To say I’m a taco fan is an understatement. It’s like saying that Mona Lisa is kinda casually mysterious, or that Jimmy Hendrix was pretty okay at playing the guitar. I’m pretty sure my rather large collection of taco and taco associated pop toys and tshirts would be enough secure my place as a true taco supporter. If given the opportunity to have lunch on a random Friday afternoon at any of my locally owned small business restaurants that haven’t hit fast food franchise status, you will more than likely find me at a place that sells tacos be it Korean style, traditional Mexican, Tex-mex, etcetera etcetera (I really enjoy saying the word etcetera!).
St Louis cuisine in the Greater St. Louis metropolitan area historically has been largely influenced by the German, Irish, Italian and French immigrants who somehow found their way to this gateway city. Maybe they experienced a real life Oregan Trail scenario and their overburdened oxen driven cart broke a wheel or the ox drowned in the flooding waters of the Mississippi water or worse, dysentery. I don’t know personally why they stopped here but their settlements in the city helped nurture and develop a food culture which to me is reminiscent of what family food should be like. Over recent years, St Louis has become a safe haven for many displaced refugees from war stricken countries (Bosnia, Syria, Afghanistan and other countries in the Middle East). The adding of these large populations of immigrants have contributed greatly to our dining experience within the Gateway city. You would be hard pressed to not find an ethnic restaurant in one of the many boroughs within the city limits. If you can’t it just means you didn’t look hard enough. I could quite literally go on all day with my love for the food scene in St. Louis but there is one food craze that will always remain #1 in my heart and that is tacos.
Most people will undeniably say that tacos are the best thing to come out of Mexico. Like legit, no joke. Buzzfeed has a post about the top 13 best things to come out of Mexico (13 of the best things to come out of Mexico). My friend Stephen would probably say his wife Krystal (she’s our token little Latina), some would say avocados, and every single child phobic friend of mine would probably say the birth control pill. But for me, next to my beloved green gift of the Gods, taco holds a special place in my heart. And how could it not. It’s pretty much the perfect thing you can imagine. What other food when you mention it makes people come together in harmony on a Tuesday. I don’t see meatloaf or oven baked chicken doing that. My most beloved spirit animal Deadpool even holds this hand-held meat package in the highest of regards. And if Deadpool supports this then it has to possibly be true.
One of my most favorite taco joints to go to is a small corner side hole in the wall which can be found nestled in the heart of Bevo Mill in South City St. Louis. It is the creation of Austin, Tx transplants Mikey Carrasco and Christian Ethridge who brought their love for tasty tacos to the taco hungry citizens of St. Louis. What is the name of this amazing life affirming meca? Where can you get such amazing tacos, burritos and an occasional chilequiles? You can get them, a crafted soda or a local brewed beer at Taco Circus. It’s hard to believe that this coming December marks its 3rd year anniversary. It’s gone from being this little no name shop to a place which at on a Friday afternoon can be crowded with people chowing down on a steak fajita taco, a burrito the size of a small domestic cat or a frito pie made with their amazing in-house chili.
Last week my husband and I decided after a Saturday shift to stop by and grab a bite to eat and we were not disappointed. Their special of the day was this amazing brisket they obtained locally from just a few streets over. The beautiful subtle smokey flavor and juices dripping into their flour taco shell topped with a generous squirt of their homemade tomatillo cream sauce and it was a no brainer that this place had taken over as #1 in my life as my taco go to. Why even today after escaping the walls of Washington University I immediately suggested we go to Taco Circus in hopes that they’d have their super loaded chicken chilesquila on the menu as the special and sure enough they did.
All their food is made to order in front of you so don’t expect it to be super fast food speed but then again I would rather take the extra 10 minutes for my order to chit-chat with the staff behind the counter, ogle the 6 burner stove and flat top grill then walk out with a taco who had its meat sitting in a vat of flavorless fat any day of the week. Top it off with the fact that I can walk out with a beer from any numerous local breweries here? Shit how can you not go wrong with that. It’s fast food meets high-end and while the menu is someone sparse and limited you don’t feel like you’re gonna walk away hungry. Plus if you get hungry again you can always stop by before they close. Um repeat trip hello..Or if you don’t want to go out they do deliver within a limited radius so I really don’t see how this could be a bad idea. All I’m saying is tacos are probably the one thing in America that will keep this country together, and the staff responsible for me maintaining my sanity during this crazy tumultuous times is Chris and his crew at Taco Circus. May it have nothing but success because I have no idea wtf I am going to go to get a brisket taco as good as the one you guys make.
If you find yourself in the St Louis metro area and you want to experience Taco Circuis for yourself you can find them at 4258 Schiller Pl, Saint Louis, MO 63116 7 days a week from 11 am and closing at 7 pm Sunday through Thursday, and till 8 on Friday and Saturday. They offer delivery services through such food ordering sites like GrubHub but you can also call in and place an order ($14 delivery minimum I think) or better yet stop in and chat it up with the guys. You will walk in going “eeeh this looks skeptical” but you’ll walk out going “I have found Meca”. Trust
You ever get a song stuck in your head that just doesn’t really quite belong there? For me it’s either “Baby got Back” by Sir Mix a Lot, any number of songs from the Lion King (MUFASA!!!!!!), the theme music from Tetris or “Me So Horny” by 2 Live Crew. Toss in a smattering of Glee songs, a few Ani DeFranco and Twenty One Pilots and I’m pretty sure that my internal musical soundtrack would be enough to have me committed to an acute psychiatric facility for a very very very long time *twitch*. That and my random Snapchat videos of me chasing my husband around the apartment with giant wooden nipple clamps. I like to keep it exciting and slightly scary at times ^.^
The only thing I think which is more bipolar than my greatest hits is the weather in St. Louis. I’m pretty sure that we are one of the few cities that in a single day can experience every single season in the matter of 45 minutes. If you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes it will change. That held true this weekend considering it snowed on Saturday and yesterday and today is going to be low to mid 30’s when last week we were pushing 80 degrees. And they say that humans have no direct impact on global warming and CO2 emissions are myth and legend..BAH! But the great thing about the weather here being so flippant and as unpredictable as me is that it can prolong my most favorite food season. Soup season. Yes we have a soup season. It goes, spring, soup, summer, cold soup, fall, cold & warm soup, winter, all the soup. There really isn’t a wrong time of the year to have soup. Hot creamy tomato soup during the rainy days of spring, cold gazpacho during the hot dog days of summer, roasted potato soup in winter. Soup is good all the time. And if you don’t think it’s good it’s a sure sign and indicator that you either are a communist, a member of a secret society hellbent on systematically eliminating all things soup based or just an asshole! Soup is wonderful and because of its existence has created several lovable characters and been the focal point on some of our most iconic pieces of art. So yes if you’re anti soup you’re a horrible, horrible individual and you don’t deserve any sort of happiness in your bleak soupless lives!
For those of us who do enjoy soup we have our personal favorites which are our standard go to’s. When it’s rainy and gray outside I like to wrap myself up in a hot bowl of tomato soup with a gooey grilled cheese sandwich. When the weather calls for below freezing temps which hey that is probably going to happen at like noon today with it being sunny and hot by 3 then I like a bowl of my father’s potato soup with a slice of foccacia bread. When I go out for sushi I ALWAYS have to have a bowl of miso soup. My standard order at Panera is broccoli cheddar with a piece of crusty french bread. Now I have had to experience the bitterness of a bad bowl of soup. Just last week I ordered lunch and was eager to have a bowl of broccoli cheddar from a local sandwich shop and had to be an unwilling participant in some nasty chalky garbage. It was horrible and like cole slaw found its rightful place in the trash next to my empty coffee cup and a tear-stained receipt from said sandwich shop. But one bad bowl of soup does not a soup hater make. You have to have something deeply wrong with you to not be able to let yourself enjoy a bowl full of goodness. Pretty sure soup haters weren’t hugged enough in their childhood. That seems to be the most appropriate answer right? But yes meals aren’t really a meal without a bowl of soup for me either as a starter or even as the entire meal. Mmmmm souuuuuup.
This weekend with the onset of winter FINALLY and with a previous date night to get sushi, I had miso on the brain and of course every time I hear the word miso I am automatically transported back to that magical age of music known as the 90’s and the sultry song styles of Miami, Florida’s own 2 Live Crew and how they’ve got an appetite..an appetite for……..okay I’m trying to work on not making this blog have an NC17 rating. Let’s just say that they’ve got an appetite for some good adult wholesome fun. I was never a huge fan of miso soup primarily because I had this preconceived notion that tofu was a bland horrid cube of boredom. But as I’ve matured in my old age, so to have my taste buds and I find that while I still don’t really care for tofu, my love for miso has grown and I find myself using it in all sorts of different applications from marinades for flanksteak and chicken, adding it to onions for burgers, salad dressings and of course soup.
I like miso soup just by using a hot water and mixing in the paste, tossing in a few slices of scallions, tofu cubes and some nori but this week I wanted to work on something that
would be a little more substantial and not just a flavorful broth. During my weekly outing to the international grocery stores (I like them way more than normal grocery stores) I pondered the notion of making a broth to go with the miso and I wanted to do a dashi. My favorite dashi is from shiitake mushrooms. I have always enjoyed the rich meaty taste of mushrooms and feel that if I were to go back to being primary vegetarian (I could never be a vegan. I love cheese too damn much!) that I’d be fine because I can live off of mushrooms. My favorite way to eat beef stroganoff is to cook Portobello mushrooms with the flank steak and then let Kyle have all the beef and I just eat the mushrooms. They are the little fungus flanksteaks of the vegetable world. I love them. All the mushrooms. I pondered the idea of spending $35.00 on a huge bag of already dried shiitake mushrooms but I wasn’t ready to make that sort of commitment in the off-chance that neither Kyle or I would like the dashi. Because then I’d have to figure out wtf I was going to do with a 10 pound bag of dried shrooms and I’m pretty sure my circle of friends would not want those kinds of shrooms. So instead I opted for the small pre-packaged fresh mushrooms and took it upon myself to dry them in my oven. And if you’ve never dried mushrooms in the oven of on a food dehydrator I strongly recommend that you try it at least once. Even if you aren’t a huge mushroom fan the smell that emanated from my kitchen over the course of 3 hours was unbelievable. And I don’t mean like some seriously funky smell. It was this meaty earthy smell that at the time and now I wished was a scent in shampoo or body soap because If it were possible and I’d not run the risk of experiencing second degree burns I would have rubbed it all over my body! It was just that damn good!!!! I tried drying the mushrooms in two different ways. One was by slicing them up and one by leaving the mushrooms whole. The sliced took about an hour and a half while whole took nearly 3 hours. Both ways resulted in an amazing dashi once all things were said and done.
The dashi is a pretty easy recipe to make. It simply required 2 ingredients and about 2-3 hours of patience. If you are wanting a stronger, more umami flavored dashi, try to be patient and wait at least 24 hours. It will be a matter of personal preference so don’t feel like you have to wait a full day to enjoy some good soup. In a stock pan you will want to take 8 cups of water and around 75-100 grams of dried shiitake mushrooms. I used sliced for this because I didn’t have dried whole mushrooms at the time. If you don’t have a food
scale at home, 100 grams is roughly 1 1/2 cups of dried sliced mushrooms. If you want a food scale you can find them relatively cheap at Target. That’s where I got mine.
