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
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 🙂
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)
Now that my wedding is done and over with I can hopefully find more time to keep my blog up to date. It’s hard out to try and juggle work, wedding and passion but I will try to be a little more due diligent in the future. A month or so ago my now amazing husband gifted me with a meat grinder after I won a bet of not cutting or coloring my hair for a year. Anyone who even slightly has an inkling of who I am knows that in and of itself is a challenge considering I change my hair color pretty much twice a month so going au natural for 12 months was a sort of sick and morbid type of torture. You add not cutting or shaving it and I’m pretty sure that violates UN torture laws. But I did it and I relished the diabolic joy of fastidiously going through different options for my spoils (insert diabolical laugh). Now this post has nothing to do with actually using said meat grinder but hey spoilers for future posts maybe?
In the meantime while I waited for my package to arrive I set my eyes on a pack of meaty beef short ribs I had purchased on a whim at one of our chain grocery stores. I hadn’t really worked much with beef short ribs but a burger recipe I had been oogling used ground beef short ribs and I didn’t want it to go to waste so I went through my pantry to find out exactly what did I have that could possibly go with beef short ribs. And viola. Found beef broth, garlic, tomato paste as well as a bottle of Cabernet on my wine rack and a little fresh thyme still on my plant outside. Might as well do a little braising. Hallelujah!!!!
One thing I love the most about this recipe is that it literally only uses 1 pan. There isn’t any need to dirty multiple pans and spoons and bowls. I love recipes like that, Kyle loves recipes like that and my dishwasher definitely loves recipes like that. Another is that it’s not an expensive dish. You can easily find beef short ribs on the bone for around $5.00 a pack and even cheaper if you go to a butcher shop. You don’t need expensive wine and can easily grab a $10 bottle off the shelf and most everyone has beef stock, tomato paste and garlic in their house already so this is an easy meal to make for under $20.00
So braising. What exactly is braising? Braising is a two part cooking method in which you first brown the meat and or vegetables (yes you can braise vegetables) in a fat (searing and creating the Maillard reaction before cooking them low and slow for a long period of time in a minimal amount of liquid. It is meant to help break down tough pieces of meat or fibrous vegetables to make them more tender and succulent. It differs from stewing in the fact that you don’t completely submerge your item in liquid and it can be done with quite large pieces of meat as opposed to small pieces like stew meat. And it can be done either on the stove or in the oven. I prefer the oven in the off chance I have other things that need to occupy my stove top space.
The first step always is to make sure you have a clean work space. We are going to be temporarily working with raw meat and you want to reduce the risk of any possible cross contamination because lets face it, food poisoning is a horrid horrid thing and I really don’t like the idea of anyone getting sick off of my cooking. You will want to place a roasting pan on your stove and heat over a medium high heat. This allows us to be able to brown our meat prior to transferring it to a hot oven for the braising portion of the recipe. While your pan is heating up take this opportunity to premix your salt & pepper that will be added to the beef short ribs prior to going into the pan. This again helps reduce the chance of cross contamination as you can simply throw the rest away after using it. Add a fair amount of olive oil to the roasting pan and heat until it starts to smoke. We aren’t talking roaring clouds of Chernobyl, but just little whisps of smoke. Generously season all sides of your beef spare ribs and place meaty side down in the pan (there is a bone in these hence the meaty side down comment). You will want to essentially fry these until well browned on all sides for around 10-15 minutes. This gives you plenty of time to wipe down your work station and prep the rest of your ingredients. Take your bulbs of garlic (yes whole bulbs) and slice across the equator. If you have a large elephant bulb of garlic 1 should do ya but if you’re like me I only had the little ones so I ended up using about 4, plus I am a huge fan of garlic so I always use a little extra. More isn’t always a bad thing.
Once you’ve browned all sides of your short ribs, place the garlic cut side down pressing it into the pan. Take 2 oz of tomato paste and also place into the pan, be mindful that it may splatter and you want to just cook it out for a minute or two to start the caramelization process, pressing the paste into the bottom of the pan. I always love the smell of tomato paste as it starts to cook out. It goes from being this tart acidic smell to a rich roasty smell. I know so scientific right? It just smells good dammit!
