Monthly Archives: August 2012

Jalapeno Martini: A Sassy Cocktail

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One of my favorite cocktails is the Jalapeno Martini. I first had one at Hilo Bay Cafe when living in Hawaii. It was not at all difficult to figure out the recipe for this really refreshing drink. I am not truly much of  a martini drinker, but I do love all things jalapeno. Here is the recipe for you to try.

Ingredients: 

2 jiggers of good vodka

2 drops of dry vermouth

1/2 a jigger of juice from pickled jalapenos (save those peppers to add to cornbread or use in recipes)

1 large Gorgonzola stuffed olive ( I make my own, just find nice big olives and remove the pimento)

Method: 

Fill a martini glass with ice to chill it while making the drink

Put the vodka, vermouth and jalapeno juice in a shaker with ice and shake about 20 times.

Remove the ice from the martini glass, strain the martini into it and garnish with the olive. So good and so easy!

Most WONDERFUL Crispy Okra and Curry Leaf Raita

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My friend Ruta Says: “Odly enough, children in India love okra. But it’s hardly surprising; whether sautéed, fried or stuffed, the vegetable is prepared in a way that makes it’s texture pleasing rather than gooey. In this recipe, for instance, the okra becomes crunchy and addictive on it’s own; stirred into spiced yogurt, it is even better. This can be eaten on it’s own, or served with thalipeeth.”
Ruta wrote the book  5 Spices 50 Recipes, a wonderful play on Indian cooking that makes delicious Indian food accessable for every home cook. Several years ago I was invited to a press dinner at her home in Berkeley, California where we cooked and ate a most amazing meal. I have only changed the recipe slightly, adding a bit more mustard seed and added flavor and crunch of curry leaves. They may be hard for you to come by, but they are available at most Indo/Paki grocery stores. I grow my own. If you cannot find them, the dish is still quite good without them, but even better with them. The flavors and textures in this Raita make my mouth sing. You will want to double the ingredients after you have made this once, it is highly addictive.

Ruta has a new book out now, Quick Fix Indian. There are also rumors that she is planning on a restaurant in Goa where she spends some of her time.

 Ingredients: 

8 ounces fresh or frozen, cut okra

3-4 stems of curry leaf, leaves pulled off of the stems.

6 tablespoons canola oil, divided

1 cup plain whole or low fat yogurt

¾ to 1 teaspoon salt (I used my smoked salt for this)

½ teaspoon sugar or jaggery grated

1/8 teaspoon cayenne (or more if you like a real kick)

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric (so good for you)

2 teaspoons mustard seeds (I use half golden and half black)

Method:

Wash the okra and towel dry each one thoroughly. Slice into ¼ inch-thick rounds. If using frozen okra, do not thaw.

Heat 5 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is very hot, add the okra, toss and let sizzle. Toss occasionally. The okra will slowly crisp and turn brown. Note: frozen okra may not crisp as well, this is OK, just be sure to brown it well. Once all of the okra is well browned, remove to a paper towel lined platter and set aside till ready to serve. Repeat with the curry leaves. They crisp up really quickly, so keep your eye on them.

Make the tadka: Whisk the yogurt with the salt (to taste) and sugar place the cayenne and tumeric in a small pile on the raita, but do not stir in yet. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a butter warmer or small skillet over high heat. When the oil begins to smoke, add the mustard seeds, covering th pan with a lid or spatter screen. After the mustard seeds stop sputtering, pour the hot oil directly on top of the cayenne and turmeric powder. This cooks the powdered spices without burning them. Do not stir the dressing in yet.

For presentation prior to serving, place the crisp okra & curry leaves on top of the dressing. Stir the okra and dressing into the yogurt while serving. I promise you will be licking the bowl in before the night is over.

Serves 2-4

 

Best Fried Chicken EVER: French Laundry Style

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This is the first fried chicken I have had since moving to Charleston. Nothing says the south quite like fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy. Thomas Keller of the French Laundry  fame serves this chicken at Ad Hoc every Tuesday. This is quite simply the best fried chicken ever. I have tweaked it a bit from the original recipe after making it a few times. Less bay leaves, added peppers, fresh turmeric, honey in the buttermilk and some other changes. The brine maintains texture and flavors the chicken. It is delicious hot or cold. The buttermilk and honey impart a tang and sweetness. The coating fries perfectly if you maintain the temperature of the oil.
You need to start this ahead of time, it takes two days to make. The first 24 hours is brining in the refrigerator, but the active time for frying the chicken is no longer than any other recipe of fried chicken.
In my house it is for special occasions, as each piece is about 500-700 calories depending on if you eat the skin (and WHY wouldn’t you?).