Before you start the next step you need to ask yourself a very important question. Do you want to keep as much mushroom awesomeness in the actual mushroom or do you want it to be in the broth. Go ahead..I’ll wait while you ask yourself that question. It’s my day off and I’m not working overtime at my primary job this weekend so I got time. Do you want mushroomie flavored mushrooms or do you want mushroomie flavored broth? Have you decided? No? need another minute or two? Okay the reason I ask that question is depending on where you want the flavor to linger determines if you use hot water and let them simmer for 20 minutes before allowing to steep or do you just use room temperature water and allow time to run its course.
Using room temperature water without any additional heat allows your mushrooms to maintain their wonderful mushroom flavor but produces a light-colored broth. By heating the water and allowing it to simmer before cooling your mushrooms will not have as deep of a mushroom taste; however your broth will be infused more and be of a darker color and richer taste. So it really is a matter of personal preference. I preferred heating my water and allowing it to simmer because I like that dark meaty broth and I don’t throw the mushrooms away afterwards and they can become a part of the dish or used in other applications where I don’t want a rich mushroom taste but want the mushroom present. Does that make sense? In your stock pan bring your water up to a high simmer but don’t allow it to boil. Let it simmer for 20 minutes before killing the heat and walking away for a while. We want to let it sit and soak for a minimum of 2 hours to re-hydrate the release all their goodness into the broth. I found an amazing way to distract me from the kitchen by assembling Ikea furniture and blaming my husband (who was pass out cold from his overnight shift) for the fact I kept misplacing the stupid allen key either on the couch or underneath it or hiding in plain sight. They say a relationship can be tested in many ways. Float trip, road trip, assembling Ikea furniture. So far we’ve managed to not kill each other on any of these adventures and our marriage still remains as dysfunctional
as it was on the day we said “I do” which Kyle? If you are reading this blog it’s not October 26..It’s October 23rd on the day of my true love Ryan Reynold’s birthday *sigh*
Once you’ve waited at least 3 hours, take a coffee filter if you have one, if not a paper towel works fine as well and you will want to strain your broth through a sieve. the reason being is that mushrooms can be gritty and you don’t really want to have any little bits of dirt or grit in your lovely broth do you? You do? Then um, yeah you need to close this page right now and never ever ever E..V..E..R check back for update. That’s like saying that it’s totally fine to prepare scallops without cleaning them first. It’s just a big ole bucket of W.R.O.N.G WRONG…so yeah strain your mushrooms with a coffee filter you’ve either bought or stolen from work or a paper towel. Now we can get down to the best part of this blog. Making the soup.
Once you’ve gotten your dashi made, miso soup can come together in a matter of 10 minutes if you don’t have a lot of add ins. If using noodles you will want to allow up to 20 minutes for your noodles to cook. And by noodles I don’t mean silly spaghetti noodles. I mean alkaline noodles that don’t lose their shape or dissolve in broth. Alkaline noodles are used heavily in Asian cuisine and while I’ve n0t tried my hands at making them, they are on my list of things to do in the course of the next few weeks so keep your eyes peeled for that blog post. 🙂 Just a quick note, when buying miso paste make sure you look at the ingredients on the back of the container. I ignorantly thought that miso paste would be a vegetarian paste considering its made from soybeans but there are a few brands out there apparently that contain bonito fish so if you are wanting to make sure that you don’t inadvertently serve the vegetarian or vegan in your life animal products check the back. I recommend Miko Brand Shiro Miso Paste because it does not contain any animal products.
Another great thing I love about making miso soup is you aren’t really stuck with making a whole pot of soup. You know how sometimes you make homemade soup and before you know it you’ve got 8 quarts of this jacked up mutant potato soup that you kind of like but after the 4th day of eating it you kind of want to send those bastard potatoes back to the mother land where they belong? With miso soup if you want to make a single serving and be selfish and not share because the dashi broth can keep up to at least a week in the fridge and can be frozen for later use. Miso paste once open and kept in the fridge can keep for at least a few months if kept closed so it doesn’t dry out. The only thing that has any sort of limited shelf life after you open it would be the tofu but that can last in a Tupperware container with water that’s closed for at least 4 days. So depending on how
hungry or generous you are you can make as little or as much as you want. Because we were going to be having this as our meal with nothing else, I opted to use 4 cups of the dashi broth to start my base.
I don’t think it really matters if you put the miso paste in a warm broth or if you put cold broth over it and let it heat up together. Some recipes will say to use hot broth but I’m like “uh..why?”..So in a sauce pan I put 4 tablespoons of mild yellow miso paste and about a tablespoon of fermented red pepper paste. The pepper paste is totally optional, I just like to have a bit of a spicy soup on cold days and I absolutely love the taste of gochujang its wonderfully funky with a lovely little Jackie Chan kick to the back of the throat. To that I added around 4 cups of dashi and allowed that to come up to a simmer over medium heat. Since we were going to be having this as the only aspect of our meal, Kyle decided to cook up some udon noodles to make it sort of like this odd bastard mutant miso ramen soup, which hey I’m down for
While the miso broth is warming through I set my eyes on the block of firm tofu on the counter. Tofu is made from the same stuff miso paste is which is soybeans, but it’s not actually made from the bean itself. If you look up tofu it’s also called bean curd which is made from soymilk (no not the vanilla or chocolate flavored crap you get next to the yogurt at the grocery store). Tofu is made from the liquid given off after you soak and blitz the beans and then a coagulant is added to cause it to sort of seize up and form curds. Depending on how hard you press those curds determines what type of tofu you get. So if you think about it, tofu is really just a vegetarian type of cheese :)..ITS HEALTHY FOR YOU!!!! I do enjoy using tofu in various applications but it’s one of those things that it doesn’t really have much of a taste on its own. You need to help it along the road to flavor town. If you haven’t made tofu before don’t feel bad. I haven’t either so I just go out and by a package of firm tofu for miso or silken for smoothies. I’m not about taking that adventure yet..I will but not yet. I need to commit more to this whole tofu way of thinking before I go out and buy tofu making soybeans.
Cut off a slice of tofu and make it in to whatever size cubes you want. You like large pieces of tofu? Cut a large piece? You like small pieces in your soup? Cut a small slice. No right or wrong. Don’t like tofu? Leave it out. It’s not called tofu soup, its called miso soup! Next
you’ll want to take your green onions (scallions) and slice them rather fine, and whatever else you want to toss in, the soaking mushrooms from the dashi broth project, some sea weed, kimchi? It’s up to you to decide what you want. We added some hijiki seaweed and some kimchi and mushrooms to ours along with an ample squirt of sriracha to give it a little more oomph. Your soup, your filling, you do you boo boo..Traditional miso soup is simply green onions, some seaweed, tofu and broth. Simple and easy lemon squeezy.
Once you’ve made the decision about what you are going to use, get your bowls and start building your soup. We laid our udon noodles in first and then sort of build this baracade of flavors around it with a little tofu, some green onions, chopped rehydrated shiitake mushrooms, and hijiki seaweed. Then you ladle your broth over all of the inside and enjoy dinner. I was worried that Kyle would not like the soup as the only aspect of his meal and had set aside a viable alternative of roast chicken and squash but he seemed content with his vegetarian/vegan meal. All in all the whole process took about 4 hours from start to finish but if you’ve got nothing really going on during the weekend it helps make mid-week meals a breeze to get done in less than 30 minutes (10 if you’re not doing noodles). It’s insanely healthy for you and quite filling. I was able to make up another batch of it for my buddy JJ who is a tattoo artist at Top Shelf Tattoo in St Louis and I’m hoping he liked it since he’s new to the whole vegan lifestyle. Now since I’ve made it with the homemade dried shiitake mushrooms I know from here on out I’ll feel validated about the $35.00 bag of dried shiitake I am going to be buying as soon as I decide if I’m going to put on a bra and an actual pair of pants. So that being said? Go to the store, buy a container of miso and some add ins and go to town. You don’t need to be at a sushi restaurant to enjoy this but I do still recommend you go to a sushi restaurant at least once a month because you need that kind of positivity in your life 🙂
Miso Soup with Shiitake Dashi
Serving Size: 2 as an entrée/4 as an appetizer
75-100 grams dried shiitake mushrooms
8 cups of filtered water
Bring to a high simmer (slightly under boiling temperature) and allow to simmer for 20 minutes before turning off the heat and letting the mushrooms rehydrate for a minimum of 2-3 hours. Strain through a coffee filter or paper towel and refrigerate until ready to use. Store mushrooms in a ziplock bag for later use. Do no throw these away they are wonderful. You will 8 cups of shiitake dashi once finished
4 cups of reserved shiitake dashi
4 tablespoons of miso paste (you can use any type, white, yellow, red)
1 tablespoon gochujang/fermented red pepper paste (optional)
4oz cubed firm tofu
4 green onions sliced fine
4tablespoons chopped reserved shiitake mushrooms
4 tablespoons soaked hijiki seaweed
2 tablespoons spicy kimchi
2 teaspoons sriracha (optional)
noodles (optional add in)
In a sauce pan add miso paste, gochujang paste, and dashi and simmer at a medium heat until hot, stirring occasionally. If using noodles cook per instruction on package. Take your bowls and equally divide your filling between either 2 bowls or 4 depending on if using it as an entrée or an appetizer or depending on who wants this and who wants that. Ladle your hot broth over and serve with sriracha on the side to allow each person to season to their own personal preference.
Please feel free to leave comments, likes, share this with your friends. I would love to know what you all thought as well as get your impressions on how I can better my technique. If in the St Louis Area and you are looking for a tattoo I strongly recommend Top Shelf Tattoo on The Landing. All the guys there are amazing artists and I wouldn’t trust my skin to any other person now.
Remember in the first Harry Potter book when the rat’s nest now delicious sex pot Hermione Granger corrected Ron on his pronunciation of the levitation spell? I sort of roll my eyes and sigh exacerbated at the snobbish attitude of the little Miss Knowitall as she swished and flicks her wand but I found myself doing the same exact thing in the kitchen this past weekend as I was doing meal prep for a Meal Train I participated in. What is a meal train? It’s kind of like GoFundMe but with food and my amazing neighborhood of Tower Grove South set one up for a family who had been suffered a great loss the previous week. On the menu was chicken confit (I’ll do the recipe post at a later time), asparagus seared in duck fat with salt and pepper and potatoes. But I didn’t want to do just any potato. Mashed potatoes while delicious and comforting didn’t quite seem right due to the other dishes I was making and I didn’t want to do plain Jane roasted potatoes because again, it just would have seemed boring next to a piece of chicken which was slow cooked in its own fat for 8 hours. I am sure that whatever I would have sent would have been graciously accepted because it was a heartfelt gift I am a sucker for making sure everything for me goes well and you have different cooking techniques. Then I remembered an episode of Food Wishes where Chef John made fondant potatoes. If you don’t know who Chef John is go check out his blog at Food Wishes. He’s amazing and hilarious and I love his blog and use his recipes a lot.
