Friday, June 23, 2017

American Gyros – Mystery Meat Demystified

If you’re from Greece, you’re probably pretty confused right now, and wondering why I’m calling this gyros. There, pork and chicken are used, in non-ground form, and as the meat turns slowly over a fire, the cooked, caramelized surface is shaved off into thin slices. 

It’s amazing stuff, but believe it or not, I prefer this Americanized “mystery meat” approach, which uses ground lamb and/or beef. The spices are similar, but the texture is totally different, and for me, more interesting. I can eat fresh, identifiable meat anytime, so when I’m in the mood for gyros, I want the stuff you can only get from certain street vendors. Of course, since the meat is ground, you’re taking their word for which specific animals made the ultimate sacrifice, which is why this stuff became affectionately known as “mystery meat.”

This style is perfect for making ahead of time. Once it’s chilled, and sliced, all you need to do is brown it in a pan, and find some flatbread to roll it up in. Preferably, that would be homemade Lebanese mountain bread, which I will attempt to show you in the near future. In the meantime, your favorite pita will do, just as long as you don’t forget to make some tzatziki. I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 8 portions:
1 pound ground lamb
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon freshly minced rosemary
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 to 3 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste (you can cook a small piece to test)
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons bread crumb
- Cook at 350 F. for 45 minutes, or until an internal temp of 160 F.
-- Note: to make the pickled red onions, simply slice them about 1/8-inch thick, and cover with red wine vinegar for a few hours, or overnight. They will turn into the beautifully colored garnish seen herein.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Brutus Salad – Watch Your Back, Caesar!

I don’t post a lot of salad videos, since, other than the dressing recipe, what I’m I going to teach you? Most people are pretty good when it comes to tossing things in a bowl, but I made an exception for what I’m calling a “Brutus.”

I discovered this salad at a great restaurant in Healdsburg, called Willis’s Seafood, where it was definitely not called a “Brutus,” but simply described as a, Little Gem Salad, Dijon Vinaigrette, Fuji Apples, Aged White Cheddar, Fresh Herbs, Fried Pecans.” It sounded amazing, and tasted even better.

It was so good, I joked that it could replace the Caesar as America’s favorite tossed salad, and a few beers later, the idea to call it the “Brutus” was born. I’m explaining this not only to give credit, where credit’s due, but also to make clear it has nothing to do with politics. Yes, nothing to do with it. Nothing at all.

Normally, I would tell you to add whatever you want to this salad, but not this time. Please make it exactly as shown. Having said that, you’ll of course have to adjust the dressing to your taste, but you already knew that. I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 portions:
For the dressing:
1/4 cup real French Dijon mustard
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
freshly ground black pepper
cayenne to taste
- the dressing should be sharp and acidic, but please adjust to your taste
For the salad:
4 hearts of romaine, cut or torn into bite-sized pieces
2 ounces extra-sharp aged cheddar
1 apple, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons dill sprigs, chopped
3/4 cup pecan halves, toasted in 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, seasoned with salt and 1 teaspoon of white sugar

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Butcher's Steak – Too Good to Sell?

This great steak is considered something of a butcher shop “secret,” but not because they’re selfish, and can’t stand the thought of you being happy. It’s just an odd looking cut, which requires a specific trimming technique to remove one of the toughest pieces of connective tissue on the entire animal.

Combine that with the fact that there’s only one per cow, and you have something that’s a little tricky to sell, although that seems to be changing a bit. This steak has become popular on restaurant menus, going by the name, “hanger steak,” and that’s led to it being carried in some of your finer butcher shops.

Even though it takes a little bit of time, the trimming is pretty simple, and probably easier than I made it look. Carefully trim away any of the tough-feeling membranes on the surface, and divide in half lengthwise, along the center connective tissue. Once that’s cut away, you’re pretty much done, other than deciding how to cook it.

Butcher’s steak is great in a pan, under the broiler, and of course, on the grill. It takes to marinades wonderfully, and can sub in for any cut of steak in any recipe. It’s not only tender, and affordable, but also extremely beefy.

This is probably the most strongly flavored steak cut, and some even describe it as having a subtle gaminess, although I think that’s a bit much. There’s only one way to know for sure, so I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 portions:
1 whole butcher’s steak aka hanger steak, about 2 pounds
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon clarified butter
For the sauce:
2/3 cup chicken broth to deglaze pan
juices from resting steaks
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, or to taste
2 tablespoon cold butter, cut in cubes
salt to taste

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Muhammara (Roasted Pepper & Walnut Spread) – Lebanese Adjacent

This muhammara video was inspired by a request we received for a Lebanese recipe. Not knowing any off the top of my head, I asked for suggestions, and this amazing red pepper walnut spread was nominated by several people. The only problem is, it’s actually a Syrian recipe.

Nevertheless, it’s apparently very popular in Lebanon, as well as across the rest of the Mideast, and once you taste it, you’ll understand why. Like I said in the intro, this may be the most delicious thing you’re not currently eating.

All great dips and spreads should be addictive, but there’s something very special about how this beckons you back for more, and more, even after you’re being stared at by the other guests. Let them enjoy their superior will power – we’ll continue to enjoy the muhammara.