You will want to de-glaze the pan and scrape up all the little bits of fond that got stuck to the bottom. That is the flavor right there and you want to incorporate it into your braising liquid. What? We aren’t even braising yet? Nope still in the prep stage but its worth it. Put your trust in me I shan’t steer you in the wrong direction. And what shall we de-glaze the pan with? Why an entire bottle of dry red wine. No…I’m not joking, a whole bottle. All 750 ml into the pan. We gonna do this we gonna do this right..Make sure you get a wine that you’ll enjoy drinking because those make the best to cook with. Pour the whole bottle in (don’t cry you should have another to drink while you wait) and scrape up the bits on the bottom. Return to a boil and reduce liquid by half which can take about 10-20 minutes depending on how big your pan is. Once reduced, add your beef stock and fill till it almost covers the short ribs, bring back to a boil and gently baste your ribs before transferring to the stove. Congrats ya’ll. You’ve successfully created your braising liquid. Now it’s time to braise. BRAISE THE LORD!!!!!
Carefully take aluminum foil and wrap your roasting pan prior to transferring to the oven. Carefully place inside the oven, get a buddy to help you if the pan is hot and heavy and let it cook for 3-4 hours, basting every 30 minutes until the meat is tender and falling off the bone. That’s it. That’s the braising process. Complicated huh? During the cook time you can do some laundry, watch a few episodes of Shameless, torture your cats by putting them in Halloween costumes….What? I’d never do…..oh..okay so like once…..or um okay twice..Okay three times..I swear they love it though!
When the ribs are done and you’ve applied Bactine to all your cat scratches remove carefully from the oven and transfer the ribs to a separate place. All that beautiful meaty rich liquid does not go to waste. If you throw it away and I find out I’ll hunt you down and slap you silly. That is a gorgeous demi-glace and should be enjoyed. Remove the garlic and place in a fine mesh sieve and press out all the braised roasted garlic pulp, and then in the same sieve strain the braising liquid. You can at this point reduce it down if it is a little thin after incorporating the garlic paste or if its the right consistency place in a separate bowl for your guests. I personally saute up some mushrooms and shallot and more garlic and add the demi-glace to the pan prior to plating and then drizzle over my short ribs. You can pair this with anything. A lovely polenta with the rib nestled on top would be lovely. Some egg noodles and go a little more rustic always a winner or even eating it by itself with a lovely vibrant salad. Its all up to you. I hope you enjoy!
Some of the best things in life started out as a pipe dream for a kid who was told “No”. No you can’t do this. No you can’t be that. But what about those kids who heard that “no” and decided to make it their own personal “Yes”. I’ve always been inspired by those individuals who decide one day that they don’t want to be a shill to corporate america and take that leap into the great unknown to follow their dream and their passion. One of those individuals is Chef Chris Oh of Seoul Sausage Co. based out of Koreatown in Los Angeles, California.
I first learned about Seoul Sausage ala Netflix when I wandered across a show called The Great Food Race, hosted by Tyler Florence. Now anyone who knows me knows that me + food show = entertained for hours, not to mention that my husband was interested in watching it. We started with season 3 and the premise of the show was to compete in a cross country cooking challenge in the hopes of winning their own food truck plus a cash prize of $50,000.00. I had my contenders and people I wanted to be voted off. Two trucks which got me excited were Pop-A-Waffle and Seoul Sausage. Their exuberance and excitement made them clearly the #1 contenders in my book and I could not help but binge watch the entire season and become more enthralled with their team, their food, and their passion to change their stars. Ultimately Pop-A-Waffle was eliminated after making it to 3rd place; however Seoul Sausage took home the truck and the cash prize. Not to shabby for three guys that took a chance on their dream.
One of the items that earned them the victory was their firey kimchi fried cheesy balls. An homage to the Italian classic Arancini they put their own Korean twist on it and no joke I’ve been obsessed with them ever since. I’ve just never made them. Until now..And well….If I wasn’t a fan before? I’m a true fan now and it’s only spurned my love of cooking Korean style food and has made me want to learn more recipes or make up my own. The recipe is rather simple; however it’s not gospel to what Seoul Sausage has because I’ve not yet found a printed version of theirs so this is my interpretation of what is their OG classic. While the ingredients are modest the flavor it packs is utterly amazing and you will be amazed at how fast this recipe comes together.
****recipe adaptation of Seoul Sausage Co****
Ingredients: makes 16-20 contingent on size
1 ½ cup uncooked sticky rice
2 cups water
½ cup chopped kimchi (your option of spice level..i went with spicy!)
1 cup shredded cheese (their recipe calls for cheddar..use whatever you like!)