So back to why I impersonated Hermione Granger. When I was thinking of a title for this blog a friend of mine Patrick said S.P.U.D: Special Potato Underwater Division and it got me thinking as to where did the slang “spud” come from and of course using my superhero abilities of Google I sought out the answer. It led me of course to Wikipedia and my journey began.
The name spud for a small potato comes from the digging of soil (or a hole) prior to the planting of potatoes. The word has an unknown origin and was originally (c. 1440) used as a term for a short knife or dagger, probably related to Dutch spyd or the Latin “spad-” a word root meaning “sword”; cf. Spanish “espada”, English “spade” and “spadroon”. The word spud traces back to the 16th century. It subsequently transferred over to a variety of digging tools. Around 1845, the name transferred to the tuber itself. The origin of the word “spud” has erroneously been attributed to a 19th-century activist group dedicated to keeping the potato out of Britain, calling itself The Society for the Prevention of an Unwholesome Diet (S.P.U.D.).It was Mario Pei‘s 1949 The Story of Language that can be blamed for the word’s false origin. Pei writes, “the potato, for its part, was in disrepute some centuries ago. Some Englishmen who did not fancy potatoes formed a Society for the Prevention of Unwholesome Diet. The initials of the main words in this title gave rise to spud.” Like most other pre-20th century acronymic origins, this is false. Wikipedia
I couldn’t help but kind of laugh to myself at the idea that Hermionne Granger might have been a secret member of this secret society much like her participation in Dumbledore’s Army. Her hatred for the starchy tuber shown in her contempt for words where the emphasis on the wrong syllable was present. That and the scientific name for potato is Solanum tuberosum.
So what exactly is a fondant potato. My only knowledge of the word fondant prior to this recipe was associated with the chalky horrible tasting crap they put on pretentious cakes to make them all fancy and shit. Horrid chalky crap and if you add too much food coloring it tastes even worse. Never use the stuff never will, though I do make an awesome version of fondant using marshmallows..Again another post for a later time. A fondant potato is for all intents and purposes a roasted potato which is cooked in a stock. It’s a rather old school old world cooking technique and for the more than likely would never have graced the plates of the monthly meetings of S.P.U.D due to the high carbohydrate count (hoity toity bastards). Also did you know that to differentiate between the “white” and “sweet” potatoes that the white or Irish potatoes were called “bastard potatoes”? I think now when I need potatoes from the store I’m gonna ask for a bag of bastards . GIMMIE A 10# of bastards please!
Like most potato dishes it is actually somewhat important to choose a potato that is best appropriate for the job. There are three classifications of potatoes. Starchy, Waxy Skin and All purpose. Your starchy potatoes are going to be your russets and your sweet potatoes which are best for baking and frying because they are super absorbent. Your waxy skin potatoes are your red skinned and fingerling potatoes and those are best for soups and salads (potato salad..blech) because they hold their shape well when cooking and then you have your AP potatoes. These are your Yukon golds, blue and purple potatoes and they are great for all sorts of things (mashing, baked, roasted). They are the quintessential carbohydrate superstar. But according to Chef John who is pretty much my only resource for this recipe the best potato would be the russet and the reason why is
because of its ability to absorb liquids. Remember these potatoes are roasted in a stock. which means? C’mon put 2 and 2 together…Let me give you a minute to figure it out. YES!!! we want that liquid to become absorbed into the potato and flavor it from the inside! Good job GOLD STAR.
For the recipe you just need russet potatoes of roughly the same shape and size, neutral oil (canola, grape seed, even vegetable oil), your choice of fresh herbs, butter, salt & pepper and stock. Pretty much everything someone should already have in their pantry and fridge. All in all the recipe will take about eeeeh 45 minutes or so and for 3 large potatoes you can get 6 fondant potatoes which is a good serving for 2-3 people. I would recommend for each person you want to cook for allocate 1 potato to that person because this is a side dish and you will hopefully have other things to go along with it.
Start by washing off your potatoes, why? I have no clue but I personally hate the way potatoes feel in my hands and washing them just makes it less annoying. You can skip this step if you really want to because it’s an optional step and as we know, Americans are
lazy bastards and don’t like to have things be too complicated. You can either choose to use a potato peeler or a knife. Using the potato peeler has a tendency to give the potato a more uniform spherical shape while the knife allows you to create edges, again your choice I chose the potato peeler. After your potatoes are peeled you’re going to want to cut off the edges so that it looks again more uniform in shape. This is help ensure that they all cook at the same rate so you don’t have an Ebenezer Scrooge moment where you start hallucinating about your dead partner due to an undigested fragment of an underdone potato. I’m pretty sure good ole Ebenezer was suffering from mass organ failure due to the fact that potatoes are a member of the nightshade family and he was suffering from a rare and extreme case of toxicity poisoning. Good riddance, the buggery bastard potatoes did us well……what?!?! good lord, okay fine.
Once you’ve evenly shaped up your potatoes you will want to cut them as close to in half as possible and then place in a bowl of cold water to soak for 5 minutes. This allows the starch that clung to the raw potato during peeling/cutting to get washed away. Also potatoes release a natural chemical called Acrylamide when cooked at high temperatures with growing concerns that the formation of this chemical could cause health problems. Simply soaking your potatoes for 30 minutes can help reduce the formation by around 23%. While your potatoes are soaking you are going to want to preheat your oven to 425 degrees as well as start to heat your cast-iron skillet over high heat. Drain your potatoes and completely dry the outside with a paper towel and set to the side. When your cast iron pan is hot add around 2 tablespoons of your neutral oil and allow the oil a few minutes to heat up. This is an important step because we don’t want the russet which we’ve already acknowledged is good absorbing liquid sitting in cold oil and soaking that in while it heats up. We want it to absorb the stock and the butter but not necessarily the oil as well so be patient and wait till the oil starts to shimmer and smoke slightly. Choose the best side of your spud and place that in the oil to cook first and season liberally with salt and pepper Why the best side down? These ultimately will be the side that is presented when dinner is served so why not show the best side. If using a large 10 inch cast iron skillet you can fit around 12 potatoes without it being too crowded, but you want to make sure that you don’t over crowd the pan if at all possible. Break it up into two pans that are safe to go into the oven for long periods of time. Now the time in which to cook the 1 side of potatoes will change depending on how well your cast iron distributes the heat and of course well time. You want to be able to develop a nice crust of a nice medium brown before flipping over.
After you’ve browned one side of all your potatoes you will want to take a paper towel and with a set of tongs soak up any of the remaining oil. It only was needed to serve its job as maillard reaction maker (we’ve discussed the maillard reaction before so I’m not repeating
myself. GOOGLE IT!) and we are going to replace it with butter and whatever fresh herb you chose, salt and pepper. For this application I only had fresh sage which hey that’s awesome and some garlic. Take your butter (around 2 tablespoons) and your herb and allow it to melt in with the potatoes. Go on..It’s okay. we don’t care what that silly S.P.U.D organizations says. DO EEEEEET!. We want the butter to go from foamy white to just the tinge of brown before we add our stock. Browning the butter adds another layer of flavor and imparts a sort of nutty toasted flavor to whatever it touches. It’s great for steaks, vegetables, and oddly enough icing in cupcakes. Yes..That too will be another blog post. C’mon I’ve only got so many free hours and money on the weekend to this people! When you notice the color of the butter start to take on a light brown color add your stock. Now we can keep this vegetarian by adding oddly enough vegetable stock or you can use chicken stock. It’s up to you. I’m pretty sure you can also make this vegan by using vegan butter as well. I’ve not cooked with it so I don’t. If you are a vegan and you do cook with vegan butter please let me know how well it works :). You will want to add around 1/2 cup of stock before placing the cast iron into the oven for 30-45 minutes. If you notice that your potatoes aren’t finished and are looking a little dry just add a little more stock. The end result should be a perfectly cooked potato with a crusty crispy exterior but a rich and creamy inside. Now you understand why we use the russet potato..because it absorbed all that goodness from the pan and took it into itself so we can then take it into us. The circle of Life!
Kyle absolutely loves these potatoes and is always asking if I am making them when we decide to have potatoes as our starch/carbohydrate for the evening. Since I enjoy making them so much they’ve become a rather fixed part of our dinner rotation if not having rice (which is rare) or a pasta dish (which is also rare). Now don’t this ish twisted. There is nothing wrong with mashed potatoes, baked potatoes and fried potatoes but um..this is the best way 🙂
Enjoy! And like always please feel free to leave a comment, suggestion, tips. I’m not a professional and I’m always learning so I do enjoy the feedbacks.
Preheat oven to 425 and preheat cast-iron skilled on high. Cut ends off of potatoes and either use a potato peeler to peel away skin or cut off with a knife. Cut in half and soak in cold water to remove starch build up for 5 minutes. When pan is hot add 2 tablespoons of oil and heat till shimmering and lightly smoking. Dry potatoes thoroughly and add to the oil with presentation side down, season liberally with salt and pepper and cook undisturbed for 5-6 minutes or until sides are golden brown. Once browned, take a paper towel and remove access oil, replacing it with butter and herbs. Allow butter to melt, spooning it over the potatoes and adding salt and pepper again. Pour in 1/2 cup of stock of your choice and transfer to hot oven to cook undisturbed for 30-45 minutes. At the 30 minute mark check for doneness, if potatoes are still firm and the stock has evaporated add another 1/4 cup and return to cook for an additional 15 minutes. Remove and allow to cool for five minutes until serving.
Growing up in Small Town USA there were only really two things to do on Sunday. One was put on your finest Wal-Mart Sunday best and head on down to the center of town to sing praise unto the Lord Jesus Christ or stay home and relish in the fact that you don’t have to put on pants at all and you get to eat breakfast at a normal hour in front of your television while watching PBS or Hercules or Xena Warrior Princess. When Rev. Danny Miller would come calling to fetch our souls to be saved my father would kindly smile, say fuck you and close the door in his face before looking at my sisters and I who would be rolling in fits of laughter on the floor declaring that Sunday would be Pancake Day. Cheers and accolades would ring across the valley as we eagerly sat at the table, knife and fork posed at the ready to devour homemade pancakes with butter and syrup. If my father was feeling particularly generous, and growing up in the insipid Reagan era sometimes generosity was a luxury, we got fried potatoes and scrambled eggs. Needless to say Sundays were always a fun day in our home and with our bellies filled with pancake goodness we would do our chores with moderate grumbling and a hell of a lot of complaining. We were kids. It’s like part of the code. You do chores, you bitch about it and then you still do them. No privilege here folks.
