Friday, August 28, 2015

Billionaire’s Franks & Beans – Welcome to the Top 1% of Comfort Foods

Maybe it’s the billionaire(s) in the news lately, but for some reason I decided to take one of America’s most frugal meals, franks and beans, and give it a high-end makeover. Besides, all the other classic comfort foods have been fancified, hipsterized, and/or molecular gastronomized; so I figured I would take this one down. And by down, I mean up.

Usually, franks and beans is made by opening up a couple cans of baked beans, and heating it up with some sliced hotdogs. Not exactly something you’d serve to visiting dignitaries. However, by adding some fresh veggies, plain beans, and high-quality beef hot dogs, we can achieve something much healthier, equally delicious, and every bit as comforting.

So, how much more will it cost you to make this usually cheap dish, using these upscale ingredients? It’s tempting to say, if you have to ask, you can’t afford it, but that’s not the case. Sure, the Kobe hotdogs will cost you a couple extra dollars, but the rest of the dish is still quite inexpensive. I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 portions Franks & Beans:
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 diced yellow onion
1 diced poblano or other green pepper
2 tbsp minced fresh cayenne pepper, or other hot red pepper
1 rib celery, diced
1 pound hot dogs, sliced (literally any other sausage will work here)
2 (15-oz) cans cannellini beans, drained, rinsed
1 tbsp light brown sugar
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 1/2 cup chicken broth, or as needed
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup sliced green onions
- serve with buttered toast and champagne

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

How to Make Fresh Spring Rolls – Authentic is as Authentic Does

Based on the YouTube comments appearing under the newly posted spring rolls video, lots of people missed the part about this not trying to be a specific recipe, but simply a demo featuring the magic that is damp, rice paper wrappers.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the “authentic” spring rolls I so often order at my friendly, neighborhood Vietnamese restaurant. Loaded with sweet shrimp, and bursting with vermicelli noodles, they are among the most delicious things ever invented.

However, I do reserve the right to soak rice paper wrappers in water, and… (I hope you’re sitting down for this) ...not make those! What you see here is just what I had on hand that day, and the next time I do a batch of these, who the heck knows what they’ll encase. If I have a point, that’s it.

Speaking of soaking in water, many commenters suggested that I dunk these in warm water for just a few seconds to hydrate, instead of the longer dip in cold water. I’ve tried both methods, and had more issues with the warmer/faster approach. They seemed to get too rubbery, too fast, which I found made the rolling harder.

Anyway, to each his own, and that goes for water temperature, filling ingredients, and dipping sauce. By the way, there are no ingredient amounts below, since that’s up to you entirely. You should be able to get “rice paper wrappers” at any large grocery store with an Asian food section, but if not, they’re easily found online. I hope you give these, or something similar, a try soon. Enjoy!

Click here to see our peanut sauce recipe video!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Peach Financiers – Because French Bankers Hate Dirty Money

There are many different techniques used for making financiers, but as usual, I’ve chosen the easiest one. I would have been happy to try those other more complicated versions, but fortunately, I enjoyed this one so much, there’s no need.

I mention in the video that these are called “financiers” because they’re rich, and look like gold bars (if you use the traditional rectangular molds). Well, apparently that’s not quite right.

Word on the “rue” is that there was a bakery next to the Paris stock exchange that made these small almond cakes so bankers could enjoy them on the way to work, without getting their fingers dirty. I assume this is accurate, since I read it in the YouTube comments.

Anyway, not only is this an easy recipe, but it works beautifully with pretty much any summer fruit. Berries are popular, as are other stone fruits. Just don’t use too much. It’s merely a garnish, and adding too much could effect the texture and cooking time. I hope you give these delicious peach financiers a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 12 small cakes:
3 egg whites
1/2 cup white sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup almond meal (or finely ground almonds)
3 tablespoons flour
3 oz unsalted butter (6 tablespoons), toasted to a golden-brown
12 small sliced of peach
- I used mini-muffin pans, so you'll have to adjust your time if you used regular muffin tins, or other molds.
- Bake for 5 minutes at 400 F., then top with fruit, and continue baking until browned, about 10-12 minutes.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Homemade Dill Pickles – Naturally Fermented, Whatever That Means

This is going to be an easy post, in that I know virtually nothing about fermenting pickles. The only thing I know for sure is how to make them, and for me, that’s enough. If you make a simple salt brine, add some spices, and submerge Kirby cucumbers in it for about a week, you get some fairly delicious pickles.

