as the base is mashed potato, spiked with onions fried in lots of fat, anything goes.

I think the baked version is the easiest, but if you feel so inclined, these can also be deep-fried, or pan-fried. No matter how you cook them, one of the keys is getting the dough nice and thin, so your finished product is mostly filling. Other than that, these are relatively simple to make, and the kind of snack that fills more than just an empty stomach, which is why I really hope you give these a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 16 Knishes:
(Please Note: I only used half the dough in the video, and only made enough filling for 8 knishes, but the following ingredients will make 16 total)

For the dough:
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon fine salt)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup warm water

For the filling (might make extra):
2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, quartered, and boiled in salted water until tender
1/2 cup melted butter, and/or rendered chicken fat
2 cups diced yellow onion
2 teaspoons kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon fine salt), plus more to taste
freshly ground black pepper and cayenne to taste
8 ounces diced corned beef
1 cup finely chopped cooked cabbage

- Bake at 375 F. for about 40 minutes, or until golden-brown

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Irish Tea Cake – Was this Barmbrack Wack?

Every year I try to post at least one Irish recipe, and this time around I decided to do something a little out of the ordinary, and try my hand at Barmbrack. I love corned beef and cabbage as much as the next guy, but you can only film it so many different ways. Anyway, the thought of a nice, moist, dense, fruity tea cake for breakfast, with a cup of hot, black tea, sounded just about perfect, and so I started researching this ancient loaf…and researching…and researching, until I had seen and read so many recipes that I didn’t know which direction to go.

There are a huge variety of styles, from light, yeast-raised versions, to super-dense ones, similar to the often-maligned holiday fruitcake. So, I decided to just wing it, and use the force, which usually works out well, but this time, not so much. This is traditionally a Halloween treat, and my experience was equal parts trick and treat.

I’m hearing from my Irish friends on YouTube that I should have probably used baking soda, plus more tea to get a little more rise. They also say that using half wholegrain flour will inhibit the verticality as well. Notwithstanding my results, at the very least, I’ve hopefully made some of you aware of barmbrack, and maybe you’ll give it a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for one 9” x 5” loaf pan:
2 cups warm black tea
1⁄2 cup golden raisins
1⁄2 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup dried currants
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole grain flour (I’m told this makes the loaf a lot heavier, so maybe use all regular flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (I’m told I should’ve probably added a teaspoon of baking soda)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1⁄4 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1⁄4 cup milk
2 tablespoons reserved black tea
1 tablespoon Irish whiskey or any whiskey
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
6 tablespoons melted butter

Saturday, March 9, 2019

German Potato Dumplings (Kartoffelkloesse) – Dial-Up Some Delicious Dumplings

Sorry for the late upload, but I had some mysterious modem issues, and this German potato dumpling video took over 5 hours to upload! I was having flashbacks to those good, old dial-up AOL days, and they weren’t good flashbacks. I do miss that cool modem sound, but that's about it.

Anyway, it’s late, but I wanted to post the ingredient amounts, and maybe I'll add some more info tomorrow, although these are so basic that’s probably not necessary. The only tip I’ll give is that I think baking the potatoes works better than boiling them whole. Peeling, quartering, and boiling until tender will also work, but don’t overcook them, otherwise they'll absorb too much water.

By the way, if you’re German, or know the same things they do, I’d love to learn why we're sticking croutons in the middle of these things. I totally get the crumbs on top, but inside? If you have an explanation, I’d like love to hear it, and in the meantime, I really do hope you give these a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 8 to 10 German Potato Dumplings:
2 large russet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
salt, freshly ground black pepper, and cayenne to taste
pinch of nutmeg
2 large eggs
1 cup flour
fresh chives to garnish
For the croutons/crumbs
1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
2 cups fresh bread cubes

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Kouign-Amann – Yas Queen!

The fact that Kouign-Amann (Pronounced “Queen-a-mahn”) have become a popular item in bakeries across America is quite a tribute to just how incredible they really are, since to stock something that no one can spell or pronounce is generally considered a retail sales no-no. As you may know, I pride myself on mispronouncing things, but even I don’t like to be corrected by a salesperson, and their judgmental, I can’t believe you just said “kooeegan-aman” look.

Yet, despite the difficult name, they’ve thrived for the very simple reason that this is one of the world’s great pastries. Maybe the greatest. I guess that depends on who you talk to, but the irresistible combination of sweet, salty, sticky, buttery, crispy, flaky, and tender, is hard to beat.

I guess you could just buy some frozen puff pasty, or croissant dough, and skip to the last step, but unlike many of those, the base here is a fairly lean bread dough, which I think is one of the secrets. A richer milk-based dough, which already contains lots of butter and sugar, won’t necessarily provide the same contrast.

Speaking of secrets, I think the real magic of these is the salt. Apparently the authentic ones are fairly salty, and just as savory, as they are sweet, but you don’t want to over do it. I suggest starting with less than I call for in your seasoned sugar mix, and then tasting on a wet finger to see where you’re at. Then, add more until you think it’s right.

Part of me hopes you have a bakery that does these nearby, so you can easily taste them for yourself, but another part of me hopes you don’t, so you’ll try to make them. Either way, you’re in for a huge treat. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 12 Kouign-Amann:
For the dough:
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon dry active yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups bread flour, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the seasoned sugar (mix, taste, and adjust):
2/3 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons of sea salt or kosher salt (less if you’re using a fine table salt)
For the rest:
8 ounces ice cold unsalted butter (2 sticks) for the pastry
1 tablespoon melted butter for the muffin pan

Sunday, March 3, 2019

My Big Fat Greek Baked Beans – Finally!

As I may have mentioned on Twitter several times, Michele and I have both been sick all week, so please pardon the lateness, and brevity of this post. The good news is this Greek-style baked beans recipe is very simple, and there’s not a lot of extra info I need to pass along.

One thing I will mention is that while these are baking, be sure to peek once in a while to see if you need to add more liquid. You can bake covered, but then you don’t get the crustification on top, so I prefer to bake uncovered, and stir in a splash of water, or two, if it looks like it’s getting too dry.

If you can find gigante beans, they really are the best, but Conona beans also work great, as will any other large dried bean. Just be sure to soak them properly, and simmer them until tender before proceeding to the baking step. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m climbing into my big, fat bed. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 12 portions:
1 pound dried Gigante, Conona, Lima, or other large dried bean (soaked overnight)
3 quarts cold fresh water to boil in
2 bay leaves
1 large red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 cups tomato sauce or finely chopped fresh tomato
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons clover honey
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill, plus more for the top
1 tablespoon kosher salt (2 teaspoon if using fine table salt)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
cayenne to taste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 cups water, plus more as needed while baking
4 ounces feta cheese for the top
- Bake at 350 F. until beans are soft