As my adolescence waned and I found myself locked in the doldrums of adulthood, the Sunday breakfasts shared with my family soon became nothing but a faint memory in my brain as I now woke up on Sundays to serve fried chicken to those lovely church folk who wandered into KFC in their Wal-Mart Sunday best at 11 am. I hated it. I wanted my weekends back but working in the fast food industry you don’t always get the luxury of having a set established schedule and you do what you gotta do to make the monies to pay the bills. It wasn’t until I found myself in corporate America working a rather white-collar type job that I started to enjoy my weekends. But being single, somewhat anti-social I still didn’t bother making breakfast and resorted to bowls of cereal or whatever leftovers I had in my fridge at the time. Queue the introduction of friends and Kyle into my life in my mid twenties and I now had places to be on Sunday, people to see and yes breakfast to make. Pancakes, biscuits and gravy, SOS, french toast. All the wonderful things that happen when you actually leave your apartment and go socialize with other human beings who aren’t just disembodied voices on the other side of your computer monitor :O HALLELUJAH THEY DO EXIST IN NATURE! Breakfast will probably always be to me the most important meal of the day. And I will have it any time of the day.
Another thing that I enjoy is a good beer. Kyle and I on a random road trip through Minnesota and Wisconsin wandered across a small little town called Chippewa Falls which is home to Leinenkugel Brewery. After playing a rousing game of winner take all rock, paper, scissors I lost and instead of going to some random zoo we ended up going to the brewery to see what it was all about. Probably the best loss ever because both Kyle and I fell in love with the brewery and their beer. If you notice them in your grocery cooler please give them a try they are an amazing beer. Plus they rip on Anheuser Busch which to me, living in St. Louis is pretty fucking awesome because that beer is piss.
This morning I woke up and the desire to go into the office for overtime was not there. Plus I had to wait for the DirecTV guy to show up for our installation so I decided what better thing to do then make breakfast, drink some coffee, maybe play a rousing hour or two of For Honor or Assassins Creed. I looked for the maple syrup and realized that I had used it a few weeks ago for a different project and that I didn’t have any artificial fake Aunt Jemima crap and the craving for pancakes deepened and became hard to ignore. After looking around I decided to crack open up our Explorer Sample pack of Leinis and see what we had stowed away. Heart of Oak, IPL, a Pale Ale and the Big Butt Dopplebock smiled back at me from the cardboard box. It was the Doppelbock that made me smile because well, it’s called Big Butt and I have a big butt.
It just seemed appropriate. Into the kitchen I headed with my spoils of war to make syrup for my pancakes. Making syrup is simple it just can take a while and has to be babied because it is a volatile little concoction of melted sugars. If you turn your back at the wrong time you can return to a frothy mess all on your stove that will take an act of God to clean up. One mistake I habitually make every time I make a syrup or a reduction is for some unknown reason I ALWAYS pick the tiniest pan possible and after about 30 minutes of going “OMG ITS NOT THICKENING UP” I always transfer it to a larger sauce pan and within 3 minutes it’s the consistency I want. I don’t know why? I’m pretty sure that’s the definition of insanity and I embody chaos.
Making syrup normally only really requires 2 ingredients. Your liquid of choice and sugar and normally its a 1:1 ratio so if making a simple syrup for tea you would use 1 cup of water to 1 cup of sugar. With simple syrup you want to combine the water and sugar until dissolved and then transfer to a container for later use. These can be used to flavor cocktails, iced teas (because normal white sugar doesn’t dissolve in cold water) or even
your coffee. For the purpose of turning this into a sort of pancake syrup we want to take it a step further. We want to reduce the volume of the liquid ala evaporation to thicken it without needing to add a crap ton of syrup and intensify the flavor of the beer. For this recipe you will need beer (preferably a stout or a lager), sugar & vanilla
Pour your beer into a medium-sized sauce pan and then add your sugar and vanilla. I didn’t know this when I started but adding sugar to a freshly foamed beer causes some massive foam head to happen. It’s kind of like vinegar meets baking soda only not as violent and a little cooler. Take your pan to the stove and put over a medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar to discourage burning. NO BURNING NO BAD..NO. Like I said earlier you’ll want to make sure you watch this to make sure it doesn’t bubble up and get everywhere. I got distracted by my cats in the window but was quickly reminded that I had something cooking, turned around and it was quickly creeping up the side of the pan. None of that nonsense dammit! While stirring isn’t really required for non alcohol simple syrups it is for when using beer as your liquid because of all the CO2 that is in it. It creates a lot of foam that needs to be tamed. After about 45 minutes (keep in mind I was using a tiny pan at first) I was rewarded in my quest for beer syrup with a caramel vanilla Bavarian syrup to go on my oatmeal pancakes. It set up pretty quickly once removed from the pan so I can see me needing to gently warm this to make it fluid for any additional
applications. But I think it’s pretty bad ass and will definitely be a motivator for me to be more of a social breakfast day drinker. I mean what can go wrong with drinking alcohol at like 10 am. They do it all the time for brunch in the version of bloody marys and mimosa and I’m a huge advocate of drinking bloody marys before noon any day of the week. Especially on Mondays.
So since this adventure was all about breakfast and originally I was wanting to make a coffee stout pancake type syrup I was wanting to pair it up with oatmeal to keep that whole “no occifer I’ve only had breakfast today..I don’t drink and drive” mentality going. Because I’m a law-abiding citizen who would never drive will under the influence of any sort of substance…..*nudges the reader…did you buy that?*. So oatmeal pancakes. Pretty simple and straight forward and doesn’t require a whole hell of a lot of time or planning. Basic homemade pancake ingredients with oatmeal tossed in for shits and giggles.
In a large bowl you’ll want to place your rolled oats (don’t use quick cooked they will get soggy) and pour your milk over them and allow to soak for 5 minutes. This will give you plenty of time to yell at your cat no he can’t go outside or to remember that you were brewing coffee, or to finish off a bottle of beer because you may have “accidentally” not poured all of it into the saucepan for the syrup. “accidentally” no I’ve got a drinking problem and I’m not ashamed of it. Because you know acceptance is the first step to self-awareness or is it self awareness is the first step to acceptance…I dunno I started drinking at 9 am. I’m a winner! To your soaked oats you’ll want to add all your other ingredients and mix. It will be a thin batter because of the fact we only are using 3/4 of a cup of flour. And then you follow pancake protocol. Spray your griddle with cooking spray or lightly coat with oil. Pour, cook on one side till brown and flip over repeating process until ALL your little pancakes are finished.
Toss on a plate with some homemade honey butter (check out my post about kinky baking weekends 2 weeks ago) and drizzle on your beer syrup and enjoy. You can share if you want to but I’m a sad non social drunk so I prefer to eat these alone at home with nothing but guilt to keep me company and regret that I’m hurting my family hanging over my head. Pretty sure this is also okay for the kids considering you will cook out any alcohol in the beer and leave only the taste of it and even then the sugars have caramelized that you don’t even realize that it’s beer. But if that isn’t your thing because well you’re one of these old-fashioned individuals who frowns on contributing to the delinquency of a minor just serve up the pancakes with normal syrup or honey. Still great no matter how you spin it. Serve with honey butter, beer syrup (honey, maple syrup, etc) maybe a link or two of sausage if you have it, some scrambled eggs or simply a cup of coffee or a bourbon..whichever you have lying around 🙂
Now since I’m all carbed up with my morning fill of alcohol I’m going to go wait for the DirecTV guy to show up and give me full access to the wonders that is satellite television. MA IVE MADE IT!!!!
Bavarian Beer Syrup
2 cups beer (any kind probably will work)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
In a medium size saucepan pour in beer, sugar and vanilla and stir till combined. Bring to a simmer and allow to reduce till a thick syrup forms. Stir often to discourage burning and to stop it from foaming over. Transfer to your serving dish and enjoy (wow so complicated!)
2 cups milk
1 1/2-2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
In a large bowl allow oats to soak in milk for 5 minutes. Combine remaining ingredients and allow to sit while griddle heats up on a medium heat. The batter will be thin. Pour 1/3 cup of batter and allow to cook till top set and then flip over cooking till done. Transfer to a warm oven until complete. Serve with honey butter, beer syrup (honey, maple syrup, etc) maybe a link or two of sausage if you have it, some scrambled eggs or simply a cup of coffee or a bourbon..whichever you have lying around 🙂
One of the movies that seemed to be a staple of my angsty adolescent years was the cult classic “Heathers”. Veronica Sawyer played by the somewhat neurotic Winona Rider was desperately trying to escape her fate of becoming a plastic Heather by succumbing to her bad boy lust and dating a rather ummm misguided youth named J.D. played by the always luscious Christian Slater *sighs*. In this movie a love struck Veronica goes on a tumultuous world wind love affair which results in mayhem, bombs, a murder or two and a mantra that still holds true to today. Teenage suicide. Don’t do it. It’s fucking brilliant and apparently a new musical hitting the stage in 2017. There is a rather amazing dream sequence that happens in the first hour of the movie where the heroine of the movie is faced with the harsh reality of innocence lost due to suicide..or in this instance a cup full of Draino where she is faced with the Heather she unknowingly killed. The deceased debutante pulls back the cover of the holy water to reveal a bowl full of spaghetti, extra oregano and says “I’ve made your favorite. Spaghetti. With lots of oregano. VERONICA DINNER!!!” and slams Winona’s face into the bowl of complex carbohydrates covered with the simmered saucy goodness. This phrase had become a permanent part of my culinary lexicon and every time I make spaghetti now I can’t help but reminisce back to the good old days of 1992 when I first saw the movie and how I truly related to J.D and his angsty desire to blow up the school during a pep assembly by strapping a bomb to the boiler room….>.>…..<.<….um..anyways….
I’ve recently become the proud owner of the Kitchenaid pasta attachment set. It’s been one I’ve been holding on out getting until it either went on sale or went on sale and I had a surplus of Kohl’s cash and gift cards to warrant me spending absolutely nothing on it. It finally happened. Last week I busted out the remnants of the wedding gift cards with expressed consent from my loving husband *who lets face it, he would pretty much let me buy anything kitchen wise as long as it didn’t cost me a grand* and set forth to purchase my long-awaited Kitchenaid accessory. It’s pretty much the only one I wanted with the exception of maybe a second Kitchenaid which I will some day own. I want two..for multitasking. STOP JUDGING ME!!!! So I decided today would be the day I would crack open that box and bust a pasta cherry. I’ve made homemade pasta before. My mom has a hand cranked pasta maker which I enjoy using but sometimes you just want something that isn’t going to require you vicegripping something to your countertop that you can use with one hand while you drink a glass of wine with the other. Don’t think that you need to drop a few hundred $$ to make pasta. People have been making it for centuries without the aid of an electronic gadget and when I’m in the mood and need to vent some frustrations because my job is driving me absolutely bonkers I relish the idea of knowing that I am going to beat the ever-loving shit out of some dough and roll away the tension. But I normally end up pretty bruised on my forearms from pressing hard on my rolling-pin aka wizard staff and I’d rather not be bombarded with questions about whether or not I feel safe in my own home…It’s happened…I bruise like a Georgia peach.
