Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Popeye’s Meets Chick-fil-A’s Fried Chicken Sandwich – Available Any Day, and All the Time

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve never had a Popeye’s fried chicken sandwich, but since I’m so familiar with their work, I thought I could figured out a decent copycat version of their very hard to get sandwich anyway. Which I sort of did, as far as the taste of the chicken goes, but texturally, I ended up with something much closer to Chick-fil-A, which by the way, I’ve been to exactly once.

So, if you’re one of these people that enjoy Popeye’s and Chick-fil-A, this is going to be like eating at both places at the same time. The secret here, and there, is working in a little MSG into the marinade and breading. And by little, I mean a lot. Monosodium Glutamate is famous for its ability to make food taste better, which is certainly does, but it’s also what makes fast food so highly addictive.

Personally, I’ve very sensitive to this aspect of MSG consumption, and as soon as I finish eating fast food that’s laced with it, I’m already intensely craving more, which is why I don’t eat too much of it any more. It’s also why I don’t stock any MSG in my pantry. I don’t trust myself with it, which is why the occasional packet of salad dressing mix works so well for something like this.

As I mentioned in the video, you really want to do this with a smaller, flatter breast than the one I used. The meat to crunchy coating ratio should be more like 2 to 1, and not the 4 to 1 that I featured here. Which reminds me, even though I only did two, the amounts below should be enough for four fast-food-sized portions. Anyway, no matter how large your breasts, I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

For 4 Fried Chicken Sandwiches:

For the chicken and marinade:
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons kosher salt
hot sauce to taste
1 tablespoon ranch dressing powder
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, about 5-6 ounces each

For the breading:
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 tablespoon ranch dressing powder
1 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, for a spicy version
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt

For the dip:
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup milk

For the rest:
canola oil for frying
4 soft hamburger buns, toasted with butter
dill pickle slices
6 tablespoons mayonnaise

Friday, October 25, 2019

Dirty, Dirty Rice – Filthy Delicious

Believe it or not, the first place I ever had dirty rice was Popeye’s fried chicken. They were out of the red beans and rice. I’ve never been a huge fan of liver, especially in my younger days, but I figured, what the heck, let’s give this stuff a try. Much to my surprise I really enjoyed it, and I’ve been a fan ever since.

In fact, not only did I come to love dirty rice, but I started to crave it with even more “dirt,” by which I mean more liver, pork, and aromatic vegetables; and so that’s how this redundantly named dish came to be. Beyond using more of everything, except rice, I also changed the traditional method, which calls for the rice to be cooked first, and then “soiled.” Here, we’re adding all the “filth” at the beginning, and cooking it into the rice.

This method did produce a more flavorful product, but also a slightly stickier one. When you cook rice in a thick sludge like this, verses just water or broth, it will always come out a bit starchier, which may bother certain dirty rice aficionados, but I like this texture even better. So to recap, this is dirtier, stickier, and tastier, which is why I really do hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 6 portions:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
6 ounces pork shoulder, diced or roughly chopped
1 yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced green peppers, or jalapeno
6 ounces cubed spicy smoked pork sausage, like andouille
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (or some fresh)
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
8 ounces finely minced raw chicken livers
2 cups long grain rice
2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
4 cups broth
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/4 chopped Italian parsley

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Miso Braised Beef with King Trumpet Mushrooms – Comforting and Exciting?

When people think comfort food, they generally think of classic, iconic recipes that are made the exact same way every time. No one likes change, and it’s this timeless consistency that in large part makes these dishes so comforting. However, as much as I love a traditional beef stew, or braised beef short ribs, once in a while, I enjoy using these same techniques with a few non-traditional ingredients, just to shake things up.

Speaking of which, if you’re not familiar with miso, it's a fermented soybean and rice paste, and it just makes everything taste better. It’s relatively easy to find in your larger grocery stores, and a few spoonfuls will add an extra element of savoriness to these already savory dishes. To balance that, among other things, we’re also adding a touch of maple syrup, which helps give this even more of an autumnal feel.

I kept things pretty simple with the vegetable additions, going with just mushrooms and onions, but the classic beef stew array of carrots, celery, onions, and potatoes would also work as well. And I wasn’t kidding about the King Trumpet mushrooms being as good as the beef. They really were amazing, and this would make for a fantastic meatless meal using those alone. Either way, I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 portions Miso Braised Beef:
2 tablespoons peanut, or vegetable oil
2 1/2 pounds beef chuck, or boneless beef short ribs, cut into 2-inch thick strips or chunks, seasoned with salt, freshly ground black pepper, cayenne
1 tablespoon butter
3 or 4 King Trumpet mushrooms, halved, or any mushrooms
1 yellow onion, diced
1/4 cup sake, or white wine
3 tablespoons yellow miso
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons ketchup
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar or any vinegar
1/4 cup sliced red chilies
1/4 cups sliced green onions

Friday, October 18, 2019

Grandma’s Peanut Butter Fudge – Which Grandma? We’re Not Exactly Sure

There is nothing quite like a batch of old-fashioned peanut butter fudge, especially when it’s freshly made by your Grandma. Which is why I really wish my Grandma would have made peanut butter fudge. Oh well, she gets a pass because of the other delicious things she fed me.