For the Brine:

1 gallon water
1c kosher salt
1/2cup of honey
1/2 cup raw sugar
2 bay leaves
2 heads of garlic cut in half
¼ cup yellow mustard seeds
1 finger of fresh turmeric grated (2 Tablespoons of ground turmeric if you cannot find fresh)
1 small hand full of whole black peppercorns
2 large stalks of lemon grass bruised
5 large rosemary sprigs
1 bunch thyme
1 bunch parsley
Zest, juice and rind of 3 Meyer lemons
5 habanero chiles cut in half
4-6 # of chicken parts (Split breasts are quite large these days, so if you find yours extra large, use a cleaver and cut each breast in half)

For Frying:
6c flour
3T garlic salt
5T onion powder
2 T paprika
4t cayenne
1T fresh black pepper
2t kosher salt (I use smoked Hawaiian salt)
6c buttermilk
1/2 cup of honey
12c peanut oil (or freshly rendered lard)

Method:

Place all of the brine ingredients in a large pot and heat till the sugar and honey melt. Remove from stove and allow to cool. To speed this process up, you can use ¾ gallon of water and then add 4 cups of ice cubes after cooking.
When completely cool add chicken parts. Refrigerate for 12-24 hours.
Mix together the honey and buttermilk.
Buttermilk Bath
Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry with paper towels
Add to the honey and buttermilk and allow to soak for at least one hour and up to 12 hours.
Heat the oil/lard in a very large deep pot to 300˚, try to maintain this heat during cooking, do not let the oil get too hot.
Mix together the flour and seasonings in a large pan.
One piece at a time, take each chicken piece out of the buttermilk mixture, coat with flour, shake off excess and then dunk again in the buttermilk and coat again in flour.

Set the chicken pieces on a large baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Allow the chicken to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to one hour.

Start frying, two to three pieces at a time, do not crowd the chicken. It would be even better to do it one piece at a time so the oil maintains the 300˚ temperature, but that is time consuming. Use a candy thermometer to maintain the temperature as close to 300˚ as possible. When the chicken is golden brown (about 12 minutes for legs and thighs, 7 minutes for ½ breasts) use an instant read thermometer to check doneness. It should read 160 ˚. Remove and place on a sheet pan in a warming oven no warmer than 120 degrees.

 

Serve while warm.

Making Perfect Potato Chips; Bet you can’t eat just one!

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Somethings are so simple and yet we don’t often take time to make them. Potato Chips are one of those things. Sunday morning I decided to do BLT sandwiches for brunch. I thought about making hash browns or fried potatoes as a side and then suddenly a light bulb came on , Potato Chips! Having  just moved, I had already unpacked the necessary tools. I had the big pot of peanut oil, the mandoline and some potatoes. I had some of what I call “Devany Seasoning.” It is an all purpose flavor enhancer with smoked salt, smoked paprika, pepper, a bit of sugar and whatever spices I am cleaning out when I make it. This is so simple, I can hardly call it a recipe, it is much more of a method. There are just a few hints as to how to do this. First I put the bacon in the oven so it would be ready for the sandwiches when the chips were finished frying.

Mise en place for BLT

As in all cooking, get everything out that you will need, Mise en place is the culinary term for having every thing ready and in place before you start preparing a meal. It is probably the single most important thing you can do when preparing a dish. We can probably thank Escoffier for this, as he was famous for running an efficient kitchen. Once everything is set   in place, start cooking.

Ingredients: 

Russet Potatoes, washed well. I leave the skins on. You will be cutting these paper thin, you may as well skip the peeling and go for the nutrition that is in the skin. You can also do this with other root vegetables such as  sweet potatoes, taro and even carrots.

Peanut or Canola oil in a large deep pot or fryer. Peanut oil has a high burning point and is great for frying. You can find it for a really good price in stores that sell turkey fryers.

Seasoning. You can use sea salt, BBQ seasoning or other flavors. Next time I am using truffle salt.

Equipment: 

You will need a mandoline to cut the chips into very thin slices. It can be done with a knife, but it is doubtful that you will be able to consistently cut uniform paper thin slices. If you do not already own a mandoline, there are many inexpensive models available.

If you do not own a deep fryer, you will need a large deep pot. This prevents splattering.

You will also need a rack to drain the chips on. I use a steam table pan and rack, but you can use a sheet pan with a cookie rack. If you do not have a rack, you can use paper towels, but do change them out as they get drenched with oil.

A fat thermometer is quite helpful. This looks like other instant read thermometers, but it has a very long probe and can be attached to the side of the pan. This is a tool that is helpful for making jams, candy & cheese. I use mine a lot. You need to maintain a consistent heat of 350 degrees. If you do not have one of these, you can eyeball it, but you will have much better success if you use a thermometer.

A spider to remove the chips from the oil.

Method: 

Pre-heat the oil to 350 and then turn the heat down slightly to maintain that temperature.

Using the mandoline on the thinnest setting possible, evenly slice the potatoes, one at a time. One potato will take 4-5 frying sessions. You do not want to crowd them.

In batches, gently drop the slices , one at a time into the oil. Turn them using the spider and separate any that are touching each other. Note, these cook very fast, you must give them your full attention while frying.