I’ve tried many different recipes for pasta dough. Some which use only AP flour some which use a mixture of AP and semolina. Some which call for eggs and others which call for vegetable oil. While I’m sure they are okay I found them somewhat lacking, so I found this awesome recipe that has since become my standard go to pasta recipe. It calls for no egg which means its vegan and also means that you don’t run the risk of salmonella setting in from letting it dry for later use. It also only has 4 ingredients to it and most of them everyone already has in their house. AP flour (all purpose), semolina flour, water & olive oil. That’s it. Plus I have a quick go to pasta sauce that I’m going to share that helps out in a pinch when you don’t have access to nice vine ripened tomatoes because it’s still technically winter and you live in the midwest.
First off, this pasta dries up amazingly and will keep in a ziplock bag for a few months. I normally don’t keep dried pasta for longer than a month because I normally only make enough for a meal. Unless I’m making ravioli then I make tons and freeze them for quick meals during the week for myself or Kyle. So don’t feel like you MUST use this the day you make it. You’ll want to get your materials together so you aren’t running all over creation and back. Taking equal weights of AP flour and semolina you will want to pour them into a large mound on your countertop. I recommend doing this by hand instead of by using a machine because you can get some pretty gnarly pasta if you over mix it. Plus it’s always more fun to be interactive with your food. Taking the bottom of a bowl you will want to make a deep well in the center of your flour. I’ve made some pretty shallow ones only to have water and oil spill over and go everywhere. Take your warm water and your olive oil and using a fork you want to slowly start to mix in the flour into the water. Go slow, you don’t want to build up a lot of gluten in your pasta dough because that can make for tough chewy pasta which aint good eats. Once you’ve got the inside of your flour volcano pretty much mixed in you’ll want to exchange your fork for a dough scraper to start folding in the outside walls of Mt Semolina in on itself. If you don’t have a dough scraper simply collapse the mound in with your fingers and continue folding and kneading until it forms a rough ball of dough which kinda looks like the moon. Okay it doesn’t but it’s not smooth. Transfer the ball of dough to a ziplock bag and walk away. Yes that’s right. Walk away from it for about an hour. Go take a shower, run to the store, have a quick make out session with your significant other or perfect stranger. We want to give the dough time to relax due to the fact that during the kneading process, gluten was created and we need for it to take a break and relax to create a soft supple dough that will be easy to either roll out for hand cutting or be fed through a machine without causing too much strain on the machine, your nerves and the dough itself. Plus the additional time allows the flour to thoroughly hydrate.
When you’re ready to start rolling out pasta make sure your sauce or whatever you are dressing it with is almost finished. Fresh pasta only takes about 5 minutes or so to roll out and only needs 2 minutes to cook so you don’t want your pasta sitting in water getting soggy while you toss in a jar of Prego to warm up. I’ll share my quick and easy pasta sauce at the end. Taking your dough you are going to want to cut it in half and place the unused portion back in the bag to keep it from drying out. Knead a few times back into a ball and taking your rolling-pin you’re going to want to gently roll it out so that it can feed through the pasta attachment easier. For the Kitchenaid the largest setting is 1. Turn your mixer to speed 2 and slowly start to feed your dough in. It will struggle at first but after the second or third time you’ve passed it through it won’t sound like it’s a 1982 bright orange Volvo going up a steep hill and about to die. This is just my own personal preference but after I feed the dough through for the first few times I fold it in half and give it a second pass. I crank the dial up to 2 and give it two-three passes. Set it to 3 and then 4. You may need to cut your dough into sheets if it gets to long to manage on your own. I ended up doing that for mine and did it in two sheets before swapping out to the spaghetti attachment. I wish I had gotten pics of what it looked like coming out but I had originally meant for this post to be about sweet potato ravioli with brown butter sauce but decided to forgo that idea for now and save it for later. I.e I ate the raviolis before I got pictures of them..DAMN MY TUMMY!!!! Anyways you only really get one shot once you put it through the spaghetti attachment. After that it’s decision time. Do you use it now or save it for later? If saving for later you can lie it flat on a flour dusted cookie sheet or if you’re creative and kookie like me you can drape it over a new coat hanger you bought specifically for this and put it in your pantry to dry out
Now I’m pretty sure all of you have made some sort of pasta before so it should go without saying that you need to have a large pot of water that it salted like the sea at a boil before you toss it in. If not um, fill a large pot up with water, add salt and bring to a boil. It’s not rocket science people, its complex carbohydrates. Once at a boil add your pasta and put on a timer for 2 minutes. Fresh pasta cooks insanely quick and you don’t want it to become soggy and mushy because well then you’ve wasted time and energy and you might as well have used store-bought and I will shame you endlessly. ENDLESSLY. Once cooked strain and toss with your pasta sauce. If using a thick ragu type sauce don’t mix because I’m pretty sure that’s a cardinal rule and will result in you getting capped by an angry Sicilian woman. You never mix your pasta and sauce because you want to be able to add meatballs..I personally don’t like mine mixed all together because it makes reheating difficult and I sometimes like to only eat the pasta sauce and not the actual pasta. Bariatric patient..It happens. Serve up with some fresh herbs and a little grated parmesan cheese and you’ve got a nice bowl of love ready for devouring. Now don’t limit yourself to just spaghetti with this pasta dough recipe. Make lasagna, tortellini, ravioli, parpadelli pasta. It’s just a pretty basic pasta dough which you can modify and tweak to your liking. Not a fan of sauce but just a little olive oil with some minced garlic and grated egg yolk? Knock yourself out. You do with this what you want and share with me what worked for you and what didn’t. I like feedback 🙂 So go out, find Heathers on Netflix or Hulu, Kodi or where it’s hiding these days. Make up a huge bowl of spaghetti and embrace your inner angry teen. You won’t regret it. I promise 🙂
Pasta Dough Recipe
500 g AP flour (all-purpose)
500 g Semolina Flour
75 g olive oil
450 g warm water
Pour both flours onto a clean countertop into a large mound. Take a bowl and create a deep well. Add water and oil and slowly start to incorporate the flour into the liquid using a fork, slowly adding the sides of the well until no runny liquid is left. Scrap dough together and gently knead for up to 8 minutes until a rough ball forms. Wrap in plastic and let rest for a minimum of 30 minutes but up to an hour to allow the gluten to relax and the dough to fully hydrate. Either roll out and cut by hand or feed through your pasta attachment until you get to your desired thickness. Cut using either a knife or spaghetti attachment and add to salted boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and dress in sauce preference. If eating later, lay in single layer on a floured baking sheet and allow to dry fully for up to 12 hours. Store in a zip lock bag until ready to eat. Bring water to boil and cook till al dente and dress in sauce preference.
Quick and easy 15 minute Tomato Sauce
1/2 onion chopped
2-3 large cloves garlic minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning or 2 pounds fresh tomatoes diced
salt/pepper to taste (omit if using canned tomatoes)
2 tablespoons crushed oregano
Heat a saute pan on medium heat and add olive oil. Sweat out onions and garlic for 3 minutes and then add tomatoes with juices to pan along with the oregano. Salt/pepper to taste and let cook for 10 minutes, breaking up large pieces of tomato with your wooden spoon. Toss to cooked spaghetti and enjoy.
About a week and a half ago I had the lovely honor of taking this extremely adorable girl out on a date. Now I know what you’re thinking “Didn’t she say in a post or 2 ago that she just got married to a guy name Kyle?”….Yes, yes I am; however I am of the mindset that you are capable of loving a large number of people and you can essentially go out on dates with individuals you aren’t in a committed relationship with in order to develop something separate and unique. Or ya know you can ask a friend out for a girl’s afternoon out and ham it up a bit. Though there is nothing wrong with being polyamorous.. A large majority of my friends are polyamorous. The girl I went on a date is polyamorous and I love her to utter bits. I am not anti poly. I am pro poly…ALL THE POLY!
I have been taking the necessary actions to be able to spend more quality time with my friends away from group settings to help strengthen my own relationships with them. This is just because life has a habit of screwing up stuff and making time pass before you realize that you’ve not hung out or seen someone for months. I’ve asked each of the lovely ladies in my house out on dates and so far I’ve been able to successfully schedule two. The first being with Krystal who made the suggestion we go get an afternoon tea. The only place I was familiar with and was within relatively close proximity to where we both lived is The London Tea Room which is nestled in the lovely Morganford business area in South City, St Louis. I had been wanting to go for a while now but due to life and the little roadblocks she tosses at you, I had not been able to get my foot in the door to enjoy a cuppa so I was eager to say yes and make plans to ensconce myself within the canisters of earl grey and darjeeling.
I was immediately in love as I was wrapped up in the aroma of tea, soup, scones, pasties (not nipple covers folks..not those pasties). The atmosphere was warm and inviting and while rather small for space (at least in the front room) you didn’t feel cramped or crowded. We mulled over our decisions and I aptly ordered an earl grey with milk and a few tasty treats. Krystal ordered some sort of sweet matcha latte which I found pleasant and refreshing. We hid ourselves in the back room, the front of the tea house was crowded which given the fact it was a Friday afternoon at around noon made me wonder how many of the patrons had played hookie that day or were in fact trying to hide their licentious activities behind a blueberry scone with Devon double cream. What was only to have been an hour tea turned into a two-hour talk with us exchanging war stories about the trials and tribulations of matrimony. It was a lovely time and will be a reoccurring date place for the two of us in the near future.
As the grey and dreary Friday melted away in the cold I found myself bored and wanting to be creative on Saturday. Kyle works till 3 in the afternoon so I find myself with a lot of down time if I don’t go to my day job for overtime. I had spent six hours of my day already stuck behind a desk and was in desperate need of some decompression time. The thought of the previous afternoon’s date still fresh in my memory and the taste of scones with clotted cream very vivid and alive in my old noodle. I crossed my fingers on my ride home to hope that I had the necessary ingredients to make scone and even possibly try my hand at making homemade clotted cream. I quickly scrapped the clotted cream idea due to the fact that when it comes to food I am very much driven by my culinary ID and I didn’t have 12 hours to wait before I sunk my teeth into a warm scone (not a biscuit dammit!). So I opted instead to pair it with some butter and jam. Only problem was I only had enough butter for the recipe. How in the hell can that happen when you’re as avid of a chef as I am? And then I remembered the popcorn binge from earlier in the week. Double damn! But luckily, redemption was hidden behind the milk and the kimchi in the form of a quart of heavy cream (insert hallelujah angelic chords of happiness here!). I shall have my afternoon tea after all and to quote the Mad Hatter “It’s always tea time!”.
I quickly gathered my ingredients to make my scones. I opted for lemon rosemary given the fact that I had been able to salvage a few twigs from the rosemary plant outside before the frost set it and I had a lemon that was needing to be used for something other than the garbage disposal. I had everything else I could possibly need. It’s not an incredibly difficult recipe and if you’ve had any experience with making biscuits than making scones will be a snap. The only thing different is you are going to be adding an egg. The addition of the egg is what makes it a scone. Other then that the technique is going to be the same. You’re still going to be sifting your dry ingredients and then gently cut the fat into the mixture to form a fine crumb and will mix in enough liquid to bring the dough together. You can even cut them out like you would biscuits. For all intensive purposes, scones are just egg biscuits..No they really aren’t but it’s nice to live in that sort of world where it’s easy to just make something into something else isn’t it.