Maybe it’s dumb luck, or just overwhelmingly good karma, but fortunately I’ve not experienced any of the problems I’ve seen others lament; such as mushy texture, scary molds, or exploding jars. Apparently, cucumbers are one of the more finicky things to pickle, but that hasn’t been my experience.

Like I said in the video, I’ve only made these a handful of times, so maybe my time is coming, but I’m pretty sure if you measure your salt right, and store the fermenting pickles at an appropriate temperature, you should get something close to what you see here.

Having said that, I will refer any and all of your questions having to do with variations, troubleshooting, probiotics, and/or best practices, to the Internet. The purpose of this video is to simply show the process, and how ridiculously easy it is. If this seems like something you want to try, and it should, I recommend doing lots of research before starting, so at least you’ll have someone else to blame if things go horribly wrong.

One thing I can tell you for sure is that you have to use pure salt for this. Table salt can contain additives like iodine, which inhibits the bacterial growth necessary for this to work. I’m also giving you weight measurements for the salt, since the size of the salt crystal can really effect measuring by volume.

Other than getting your brine right, just be sure to get very fresh, very firm pickling cucumbers to make this with. If your cucumbers start off soft and mushy, your pickles will be terrible, and not have that loud crunch associated with the finest examples. I really do hope you give this a try. Enjoy!

2 pounds very fresh Kirby cucumbers, washed thoroughly
Handful of fresh, flowering dillweed
For the brine:
8 cups cold fresh water
8 tablespoons Kosher salt (By weight, you wants exactly 80 grams. The brand of kosher salt I use weighs about 10 gram per tablespoon, but yours may not, so it’s best to use a scale if possible.)
4 cloves peeled garlic
2 teaspoons whole coriander seed
2 teaspoon black peppercorn
3 or 4 bay leaves
4 whole cloves

- Ferment at room temperature (I hear that between 70-75 F. is ideal) for about a week. Check every day as these can ferment fast. They are done when you like the taste. If you go too far, they start to get soft, and the inside gets hollow. Keep the brine level topped off.
- This makes extra brine for topping off.

Pickling Spice Note: I tend not to like a lot of spices in my pickles, so I believe the amounts listed here are fairly puny compared to most recipes. Feel free to find one of the many pickling spices recipes online, and use that instead.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Grilled Pattypan Squash with Hot Chorizo Vinaigrette – Almost Stuffed

Michele does a fantastic, sausage-stuffed pattypan squash, which was actually how these were supposed to be prepared, but someone, and we won’t name names, didn’t pay attention to buying ones of a uniform size, which is kind of a big deal if you want them to bake evenly. Okay, it was me.

In an attempt to redeem myself, I decided to grill them instead – a cooking method where any size will work – and top them with a hot chorizo vinaigrette. It’s something I’ve wanted to try for a while, and it really turned out to be a wonderful combination.

The ingredients below are just a rough guide, and you’ll have to figure out your own amounts, depending on how much squash you grill, but I do recommend a 1-to-1 ratio of sherry vinegar to olive oil/rendered chorizo fat.

I used a veal chorizo, which was very lean, so I had to add a good amount of olive oil. If you use pork chorizo, you’ll have a lot of rendered fat, so you may want to drain off most of it, keeping a few tablespoons, before adding your oil and vinegar.

Speaking of oil, don’t put any on your squash before you toss it on the grill. I used to do this myself, because it seemed logical, but it’s a bad idea. The dripping oil causes flare-ups that can make your veggies taste like gasoline, which is not good eats. Other than that, not much can go wrong with this simple summer dish. I hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 portions
8 pattypan squash
kosher salt to taste
6-8 ounces fresh, raw chorizo sausage
(crumbled fine, and browned well in olive oil)
*you want to leave about 2 tablespoons rendered chorizo fat in the pan
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup sherry vinegar (or, use any vinegar you like)
splash of water to maintain moisture level if needed
1 tablespoon freshly sliced mint leaves

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Spicy Caramel Chicken and a History Lesson

I’ve wanted to film an updated version of this caramel chicken for many years. It was one of the first videos I ever posted, and its unexpected popularity made me realize that there were actually people (non-relatives) watching these videos.