1 container of SPAM (yes..SPAM…no I’m not lying..seriously legit..SPAM) sliced into ½ inch slices and then quartered and chopped again
4 tablespoons browned butter
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons finely minced jalapeno (they use habanero but I didn’t have any)
1 heaping tablespoons gochujang**
3 scallions finely chopped**
4 cloves garlic finely minced**
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes**
Salt/pepper to taste
1 cup AP flour
2 eggs well beaten
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 cup reduced-fat sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons wasabi paste
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Sriracha
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
**Optionals: Keep in mind I don’t have their recipe so I wanted to have a little more flavor to mine and make them ultimate firey flaming balls**
In a medium sauce pan you’re going to add your 1 ½ sticky rice with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, place a lid on and reduce the heat to low and let simmer for around 20 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Turn off the heat and let sit covered for an additional 10 minutes and then fluff with a fork to separate the grains of rice before transferring to a large nonreactive bowl to cool to room temp (I use glass)
Once cooled mix together the rest of your ingredients for the add-ins until combined. You can if you choose to keep this vegetarian omit the SPAM and if you choose to, you can even eat as is since all the components to this point are cooked…Not gonna lie..It is fucking tasty as hell in this form..I may have eaten a few prior to breading ^.^…WHAT? Its my kitchen don’t fucking judge me :P…
Once mixed you are then going to essentially form your rice balls ala meatball style, you can use a scoop if you have one or if you’re like me you can just use your hands because they are the best utensils we’ve got!. Scoop about 4 ounces or so out and form into a ball, placing them onto a cookie sheet until all balls are formed. I stopped at 12 but this batch probably would have been able to make around 16-20.
Prior to breading you need to make the ever vital decision on To fry or not to fry. It’s the eternal question that has plagued mankind for eons. Regardless of whatever cooking method you choose the end results are just as tasty. If choosing to deep fry you will need either a fryer with vegetable oil or in my case since I don’t own a deep fryer a heavy bottom sauce pan and heat your oil up to 350 degrees. If opting for the healthier option and you decide to bake your balls you will need to heat your oven up to 350 degrees; however you will need to chill our rice balls prior to frying to ensure they don’t dry out in the oven. Frying takes about eeeh 3-5 minutes whilst baking takes about 20 with a rotation middle of the cook cycle. Totally up to your preference, I won’t judge…a lot.
While your method of cooking heats up you’ll want to set up a three part breading station of flour, beaten eggs, panko bread crumbs. Why a three part? Simple, the flour acts as a barrier between the wet surface of your frying item and the liquid (egg) Without it, the liquid mixture (in this instance egg) has trouble adhering to the rice ball. If the egg can’t stick then the breading falls off when frying and you’re left with well not good eats. Keeping one hand clean for transferring the final product roll your rice ball around in the flour and pat off any extra. Transfer your floured rice ball to the egg wash and roll it around. The egg wash will cause the crumbs or meal to completely coat the ball and form a tight seal when it is cooked. Then roll around in your breading of choice shaking off any extra. You can either choose to cook these off later or allow them to sit in the fridge for around 30 minutes to ensure the breading sticks. Last thing we want is lovely rice balls getting all blech (cooking term legit yo) and not crunchy/crispy. If choosing to cook them off at a later date (ie the next date feel free to wrap them in cling film and leave in the fridge.
When frying make sure to not drop the balls into the oil. I find the best method is to use a pair of tongs because once these have set up in the fridge they are rather firm and can be handled a little roughly. Place around 3-4 in your pan until the oil covers the tops and allow to fry until golden brown. Remove from the oil and place on a cooling rack while you let your oil come back up to temperature. You want to allow this to happen to help avoid getting a soggy crust. We didn’t have much down time between frying and transferring to wait for the oil to come back up to 350. Once complete serve with your favorite dipping sauce. We opted for a sriracha aioli and a wasabi cream and as a finishing sprinkled a little of my Death Dust (dried powdered Carolina reapers)
I do have to say that these are an amazing little appetizer and surprisingly filling. I recommend if you are reheating them you avoid putting them in the microwave to avoid them getting soggy and smooshy (another cooking term..legit yo). You can place them in a 400 degree oven on a lightly oiled baking sheet for 20-25 minutes (40-45 if frozen)
Sometimes even I, the avid chef and foodie, like to partake in creations that others make. Shocking I know but after working at my primary job at Wash U for 10-12 hours a day, I don’t always have that gusto and drive to stand in the kitchen for an hour or so making dinner for myself and for Kyle. In the past few years St. Louis has become quite a little foodie mecha. Food trucks, pop up dining events, we’ve developed quite a little food scene here. And one thing that St. Louis sports a lot of are fried chicken restaurants. We have fast food chains, mom and pop eateries, long standing chicken establishments and then we have the little hole in the wall all we serve are 5 dishes and they are all chicken type places.