Prior to starting you will want to ensure that your butter is very cold. I will cut it into small pieces and then place it in the freezer while I’m gathering the rest of my supplies. I also have a tendency to keep a stick of butter already cut into tablespoon pieces in a ziplock bag in the freezer as a just in case. Having well chilled butter will ensure that when its cut into the flour that you wont end up with a gloopy mess. Cutting the butter simply means taking knife, fork, pastry blender, food processor and incorporating the butter into your flour to make a fine crumb which will help for a flakier, tender end product. If you have to big of pieces of fat, as they heat and melt they will leave large gaping holes in your pastry. The only holes I like are in my cheese and um….well other places but that’s another blog and we don’t discuss such lascivious activities here.
Once you’ve gathered the necessary items you will want to start by sifting your flour and then add your leavening agent and sugar. If using a food processor which let’s face it that is probably the cleanest and easiest way to do this, pour the dry ingredients in and then add the butter, breaking up any pieces that might be stuck together when it was resting in the cold dark freezer of despair. Give it a few pulses until it takes on the consistency of sand. Transfer the contents back to your sifting bowl and make a well in the center so that we can pour the milk in to start the mixing of the wet ingredients. If you are going to mix in add in’s now would be your chance (lemon zest and rosemary, chocolate chunks, raisins, nothing that bleeds too much). In your milk you’ll want to mix in one beaten egg until thoroughly combined (i.e no globs of albumin *that’s the egg white* left) because you don’t want little globs of clear goo floating around in your milk like so much chicken jism flotsam cast adrift in a bovine secretion ocean *gags*. Pour the milk into the well and taking a fork start to mix the flour in. Once it’s roughly combined and if adding things that will bleed (berries) add them here and finish mixing with your fingers until it comes together. Lightly dust your work surface and quickly but gently bring the dough together. You need to work quickly because you don’t want the butter to melt. Taking a rolling-pin which has also been dusted, gently roll the dough out till it is roughly 3 cm in height. Because of the baking powder added they will rise so don’t fret if you think they are too small. Dip your biscuit cutter into your flour and slowly press into your dough to cut into your scone shape. If you don’t have a biscuit cutter a glass with a thin edge will work perfectly well. If for some reason you don’t have a glass and prefer to drink out of an old rusty can that once housed lima beans and you can’t bring to throw it away because you have too much sentimental attachment that um yeah I guess you can use that, and get a few rounds of “mild” ECT therapy. Or ya know, um yeah. You need help.
Cut out your rounds of dough and placed on a baking sheet that has either been lined with parchment paper or has a silicone mat so they don’t stick or burn. You will more than likely get around 15 scones if using a 2 inch (5 cm) biscuit cutter. You can gently bring the dough back together to cut more, just keep this floating around in the back of your ECT addled brain that the more you mix and roll out the dough the tougher the scones will be. I’d recommend only doing this roughly twice and be satisfied with around 20 scones. You can always make a second batch should it not be enough. Brush the tops with the second beaten egg and place in a preheated oven at 375 for roughly for 15-20 minutes or until the tops are a lovely golden brown.
Now if you’re an avid tea fan like I am and you love scones like I do than you’re probably a purist and prefer to enjoy your tasty baked goodness with some clotted cream and jam. The question that is lingering on my lips is how do you eat it? Are you a Devon or Cornwall scone eater? Are you a clotted cream then jam or a jam then clotted cream type scone eater? My opinion about you won’t really change. I won’t suddenly decide to unfriend you from life and ignore your existence if you prefer to eat it the way those savages in Devon do and that is the spreading of the cream and then the jam. Bloody uneducated, unrefined savages. Cornwall does it best because the cream tastes better on top. TOP IS THE BEST PLACE TO BE!!. It’s how I eat my toast it’s how I eat my scones and I’ll never change…^.^ Really there isn’t any right or wrong way ( Cornwall is right, Devon is wrong) to eat your scone. The only wrong thing is calling it a biscuit or not eating them at all.
Sadly I didn’t have any Devon double cream at home on this scone day but I did have an extra quart of heavy whipping cream lying about so instead of using butter which I didn’t have and only enjoying the scone with jam, I pulled out my handy-dandy Kitchenaid mixer and cranked that puppy on high and walked away for about 10 minutes or so. Probably not the brightest idea I had that day considering when I came back I noticed the fat in the cream had separated from the liquids (which is what makes butter) but at 10 it caused the whey to ejaculate out of the bowl and all over my countertops. Yeah not a pleasant sight I tell you what. Damn bovine secretions being all sexual and orgasming EVERYWHERE…. It did however change me emotionally to the point that I will probably not buy butter at the store unless I absolutely have to because the end product was so delicious and such a lovely pale yellow that I am forever changed and altered.
So if any of you get a chance visit St. Louis I strongly recommend you hit up The London Tea Room for either a proper afternoon tea (they require at minimum 24 hour notice) or a quick-lunch with a friend. It is totally worth it. The atmosphere is lovely, the staff is lovely, it’s just lovely. If you can’t make it here then please take an afternoon and have a few of your friends over and have an afternoon tea of your own. I am having one in April for a group of friends and am excited because it means I get to make scones and butter and little sandwiches and pastry ^.^
500g plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
2 rounded tsp baking powder
2 heaped tbsp of caster sugar
1 tsp salt
110g chopped cold unsalted butter
300ml whole milk
2 eggs (beaten in separate bowls)
Preheat oven to 375 and line baking sheet with parchment paper or line with a silicone mat. In a bowl sift flour, baking powder, sugar & salt and add to a food processor (you can use your hands for this if you don’t have a food process0r). Add cold butter and mix until it resembles fine pastry flour. Transfer back to a bowl, making a well and add milk & egg mixture and dry add ins *zest, dry herbs* and mix with fork until combined. Place on a floured surface, rolling out gently to 3 cm in height and cut out scones, bringing the dough back together if you absolutely have to for more scones. Brush with beaten egg and bake until golden brown 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack.
1 quart heavy whipping cream
Place into a mixing bowl with a whisk attachment and mix on high for 10 minutes. Once finished place in a sieve to drain out any whey and transfer contents needed to small serving dishes. If storing for later, wrap in plastic and then freezer paper and freeze for up to 3 months.
In other words I have a very tasty soul :). It is my goal in 2017 to do a great many things. Concentrate on working out more diligently, starting school in the fall, getting pregnant so I can send my ill-begotten spawn out into an unsuspecting world to cause chaos and carnage wherever they go, aaaaaaand to also be more pro-active in maintaining and updating my blog. Much like New Years resolutions, I’m pretty sure that I will fail at some point. BUT, I will do my best.
I recently made a blog post about how to go about creating your own corn tortillas to impress and dazzle your family and guests at dinner on Taco Tuesday but I didn’t provide you with a tasty filler. Primarily because I ran out of space on my cell phone….I mean my photographer was not present to capture the wonderful spontaneous footage that comes from me cooking. Yeah totally not planned..at all. But I was craving tacos a lot last week so it provided me with ample opportunity to recreate Monday’s dinner of blackened tilapia tacos. If you aren’t in the mood for tacos you can of course use this with any number of things. Wild rice with a veggie side, potatoes with a salad, the body of your slain enemies with a lovely frisee salad. Mmmmm slain enemies and salad. You’re only pretty limited to either what you have in your pantry, or if you’re willing to commit a felony of cannibalism, which according to Google (yes I actually googled it) it is not. Like seriously, it’s not
“Cannibalism is the nonconsensual consumption of another human’s body matter. In the United States, there are no laws against cannibalism per se, but the act of cannibalism would probably violate laws against murder and against desecration of corpses” Cornell University of Law
Yeah that’s not a slightly grey area now is it *blinks*
So since we’ve established that it’s okay to eat your enemies you just might not want to we will get into the meat of this recipe which is the fish. You aren’t limited to what type of fish to use. Tilapia, salmon, trout, catfish it will more than likely all work. I say “more then likely” only because I’ve not cooked with every fish known to man so be adventurous! The ingredients for the rub are more then likely already in your pantry as well so the only real expense will be the fish, or pork, or chicken, or beef (you can use this on anything..seriously..even the body of your slain enemies..its DELICIOUS!).
If you don’t know what “blackened” is I’ll give you a brief history of the cooking technique. The name “blackening” is actually a misnomer (look at me with my fancy big city words!), you aren’t actually burning your food. Blackening is a cooking technique made famous by New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme by which meat or fish is cooked in a cast-iron skillet that’s been heated until almost red-hot. Prudhomme’s original specialty was blackened redfish. The food is customarily rubbed with a Cajun spice mixture before being cooked. The extra-hot skillet combined with the seasoning rub gives food an extra-crispy crust. It now can be applied to a myriad (ooooooh fancy again!) of different proteins.
All you will need are the following ingredients and you can make as much or as little as you want. I do a triple batch because I like to have a lot on hand due to me using it in a lot of different applications
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar (can be either light or dark)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (preferably sea salt variety)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
In a mortar bowl (or magic bullet, food processor, grinder) combine all your ingredients and mix for about a minute until the oregano has been broken down and blended. Taste and adjust to your own liking. This is not written in gospel but just a guideline so please modify if you want and tweak it. Swap out the salt and used smoke salt or a flavored sea salt if you have it. Change it up. BE A UNIQUE SNOWFLAKE!!!.
Now depending on whatever protein you use will determine if you need to add an oil to the surface. Since we are doing fish in this post you wont need any additional oil. Just gently blot off any moisture off of both sides and sprinkle evenly on both sides covering completely. If using this from a bulk batch, pour some rub into a separate bowl to avoid any potential cross contamination. To many times have I not paid attention and put hands that have touched raw food back into a big batch of rub only to instantly go “GOD DAMMIT!!!” and grumble that I have to throw it all away or figure out how to use it on every single piece of raw meat in my house and cook it in that instance. When it doubt, pour some out..
In a skillet/frying pan/grill heat up on medium heat until hot, if using a cast iron skillet which I prefer, heat that baby up on high until it is dick blistering hot before adding your oil (2 tablespoons). When you start to see little wisps of smoke add your fish laying it down away from to avoid splattering and let it cook undisturbed for 3-4 minutes depending on thickness of size. Try to only place at max 3 pieces of fish as to not overcrowd the pan and cause splotchy blackening. Carefully flip over with a wide-set spatula and cook until firm to touch and flaky (this seems like such an oxymoron. Firm to touch but you can flake it off easily..Firm but fragile..Fuck it just say cooked dammit..Why you gotta be so pretentious cooking instructions?!). Transfer your fish to a plate while you finish cooking the remaining portions and then enjoy the fish of your labor.
It’s a relatively quick process with fish and would of course take longer for chicken, pork & beef but the results are amazing and before long you’ll be sprinkling the rub on everything and I mean everything. I enjoy it sprinkled on my popcorn! And as we’ve already identified it’s great on the mangled limbs of your slain enemies but that could probably be because you’re a zombie.
Hope you enjoy and leave a comment or feedback. Let a kid know that someone is actually reading this and it’s not just me being quirky to myself!