The original vision for Food Wishes was an online cooking school, where I’d charge tuition for a series of courses that would mimic the culinary school I’d just left. I started filming a few recipes each week, knowing full well that only a handful of people would see them, but I had to learn my new craft.

Caramel Chicken, Circa 2007
As the library grew, so did the audience, and I realized that instead of charging for the content, I could give it away for free, and maybe survive on the ad revenue that YouTube was just starting to offer. Above and beyond that, I was getting emails and comments, telling me that what I was doing was making them happy.

This wasn’t something I’d anticipated, and while at the time I would have preferred money, it was great to hear, and inspired me to push on. The rest, as they say, is history, and every time I got an email asking for an updated version of this recipe, I would fondly remember how all this came to be.

So, whether you were here from the very beginning, or you’re brand new, and will be trying caramel chicken for the very first time, I really hope you give this fast, easy, delicious, and historically significant recipe a try soon. Enjoy!

Makes 4 large portions:
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut in about 1 inch chunks
1/2 cup sliced, seeded jalapeno peppers
1/2 cup sliced, seeded mild red chilies, or bell peppers
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
4 cups cooked white rice

For the sauce mixture:
2 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
4 cloves finely minced garlic
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup fish sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp hot sauce, or to taste

Friday, August 7, 2015

Grilled Beef Flank Steak “Pastrami” – Backyard Deli

I’ll do a proper pastrami one of these days. Maybe right after I get a smoker. But in the meantime, this pastrami-spiced beef flank steak should do nicely. As with all "cheater" recipes, managing your expectations is key.

You can’t get the texture and color of a real “pastrami” without the curing step, where the meat is soaked in a brine, before being spiced/smoked, but you can get pretty close to the flavor, using the spice rub seen herein.

We’ve used a similar technique to turn plain corned beef into “pastrami,” as well as create a duck Reuben; one of my favorite videos of all time. By the way, the ingredient amounts below have been adjusted slightly, as my spice rub was a tad bit overpowering.

I’ve backed down the black pepper and mustard, but as with all spice amounts, that’s really up to you. If you simply put salt and pepper on a flank steak, and grill it properly, you’ll have something delicious to eat, so keep that in mind as you rub your meat. 

I ate mine fresh, but if you let it cool, slice it thin, and warm it up in a pan with a little splash of water, and a tiny pinch of sugar, you’ll have something even more pastrami-like. I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

SPECIAL NOTE: I let my meat warm to room temp before grilling, so the inside reaches my desired temp a little quicker, and before the outside spice rub gets too black. Conversely, when grilling a steak, and there's nothing to burn on the surface, I generally like the meat cold, so the outside has plenty of time to sear, before the meat inside is done. 

Ingredients for 4 large portions:
1 trimmed beef flank steak (usually 1.5 to 1.75 pounds)
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp kosher salt
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dry mustard
- For best results, cook to a medium. I pulled at about 135 F. internal temp, which will rise to about 140 F. as it rests.
-Serve with slightly sweetened mustard and rye bread

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Fresh Fig and Goat Cheese…Tart?

There are worse problems in the kitchen than making something that tastes amazing, but is very difficult to name. Like, for example, something that’s easy to name, but tastes terrible. Luckily, this fresh fig and goat cheese “tart” was the former.

I wanted to make some sort of crostata, or galette-type, free-form tart, which I’ve done successfully in the past (and have the video to prove it), but instead of using standard pie crust dough, I decided to try something a little more rustic, and savory, using spelt flour and olive oil.

I knew this would pair beautifully with the sweet fruit, and tangy cheese, but what I didn’t know, was that it would end up being way too crumbly, and pretty much useless as a tart crust. So, I crumbled it into the bottom of a shallow ramekin, and the rest is history.

As predicted, the combination of flavors really worked extraordinarily well, and the somewhat gritty texture of the “crust,” added to the interest. But, what the heck is this? I don’t think it’s a tart. An upside-down crumble? Sandy tart? I give up, but if you have some time to kill, I’d love to know what you would call this delicious accident. Semantics aside, I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

For  the crust (makes enough for about 4 small tarts):
1 cup sprouted spelt flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
3 or 4 tbsp water, or enough to form a crumbly dough

For one “tart:”
about 1/3 cup “crust” mixture
2 ounces creamy fresh goat cheese
1 black mission fig, sliced
tiny pinch of salt
very tiny pinch of cayenne
1 tbsp white sugar
spring of fresh lemon thyme