This old-fashioned style of peanut butter fudge is not that easy to find. Admittedly, I’ve not looked that hard, but the times I have run across some, it always seems to be the soft, creamy version, which is not the kind I’m into. If it’s going to feel like peanut butter in my mouth, then what’s the point? No, I want something that feels dense, and firm in my fingers, but will almost instantly liquefy in when it hits my tongue.

As I mentioned, you’ll want to cut this when it’s just cool enough to get a clean slice. If you leave it in the fridge, and then cut it ice-cold, it will tend to fragment. The good news is that peanut butter fudge shards are delicious, so it’s not really that tragic of a problem. And yes, this technique will work with other nut butters, like almond, or cashew, just in case someone around you is allergic, but regardless of what you use, I really do hope you give this peanut butter fudge a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 64 small cubes of Peanut Butter Fudge:
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/4 teaspoon fine salt)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 pound powdered sugar, sifted (about 3 1/2 to 4 cups unsifted)

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Bacon-Wrapped Cranberry Walnut Pork – Fancy, Not Fancy

It’s getting close to that time of the year when we spoil our guests by making them extra-fancy, labor-intensive, time-consuming meals. Or, we can make them something like this bacon-wrapped cranberry walnut pork tenderloin instead, which just seems like it would be all those things. Yes, the hardest thing about this gorgeous recipe is not spilling the beans about just how simple it was to do.

This is really more of a technique video, than a specific recipe, since you can fill it with whatever strikes your fancy, but as far as seasonally appropriate ingredients go, I loved how this came out. Beyond being able to adapt this to your tastes, another advantage is that we can prep it ahead of time, and just pop it into the oven when we’re ready to rock, and by “rock,” I mean impress our guests.  

One thing to be aware of is that pork tenderloins do vary a bit in size. The one shown here was on the smaller side, and weighed in at just about one pound. They’re generally closer to 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds, and if that’s the case for yours, be sure to add a little more roasting time, and double check things with a thermometer.

Also, if you’re going to be doing more than one, make sure you’re buying tenderloins that are all about the same weight. The butcher will be more than happy to weigh a few, and get you what you need. Other than that, not much can go wrong, except of course, after a few glasses of wine you admit how simple and easy this really was. Either way, I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 2 large or 4 smaller portions:
1 trimmed pork tenderloin (1 to 1 1/2 pounds)
salt, freshly ground black pepper, and cayenne to taste
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 or 2 teaspoons freshly minced rosemary
 1 or 2 teaspoons finely sliced fresh sage leaves
1 tablespoon bread crumbs, or enough to lightly coat surface
1/4 cup chopped, lightly toasted walnuts, or as much as you like
1/4 cup chopped dried cranberries, or as much as you like
4 strips thinly sliced bacon, or enough to wrap the pork
- Roast at 450 F. for 25-30 minutes or until the bacon is browned, and you’ve reached an internal temp of at least 145 F.

For the pan sauce:
2/3 cup white wine
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cold butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Friday, October 11, 2019

Potatoes Romanoff - This Didn't Stay in Vegas

They say what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, but that’s mostly because people just don’t remember exactly what happened. Happily, that’s not the case with this incredible Potatoes Romanoff recipe. About 10 years ago, I took a trip to Las Vegas with a group of food writers, and while I don’t recall much, I do remember learning how to make this ingenious potato gratin from Chef John Schenk, at his restaurant, Strip House.

He credits his Mom for the recipe, but the shallots and white pepper scream, “This was adapted by a restaurant chef!” Which reminds me, if you do use shallots for this, be careful. Since they go in raw, a little will go a long way. To play it safe, you can always sauté them in a little butter to take off the sharp, raw edge. Besides shallots, some thinly sliced green onions would be great, as would sautéed leeks, or even just finely minced yellow onions.