Or Phil, depending on who’s scheduled…It’s probably Phil. I’m sorry I lied.
S0….2017…We’ve seen some changes recently. The George R.R. Martin 2016 Game of Thrones Celebrity deathcapades has come to an end finally after claiming our Princess Leia and her loving mother (Damn you George R.R. Martin!!!!!). My wedding is finally over with and I can now settle into the rolls of domestic servitu……yeah I can’t even finish writing that. The wedding is over and married life pretty much reflects the same as engaged life and living in sin life. I got a well deserved promotion at my day job which helps finance my passion of cooking and well yeah, other things but we won’t delve into such trivial non sequential things.
About a month ago my husband and I decided to have a spontaneous date night and go grab tacos. Now we don’t really need a date night to go enjoy tacos. Sometimes we don’t even need pants but it helps as we get unusual stares at Taco Bell when we show up in our pajamas. In St. Louis there is no shortage of awesome places to get tacos be it traditional Mexican street style or crazy Korean fusion tacos. Some of our best tacos are found in little parking lot kiosk buildings. I’ll plug some of my favorite taco joints in St. Louis for you to visit if you’re here as a huge mistake or voluntarily. But back to date night. One of the areas in St. Louis which has experienced its own little renaissance of its own, the Historical Cherokee-Lemp District. Twenty years ago you would not catch me in broad daylight wandering that neighborhood due to the heavy drug activity as well as it being a rather popular hangout for those who practice the backseat mambo, which is sad because it is probably one of the only neighborhoods in the city where you could go to find the largest population of Latin grocery stores and restaurants. But due to it being one of many disinvested inner-city neighborhoods it developed its own little reputation of being “one of those unsafe areas” despite of its centralized location to many inner-city bus lines as well as it being a historical neighborhood chalked full of beautiful buildings.
Now, since its 2011 rebirth, many new and amazing restaurants have moved in and have secured their footing in this area, but one thing that has remained the same and sustained the tests of time is the Latin influence. On any given block one can visit and patron a wide variety of Hispanic merchants. Grocery stores attached to taquerias, clothing stores litter the 7 block span of the Cherokee-Lemp district west of Jefferson Avenue. It is quite honestly our version of Little Mexico City. During one brief excursion to a grocery store I stumbled across a row of tortilla presses. The inner Rick Bayless in me squealed in delight at the idea and notion of making my own corn tacos from scratch. Needless to say $15.00 later I happily was on my way home with my new purchase, where it promptly found its way into my pantry to be forgotten until this week when out of the blue I had the overwhelming urge to eat tacos. I blame Deadpool and my unnatural obsession with him *I love you Ryan Reynolds! ^.^*
For those who know me, as in they’ve seen me dancing in my kitchen at 2 am wearing pajamas and a slippers, know that my kitchen normally is always at the ready for whatever whimsy that I feel like doing. I am that shopper who will go aisle by aisle and pick up random items if there was potential that “I might make it in the next month”. Not produce or fresh meat of course but things like canned jackfruit, ponzu sauce, dashi flakes, you’re not quite so regular items on a weekly grocery list items, so I wasn’t really surprised when I found 2 bags of masa harina in my pantry. All it told me was that it was indeed…..taco making time.
Ideally I’d have picked up some fresh ground masa but given that this spontaneous urge to taco was last-minute I had to go with what was readily available which was my handy-dandy bag of masa harina flour. WTF is masa harina flour? It’s essentially instant corn masa flour. Think of it as AP flour (all-purpose) but corn. It’s what we can use if we don’t readily have access to the fresh stuff. Works in a pinch but requires a little extra flavor to make it taste right. At least to me personally it tastes a little bland so like all recipes you need to make it your own and tweak it.
The packaging recipe states to mix 2 cups masa harina flour with 1 1/2 cups of water. I find that it is also helpful to add a little sea salt (about 1/2 teaspoon to start) as well as 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, shortening or butter. I’ve tried without the introduction of fat and they just come out a little meh. I’ve tried with cold water, warm water, hot water and find that hot water works best as it helps to melt the butter making it easier to incorporate it into the masa flour. Then we can get down to the fun part. Getting our hands dirty. I personally dislike the feel of masa flour on my hands because it feels like I’ve got dried dirt on them and I’m like NOPE NEGATIVE NO WAY! so i put on latex free gloves. You’re going to want to mix in the water in a slow stream and kneed for about 2-3 minute to ensure it is well mixed and then cover it in plastic and allow it to rest and hydrate for anywhere from 30 minutes up to a few hours. I.e this is something you can walk away from and like go take a nap or run to the store and get something to drink like tequila! I find this rest process is essential because it makes the dough more soft and pliable which yields a softer tortilla. I’ve not gone over 30 minutes but hey I’m open for experimentation. I mean isn’t that why we cook in the first place?
After at least 30 minutes if you find that you can’t stand not having delicious tacos in your face hole go ahead and start to heat up your griddle. Now considering on who’s technique you use you will find that some people say use a single heat zone, some say heat on high, medium high. Some say use two heat zones. I’ve been more successful with 2 heat zones ala the Rick Bayless technique. You will want to set your griddle (I have 2 which cover two burners) to be a medium heat in the front and a medium high in the back..Or if you’re me a medium in the back, medium high in the front (the front burner is my biggest one). If you don’t have a griddle that big just simply use two skillets set to different temperatures. I recommend cast iron as they retain and distribute heat better.
Once your griddle(s) is up to appropriate temperature you’re ready to crack out some corn tortilla goodness. Taking your tortilla press (if you own one) you’ll want to roll out 1 oz balls (roughly the size of a walnut). Take 2 pieces of plastic (a large ziplock bag cut to size works great) and place one piece on the first plate, setting your masa ball in the center. Flatten slightly with your fingers and cover. When pressing out your tortilla it’s recommended that you want to slowly press out the dough. Why you can’t go fast I have no clue but everything I’ve read (because I am far from an expert on the art of tortilla) recommends a slow press to obtain the size of 5-6 inches. For all I know pressing the tortilla to hard and fast might cause a bomb to detonate somewhere. I will honestly tell you that over the course of the last few weeks of me making corn tortillas I still get excited when I lift the top plate and see a perfectly centered, circled tortilla. I don’t know what it is about it but it feels like success at that point…or it could be that it reminds me of pressing out play dough. The latter sounds more plausible.
The most difficult part of this process I feel is the transferring of the corn tortilla to the actual cooking surface. So much can go wrong when you peel of the top piece of plastic. It could stick and tear apart. I have found that the method that works the best for me is to slowly peel off the top sheet of plastic, lift it slightly off the plate and line the top of the tortilla with your index finger and slowly peel off the back piece of plastic, lifting it up slightly to completely remove. Or you can click this link —-> Rick Bayless Corn Tortilla and watch the master do it. He’s kind of my go to guy for gringos who cook Latin food. That and I really enjoy watching him on PBS.
Gently lay your tortilla down on the griddle (medium temped side) and allow to cook for 30 seconds or so on one side. You’ll know its ready to flip when you notice the outer edges start to dry out. The edges will also have started to possibly curl up a little showing you that its ready to flip. After about 30 seconds you will want to either use a metal spatula or if you have callused fingers like me you can gently pick up the tortilla and transfer it to the medium high section of your griddle to cook for another minute or so or until you notice that its lightly browned. After a minute you’ll want to flip it a final time back to the original side and I don’t know how Rick Bayless does this but he said if you do it correctly you’ll see it start to puff up like a pita bread. I have a success rate of like 50% with the puffing and while the unpuffed ones taste good, the puffed up tortilla shells taste the best. Once I figure out what I’m doing wrong I’ll update you guys. Until then, fingers crossed and best of luck for the puff.
Transfer your finished tortillas to a towel lined bowl, container. I have a styrofoam tortilla warmer but I’ve used a plate. Maybe a plastic bag works also. But this allows the tortilla to finish cooking by steaming itself. After that its pretty much self-explanatory. You fill them up with whatever you want to fill them up with and eat them. If you didn’t want to make all the masa dough you can store it in a plastic bag for up to 3 days and the cooked corn tortillas for up to a week in a plastic bag.
You can reheat these but the best time to eat them is the day you make them. But if you must reheat them then you will need to use the towel to line a microwave-safe casserole dish (8 or 9 inches in diameter is best). Lay in a dozen tortillas, cover with the towel and the lid, then microwave at 50 percent power for 4 minutes. Let stand for 2 to 3 minutes. The tortillas will stay warm for 20 minutes.
Homemade Corn Tortillas
2 cups Masa Harina Instant Corn Masa Flour
1 1/2 cups hot water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, lard, butter
1 teaspoon sea salt
Mix flour, salt, butter in bowl. Slowly incorporate water and mix to form a soft pliable dough, kneading for 2 minutes. Cover with plastic and allow to sit at room temperature for a minimum of 30 minutes up to a few hours to allow the dough to fully hydrate. Heat your griddle(s): 1 to medium, 1 to medium high. Take a 1 oz ball of dough (walnut size) and press between two pieces of plastic to form a 5-6 inch circle. Gently transfer to your griddle heated to medium and allow to cook undisturbed for 30 seconds or until the edges start to dry out. Gently transfer to the medium high griddle and continue cooking for up to 1 minute or until lightly brown. Flip back to the original side and if done correctly it will puff up like a pita. If now allow to cook for another 30 seconds and transfer to a towel lined container to allow tortilla to finish cooking via steam. Fill with noms and enjoy!
Call me odd. No seriously, call me Odd 🙂 HI!. Whenever i see clams or mussels I immediately start saying to myself the words from the narrative poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter” written by Lewis Carroll which is more popularly known from Alice In Wonderland Through the Looking Glass. Now I know that the walrus ate all the oysters but hey they are both bivalve mollusks so there is a sort of wonky little connection there. At least to me.
I’ve made mussels a lot for Kyle and myself. Sometimes I simply keep it traditional with a bottle of white wine, garlic, lemon and shallots and other times I mix it into a red sauce to have with pasta but I always have enjoyed the process of cooking mussels. Going to the fish monger or store to pick out ones that are alive, tapping the shells to make sure they close, even the whole process of soaking them to get any sand out and debearding them is fun for me.
Shoot I even enjoy shucking an oyster or two if I can manage to not stab myself in the palm and bleed everywhere. There’s just something about eating them that just feels down right “living by the sea” to me. You don’t really need much in the way of utensils because they come with built in spoons (the shells). You can do it family style with just an empty bowl in the middle of the table to toss in your empty shells..And if you’re odd and peculiar like me you can re-enact famous Civil War battles with your food. Or maybe a scene or two from Game of Thrones. Yes. I play with my food. I don’t care.
We have a lot of places here in St. Louis to get seafood. There is Bob’s Seafood Market which is like the mecca of seafood and the place to go if you want sashimi grade salmon from the waters of Scotland and beautiful fat lobsters. There’s the Seafood Supermarket just down the street which is nestled in the heart of probably an area best called the China District and it has all sorts of oddities that would make any culinary fan geek out. And then of course the majority of our chain grocery stores have a rather limited selection of clams, mussels and scallops.