I’ve always been of the mindset that if you are going to have a small single item driven menu then that item needs to be outstanding and on point. I’d be ignorant to think that every plate might be the same but the food itself needs to be there or you’ll never really get anywhere. Last night, Kyle inadvertently forgot to take the steaks I had planned on making for dinner out of the fridge to come to room temp. Not wanting to eat at 8:00 at night we opted to have an impromptu date night close to home. We picked Old Standard Fried Chicken located at 1621 Tower Grove Ave, St. Louis, MO 63110.
Located at the northern end of Tower Grove Park, Old Standard Fried Chicken roosts in what appears to be a converted garage. A quaint patio area is fenced by planters which normally houses the four varieties of mint that the bar uses for its mixed drinks; however on our visit the mint appeared to have dried up in the insanely hot weather. Walking in you immediately smell cedar and oak as the restaurant/bar itself is nothing but wood. Exposed rafters line the concrete block walls and the old weathered floor gives that sort of refined industrial look to the space. The light fixtures were few and spaced far between due to the copious amounts of windows that allow an exorbitant amount of natural light filter in and reflect off the white walls. We were immediately greeted by our server and escorted to our table near the door. The menu is pretty limited but when you have a name like Old Standard Fried Chicken I’d anticipate the menu being geared towards fried chicken and it was. With such “old standard” items like fried pickles, fried shrimps, mac and cheese and mashed potatoes the menu held promise that our choices, while limited, would be delicious.
Instead of defaulting to bottled soda or a crafted beer, Kyle and I chose to indulge with one of the housemade sodas. A double cream and a strawberry cream. At $3.75 a pop we were hoping for something more then a slim 8 oz glass half filled with ice (probably only roughly 4 oz of actual drink) with a dollop of whipped cream on top. But for what it was which was a housemade soda it was delicious. The “snack” we chose the fried horseradish pickles which were made in house and our main meal we each picked the chicken deal which contained two pieces of chicken of our choosing, 1 trimming and a biscuit. Kyle chose the mac and cheese and I opted for the meaty greens. As we waited we enjoyed the atmosphere of the space. It wasn’t loud or crowded and it was pleasant. The wait staff was observant of when we needed our water refreshed and after about a 10 minute wait our pickles arrived. I wish I could say that these were phenomenal; however the breading used simply tasted like unseasoned flour and did no justice to the sweet pickle slices hidden them. The saving grace that added flavor to the snack was the spicy ranch dipping sauce and the sweet with a hint of heat pickle.
Our meal showed up around 10 minutes after our snack did. At first glance I was excited at the prospect of having a good ole fashion fried chicken dinner. Our server provided us with little side cups of butter and orange marmalade for our biscuit and a little side cup of hot sauce. One thing missing from the table was salt and pepper which was located next to the bar on a little side cart which housed their glasses.
First off the meaty greens. Collard greens smothered in smoked bacon which hey you can’t go wrong with bacon, but me not really being a huge pork fan I just ate around them. First thing right off the bat the dish was lacking in seasoning. Again there was a void where salt and an acid should be. The greens were still slightly crispy but given the fact that they weren’t seasoned did not make up for that. Kyle’s mac and cheese looked rather ooey and gooey but when I tried it I found our common theme. The dishes simply lacked any sort of flavoring. Sad really given the fact that this meal cost us $10.95 per person. Would the chicken be any better? I soon received that answer. No it wasn’t. I never really knew that it was hard to mess up fried chicken; however by eliminating any sort of brine or season it tasted dry and the rather harsh flour taste from the breading did not leave me much hope for redemption in this dish or this restaurant. I know I’m picky but when you have to drown a piece of chicken in hot sauce to partake any sort of flavor something is seriously wrong.
The only saving grace besides the amazing whiskey and bourbon selection was the dessert. Originally I had ordered the turtle pudding but was told it was out of stock, our server suggested the banana pudding, which per reviews of the restaurant was raved as a must have. It was wonderfully thick and you could actually taste the bananas and it did not give an artificial chemical taste. It was legitimate banana pudding which after much coercing Kyle tried along with his Johnny Down bourbon.
Sadly, our experience at Old Standard Fried Chicken was not good. After speaking to our server she advised us that the “chef” in the kitchen had only been there for about 3 weeks or so, but given that rather off reviews have been given about the food for a few months it more then likely is an ongoing trend. Don’t get me wrong, I strongly recommend this place if you are a bourbon/whiskey fan and also want a good pudding, but if you are looking for old fashioned fried chicken you’d had more lucky in the drive through line at KFC a mile down the road. Old Standard Fried Chicken? More like No Standard Fried Chicken. Sorry guys but the chicken is gonna be put down..and not in a good way /sadpanda