Place the chips on the draining rack and IMMEDIATELY season. Doing the seasoning immediately will make it adhere better.

Once the chips have cooled slightly they can be placed in a bowl. If you are making them ahead of use,  wait till all are completely cool and then place them in an airtight container. They never last very long at our house, but they do keep well for several days if you need to do them in advance.

Home made fries with a BLT. Mr. Garlic approves

Grilled Corn and Lobster Chowder

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It is the peak of summer. Time for lobster and corn on the cob. While both are abundant, I decided to make a Chowder on a rainy summer day. It is not hard at all. I used lobster tails that I found on sale and some claws I had frozen for this, but usually I use live lobsters. I always save the shells for stock. This makes enough for 6 servings and reheats well.

Ingredients: 

  • 2 (1 1/2-pound) cooked lobsters, cracked and split (reserve shells) Boil in Spice and Tea Exchange Crab and Shrimp Boil
  • 4 ears corn

For the stock:

  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2  yellow onions finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup sherry
  • 1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup dry vermouth

For the chowder:

Method:

  • Remove the meat from the shells of the lobsters. Cut the meat into large cubes and place them in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  • Reserve the shells and all the juices that collect.
  • Grill the corn by removing the stocks and silk, spray lightly with olive oil. Grill on medium heat for 2 minutes on each side.
  • Allow the corn to cool, then cut the corn kernels from the cobs and set aside, reserving the cobs for stock. I use a great corn cutter made by OXO. It really works well. There are not a lot of gadgets that impress me, but this one does.

For the stock:

  • Melt the butter in a stockpot or Dutch oven large enough to hold all the lobster shells and corncobs.
  • Add the onion and cook over medium-low heat for 7 minutes, until translucent but not browned, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the sherry and paprika and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add the milk, cream, wine, lobster shells and their juices, and corn cobs and bring to a simmer. Partially cover the pot and simmer the stock over the lowest heat for 30 minutes.

For the chowder:

  • In another stockpot place the shallots, celery and butter or olive oil. Stir until slightly translucent.
  • Add the potatoes, corn kernels, salt, and pepper to the same pot and saute for 5 minutes.
  • Add the flour and stir in and add a ladle full of the stock.
  • Remove the largest pieces of lobster shell and the corn cobs with tongs and discard.
  • Place a strainer over the soup pot and carefully pour the stock into the pot with the potatoes and corn.
  • Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Add the cooked lobster, the chives,  and the sherry and season to taste. Heat gently and serve hot.

Squash Blossoms

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Squash or pumpkin blossoms offer up multiple opportunities. While in cooking school in Mexico, we used them as a filling ingredient for quesedillas, empanadas and tacos. They were also tossed in salads and soups for color and nutrition. Of course they are also lovely when filled and fried or baked. Squash blossoms are a unique ingredient. Unless you have a big patch of squash or pumpkins, you are at the whim of the farmer who brings these highly perishable ingredient to market. At the Charleston Farmer’s Market yesterday, I spied a little box of the blooms and grabbed it. My mind was swimming with filling ideas as we drove home. I decided on some queso fresco that I bought at a small Hispanic market on John’s Island with herbs and peppers & a little mascarpone for smoothness.

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The recipe:

Ingredients

10-12 squash blossoms

1/2 cup queso fresco ( you can also use a creamy feta) allow it to warm up to room temperature

1 jalapeno or hotter pepper if you want more spice cut into small pieces

3 tablespoons mascarpone or cream cheese

a hand full of grated jack cheese

1 Tablespoon TSTE Vik’s Garlic Fix

1 Tablespoon of TSTE Aleppo chile

6 sprigs of cilantro

salt and pepper to taste

For batter:

1 1/2 cups flour

1 can or bottle of beer

salt and pepper

Method

About 2 hours before you plan to serve, mix the beer and flour together with salt and pepper. Cover and leave on the counter.

Clean blossoms by brushing off any soil, do not run under water. Pull out the stamen.

For filling:

Place the cheeses, cilantro, Vik’s Garlic Fix, aleppo pepper, jalapeno and salt and pepper in the small bowl of a food processor. This can also be done by hand, but if you are doing it that way, you will need to finely chop the pepper and cilantro.

Pulse until the filling is smooth. Using a spatula, fill a small zip lock bag. Push all of the filling down so that there is no air in the bag. Just before filling cut a small piece of the corner off and pipe the filling into the blossom, carefully wrapping the petals around the filling. Leave the top 1/2 inch unfilled and twist to enclose the filling. Refrigerate.

In a large pot or fryer heat peanut or canola oil (at least 3 inches) to 375 degrees.

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Put a few stuffed blossoms into the batter and then place carefully into the hot oil. After about a minute of frying, turn the blossoms and allow them to fry till golden. Remove with a spider and drain. Serve immediately.

ImageYou can find another post of mine about squash blossoms made with sourdough batter here on my Hawaii blog.