If I’m feeling froggy I’ll make the drive to the county *shivers-i die inside when i cross the city limits and have to go to the county* to check out what Bob’s has in stock or what’s possibly still flopping on ice at the Seafood supermarket, but nine times out of ten depending on how fat my checking account is I “settle” for whats on sale at the neighborhood store. This weekend it was mussels and littleneck clams. I’ve never had littleneck clams ever that I can recall so I decided to pick some up, not knowing what I was going to make and went on my way. It wasn’t until the following day that I found myself in the Latin area of St. Louis picking up some chorizo that I pondered mixing the two. So….Off to Google I go with the fervor of an anti-Trump protester and searched for something that might peak my interest. I finally found a recipe in the archives of Food Network and decided to take a go at it. I did make some modifications to the recipe as I didn’t have harissa on hand and I used two different types of mullusks. I mean I’m sure the original recipe is good but why not modify to suit what you have on stock and in hand. I’ll post the link to the original recipe below if you really want to do it the way the Food Network stars do it.
It’s all pretty simple and only really took about 25 minutes or so to put it all together. And it was a one pot dish which always works for me considering whenever I cook it somehow always ends up with it being a 2-3 dishwasher load..How? I have no idea…but I’m pretty sure there are greater mysteries out there to solve, like how NO ONE EVER knew that Clark Kent was Superman. Man who knew that glasses could be the ultimate disguise. Aaaaaanyways sorry I side track a lot ^.^
In a dutch oven or heavy duty stock pot you are going to want to take 3 tablespoons of butter sweat out 1 medium onion chopped over medium heat. I act omitted the butter because I totally didn’t even read the entire recipe before starting so I used olive oil instead. Once your onions are translucent you’re going to adjust the heat to medium high and add your chorizo (either bulk ground or in casings *removed of course*) and minced garlic and add to the onions and cook just until the chorizo doesn’t look raw. This might be a little confusing considering that chorizo when cooked gives off a rather substantial amount of grease and because of the seasons which include things like paprika, cayenne pepper and in some instances even chili powder its hard to tell when it goes from being raw to not as raw. The recipe said it takes about 5 minutes or so and considering you do additional cook time after this stage I put my faith and any potential future gastrointestinal trauma in the hands of the Food Network Gods. You’ll want to stir every so often to break up till it resembles a sloppy joe texture. Again I know I’m so descriptive but that’s what it looked like. It looked like spicy sloppy joe mix!
After you’ve reached sloppy joe consistency reduce the heat back down to medium and add your red pepper flakes and if you choose to use it harissa or in my instance sambal sauce. Cook until fragrant and then add your dry white wine. The addition of the alcohol will help deglaze the bottom of the pan which incorporates all those little baked on brown bits. Those brown bits are flavor and flavor per Alton Brown is essential in acquiring..Good Eats (don’t sue me!). Allow the wine to bubble for a minute or two to cook out the alcohol and while you wait, pour yourself a glass and enjoy! I don’t cook with expensive wine but I do cook with wine I enjoy drinking. Add your chicken or vegetable stock (your choice) and bring back up to a simmer. While this is happening we want to focus on our little bivalve lovelies.
What exactly is a bivalve mollusk? Bivalve mollusks such as clams, oysters, mussels etc are soft bodied invertebrates that make their home in a two part hinged shell which is tightly held closed by a pair of insanely strong adductor muscles. Heh, mussels have muscles….LOL! These little body builders primarily live a sedentary lifestyle like so many corporate office desk jockies and obtain their nutrition by filtering water and sediment through their gills to strain out all the tasty noms that might wander by. If you’ve never eaten a bivalve you more then likely have worn them, especially if you are in to wearing your Great Great Aunt Mildred’s wedding dress while playing Call of Duty. What? Huh? Why the buttons you daft boy/girl. Until the plastic industry hit in the 1940’s & 1950’s they were the primary material used in button manufactoring *the more you know! again please dont sue me!). Because of how they feed there is the potential that there is sand or some sort of grit inside the shell so prior to cooking its always best to clean the outside of the shells as well as let them sit in fresh water for about 20 minutes or so prior to cooking to allow them to push out any salt er and sand that might be hanging out inside like a squatter or nagging in-law. Also this will allow you to check to make sure none of your little sea critters kicked the bucket between time of purchase and moment of consumption. If you notice the front door open give it a little tap. If the mollusk is alive it will slowly close the door like so many John Hughes slow clap Pretty In Pink moments. If they dont “clam up” then toss them, they have more then likely gone to the great ocean in the sky. I wouldn’t risk eating a potentially dead clam or mussel due to the fact that um..eww gross!
After you’ve checked all your mussels/clams and have drained them in a collander and shaken out any excess water and grit gently dump them into the dutch oven and place a lid on them and put on the timer for 3-4 minutes. Clams will only open once they are fully cooked, mussels can be finicky and stay closed even if cooked. Rule of thumb used to be to toss these out prior to eating but you can remove them and gently pry them open and if no offense odor assaults your sensitive olfactory receptors have at it. Any unopen clams though dispose of instead of risking it. Serve it up with ample amounts of bread to sop up the beautiful spicy broth and enjoy. Leave the utensils in the drawer and use the shells to shovel the chorizo and onions and meaty morsels into your mouth. Don’t stand on formality and at the end of the meal if you are positive that your dining guest wont stab you with a shell just drink down the broth as you stare back at the onslaught of carnage you made to those tiny little denizens of the sea. Its amazing as leftovers with a gentle reheat in the microwave for about 2 minutes…Sooooooo good omg!
So enjoy something new. Get out there and experiment with flavors you aren’t sure will go together. What’s the worse that can happen? You end up going to White Castles for a Crave case….*shrugs*.
No i swear I’m not channeling Alicia Keys or Katniss Everdeen, though given today is Election day I really did feel like it was going to be a Hunger Games kind of day but that’s politico talk and this is a place of happiness and joy and kittens from time to time. My kitchen however; well on Sunday that place was probably as close to Hell as I have gotten in a while cooking wise. Why? Harissa..
What is harissa? Besides the living embodiment of Satan? It’s a spicy and rather aromatic chili paste which has roots in North African and Middle Eastern cooking and can be found on many a menu along side lovely dishes as babaganoush, hummus, chutneys, lamb kofta, beef kofta, shwarma, etc. It’s a versatile paste which can be used to any chili or stew as a flavor enhancer or even as a dipping sauce for chicken and bread. But man can it ever be spicy.
This weekend I got to try my hands and making it to pair it along side a Moroccan themed dinner I was having for some friends. Roasted lamb with glass herbs that had been sous vide for 30+ hours, babaganoush, hummus, morrocan stew, couscous, naan & lavish bread. It was quite a spread but I wanted to try something that could both compliment the lamb as well as possibly enhance it and of course me being me, the veritable unique snowflake that I am, I wanted to stay away from the normal traditional sauces that included mint, rosemary or yogurt. So I ventured forth into Hell. And like every good explorer I made sure to come well armed and prepared. I wore goggles…And my Deadpool hat because well..Deadpool.
The ingredients for this harissa weren’t to difficult to obtain. In fact you can pretty much find all of them in your ethnic aisle at your local grocery store. And if not I’m sure that any international grocery store will carry them. One suggestion would be to make sure you have gloves. I didn’t wear any and got a rather wicked capsaicin burn on my left hand from playing with the rehydrated peppers. And for the love of all that is Effie in the Hunger Game DO NOT TOUCH YOUR FACE OR YOUR BITS..YOU WILL HATE LIFE AND ALL THAT ARE AROUND YOU. If you do happen to touch your bits um, well…..Yeah I’m sorry.
So the ingredients are simple and as follows. Dried chili arbol peppers, cumin (ground or whole your choice), caraway seeds (ground or whole), sea salt, lemon, garlic, honey & olive oil. See? Nothing to fancy or expensive. It is however time consuming. You don’t think ti would be but it probably took me roughly an hour plus dealing with the peppers themselves. Sadistic bastards I hate you so so so so much >.< t(o.to). I’ll list all the ingredients and measurements at the bottom of the post.
The first thing you will want to do is make sure you really do have appropriate safety equipment because working with these peppers can cause potential breathing issues. Weather permitting keep a window open and a fan going to help draw out the fumes once you start working hands on with the peppers. Also make sure you have tissue nearby in case you start sneezing a lot. I do and my nose runs so I enlist in the assistance of my husband to act as my scrub nurse and help me out so I don’t run the risk of touching my face and doing my re-enactment of Elphaba from The Wizard of Oz and scream that my face was melting. In a large sauce pan you will want to take two cups of dried chili arbol peppers. No I’m not kidding, two cups of these little red seemingly innocuous peppers. Cover with tap water and bring to a boil on your stove and allow to boil for 10 minutes to help soften the peppers and re-hydrate. While this is happening you can prepare the rest of your ingredients which is to measure out your honey, olive oil, chop your garlic and get your lemon ready to go. Also get a colander and a blender handy.
Once your peppers have softened you will want to dump them in colander and start running water over them. This is where you will want to put on your disposable gloves because for the next hour or so you’ll be slicing these bad boys up and washing the seeds out of them as well as the ribs and pith. This will help eliminate some of the intensity that inherently lives in peppers. The burning sensation you get from peppers is caused by capsaicin which is a colorless, odorless, oily chemical found in peppers. This chemical binds itself to certain sensory neurons and transmits the feeling of being burned even though there is no actual physical burning going on. The majority of this chemical resides in the pith/ribs (white interior part of the pepper) so simply removing the seeds will not eliminate the devil in your mouth. You have to take care of the insides as well.
Once you’ve sneezed, coughed, had to blow your nose about a good 5-6 times and then successfully de-seeded/veined your peppers you can now start building your Hellmouth sauce. As you can see in the picture below, I was not happy at this point. NOT AT ALL >.< but I am a determined committed chef and I wanted to see this through because I actually do enjoy spicy food.
So its really simple after this part. You simply toss your ingredients into the food processor and mix till its a consistency you like. I roughly chopped my peppers first and then slowly incorporated the rest and came out with a lovely smooth paste which to me is more appealing to my taste buds. This can be paired with probably pretty much any protein or if you are adventurous, add this to your chip and salsa rotation at your next get-together. Just don’t invite me. Wait..no invite me because I wanna see if anyone cries ^.^
Harissa Dipping Sauce
Makes roughly 1 cup
2 cups dried chili arbol (try subbing out for different peppers depending on your mood or if you truly do hate your dinner guests!
4 cloves garlic minced
1 lemon juiced
1 tsp caraway, ground
2 tsp cumin, ground
3 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp honey
sea salt to taste
boil the peppers for 10 minutes or until soft, drain into colander
slice each pepper (or skip a few if you want to make it spicer) and remove all seeds under running water
grind the chilis in a food processor mince by hand if you truly are that much of a culinary masochist until it resembles a thick paste.
Mix remaining ingredients, adding more oil, water or honey to get the consistency you prefer (i added more honey to assist in muting the heat….it didnt work)