You'll find pomegranate molasses at any Middle Eastern grocery store, or online, but if you can’t, you can make it by reducing pomegranate juice (Google for more details). Or, maybe substitute with some honey for the sweetness, and little extra lemon for the tartness. Either way, I really hope you give this amazing muhammara a try soon. Enjoy!

* Bell Pepper Buying Note: Sometimes bell peppers have large seed pods which makes them very heavy, and therefor very expensive. Depending on the season, a jar of roasted peppers will actually be cheaper than two fresh peppers. I usually weigh them at the store, do the math, and then make the fresh/jarred call.


Ingredients for 6 portions:
1 cup roughly chopped fire-roasted red peppers (peeled, seeded)
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 1/4 cup raw walnut halves
1/3 to 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon Allepo or other red pepper flakes
Italian parsley, chopped walnuts, and pepper flakes to garnish

Monday, June 12, 2017

In Case You Missed It: Chef John's Facebook Live

Just in case you missed our recent Facebook Live, here it is, in all its unscripted glory. Most people seemed to enjoy it, which I certainly appreciated, but for me it was a reminder of why I don't appear on camera. I prefer a few days to gather my thoughts before answering questions, especially when discussing topics of such importance... like, "does peanut butter go with bacon?"

Anyway, we'll be back with a new video this evening, for those of you who prefer "prerecorded Chef John." In the meantime, enjoy!

Please Note: Apparently there was a sound glitch at the beginning, and you can't hear anything until a few minutes in. The good news is, you didn't miss anything.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Chef John is Doing a Facebook Live!

That's right! I'll be doing a Facebook Live on Thursday, June 8! To enjoy what's being described as the second most anticipated public testimony that day, go to Allrecipes.com's Facebook page at 2PM, and as always, enjoy!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Chinese Barbecue Pork (Char Siu) – Take That, Take Out!

There are many unforgettable sights and sounds you experience walking through Chinatown for the first time, but I think it was seeing all those hanging chunks of florescent red meat that made the biggest impression. 

Sure, the Peking ducks were cool, but they actually sort of looked like roasted duck, where as the char siu looked looked like nothing I’d ever seen before.

So, it was a little disappointing to eventually find out that it was from copious amounts of red food coloring, which I’m pretty sure was toxic back then, and not from some ancient Chinese secret cooking method. Anyway, enough with the nostalgia; the important thing to remember is that in addition to its impressive, high-gloss appearance, and savory taste, this Chinese barbecue pork is quite easy to make at home, even if you don’t have a fancy ceramic grill.

If you happen to be using your standard, backyard kettle-shaped grill, push all your coals to one side, and place your meat on the other. To add an extra layer of protection, you can also put it in a roasting pan, and place that on the grill. Or, forget the great outdoors, and simply roast it in the oven. The only catch is, you’ll need to place it under the broiler at the end, to simulate the caramelization we get on the barbecue.

As long as you roast it between 275 F. and 300 F., and do so until you reach an internal temperature of between 185-190 F., the cooking method really does not matter, and you should have something that rivals the finest take-out in town. So, I really do hope you give this Chinese-style barbecue pork a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for six portions:
3 pounds boneless pork butt, cut into 4 sections lengthwise
2/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup hoisin sauce
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup Chinese rice wine (can sub sake, or dry sherry)
1/3 cup ketchup
4  garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon pink curing salt, optional
1 or 2 teaspoons red food coloring, optional
Kosher salt to season pork before grilling

Friday, June 2, 2017

Perfect Potato Salad – Just Like Mom Used to Make

I can’t believe I haven’t posted a recipe for classic American potato salad, especially since it was such a childhood favorite of mine. As I mentioned in the video, this is the first food I can remember eating, and apparently was one of my favorite baby foods.

This is my take on my mother Pauline’s potato salad, but the actual “recipe” isn’t the main point here. This is more about what I think are the best practices for making potato salad. As long as you follow this basic procedure, it really doesn’t matter how you accessorize your spuds.

Speaking of which, onions are always a very controversial addition. If you use too many, or cut them with a dull knife, their sharp taste can overpower the salad. This can be exacerbated even more if you make it way ahead of time. So if you are going to use onions, I suggest a sweet variety like Vidalia, or Maui; and be sure to use a sharp knife.

The other major factors are making sure you use enough salt, and waiting for your potatoes the cool to room temperature before dressing them. If you’ve ever had a bad, greasy looking potato salad, I can almost guarantee it was mixed while still hot. So, don’t be in a hurry.

Other than that, not a lot can go wrong. So, whether you’re making this for your next picnic, or you want to save money on baby food, I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 12 portions:
3 pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed and rinsed clean
- Boil in 10 cups of water with 1/4 cup of kosher salt
2 tablespoons finely diced sweet onions, optional
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
1/2 cup finely diced celery
3 large hard boiled eggs
For the dressing:
1 1/4 cup mayonnaise, plus more as needed
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus probably much more as needed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
cayenne to taste
- After mixing, chill for 2-3 hours, before tasting and adjusting the salt. You’ll definitely need more, as well as usually another spoonful of mayo.