This would be a great side dish for those large holiday gatherings, since it can be made the day before, and then baked when needed. And as I said in the video, you can embellish this with all sorts of stuff, including such obvious choices as bacon, or fresh herbs, but no matter how you personalize it, I really hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 8 portions:
3 very large russet potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds), scrubbed clean
1/4 to 1/3 cup minced shallots, raw, or sautéed for a milder flavor
3 teaspoons kosher salt (or 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons fine salt)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper, or freshly ground black pepper
pinch of cayenne
2 1/2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese
1 3/4 cups sour cream

- Bake at 425 F. for 30-35 minutes, or until browned and piping hot.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Pumpkin-Shaped Dinner Rolls – Your Guests Will Blow Their Gourds

The holidays are almost here, which means “show-off” baking season is almost here, and these pumpkin-shaped dinner rolls are just the thing to impress your guests, and more importantly, drive your culinary rivals mad with envy. Sure these take about 20 minutes longer to make than your already perfectly fine dinner rolls, but that’s nothing when you consider all the compliments that will be coming your way.

This very Instagram-friendly roll is the perfect thing to bring to that holiday gathering, and can be made using your favorite dinner roll recipe. The key here is well-oiled string, and being careful not to tie it too tightly. If the string gets embedded too deeply into the dough, it will tear the roll when you try to remove it, and there’s nothing that stops something from being cute, quite like a jagged tear.

By the way, if you don’t feel like tying all those knots, you can try and do this with one long piece of string, winding it around the dough ball, as you turn it, but I find that method harder, and less successful. Faster yes, but not as visually appealing once baked.

If you do a video search for this type of roll, you’ll also see people simply cutting slashes around the outside, which sort of works, but it just doesn’t come out as adorable. But, regardless of which roll recipe, or shaping method you use, I really do hope you give these pumpkin-shaped dinner rolls a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 12 “Pumpkin” Dinner Rolls:
(be sure to save a few tablespoons of dough for the stems)
1 cup warm milk
1 package dry active yeast
1 or 2 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons melted butter
3 cups flour, plus more for kneading
1 teaspoon fine salt
kitchen string
vegetable oil for strings
- Bake at 375 F. for 20-25 minutes
- Feel free to give these an egg wash before baking if you want a shinier look.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Chunky Monkey Cupcakes – My Favorite Frosted Muffin

Banana, walnut, and chocolate are always an amazing combination of ingredients, no matter what the delivery system, but it really doesn’t get any better than in this ganache-frosted cupcake. A close second would be a chocolate-dipped frozen banana, rolled in walnuts, which is also a great treat, although much more awkward to eat in public.

Just be sure to buy your bananas way ahead of time. Using green bananas would be one of the few ways to mess this up, so I’d pick some up at least a week ahead of time, and wait until they’re starting to turn black before using them. For some extra flavor, a little banana liqueur wouldn’t be a bad idea, but these were great as is.

I thought the dark chocolate ganache was a perfect frosting, especially after trying them with a banana-based buttercream, which ended up being way too sweet for such a decadent cupcake. Of course, you can skip the frosting all together, and simply make a batch of the world’s best chocolate, walnut, banana muffins. Either way, I really do hope you give these a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 12 Chunky Monkey Cupcakes:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup soft butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips or chunks
12 banana chip for garnish, optional
- Bake at 350 F. for about 25 minutes.

For the Dark Chocolate Frosting:
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup very hot, but not boiling cream
- Pour cream over chips, wait a few minutes, and stir. Wait until mixture is cool enough to be spreadable.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Bombay Breakfast Potatoes – Just Exotic Enough

I like to think of myself as a fairly adventurous eater, but when it comes to breakfast, I usually fall into the “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” school of thought, and home fries are a perfect example. I mean, what improvement can you possibly make to perfectly pan-fried, crispy on the outside, fluffy in the middle breakfast potatoes?

Maybe this is just semantics, since these Bombay breakfast potatoes aren’t really supposed to be an improvement, but rather a slightly more exotic change of pace. In any event, they were absolutely delicious, and while definitely different than your average diner fare, they managed to retain an acceptable degree of comforting familiarity. And for that, I will mostly credit the texture.

Like I said in the video, even if you don’t plan on using the Indian-inspired spicing, you’ll want to pay attention to the cook-first, fry-later approach. While it does take a little bit of planning ahead, the pay off is substantial. By boiling first, and then thoroughly chilling before you panfry, the starches on the surface “gelatinize,” which makes all that irresistible crispiness possible.

Above and beyond the textural advantages, by prepping the potatoes the night before, you’re making things pretty easy for yourself the next morning. Just toss them into the hot pan, and by the time your eggs are cracked, beaten, and scrambled, your home fries should be just about done. So, no matter how you season yours, I really do hope you give these a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 2 large or 4 small portions:

Spice mix:
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon cayenne
2 large russet potatoes, cut in 16ths, cooked in well-salted water
salt to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup green onions
1/4 cup diced hot and/or sweet peppers
1/4 cup chopped cilantro