Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Porridge of Canella Cacao Incan Red Quinoa & Steel Cut Oats ... with Apricots and Pecans en Ginger Glacé








     Gourmet Ancient Grain Porridge!
     Healthy rustic ancient fibrous carbohydrate grain cuisine at its best!  Many people refer to ancient grain varieties as super grains.  Black rice, Native American Reed Grain Rice, Incan Quinoa and Amaranth are all super grains that have recently been focused upon by nutrition experts.
     What is considered to be new exotic food by one person, is actually regular everyday food for somebody else in another land.  Quinoa has been cultivated in Peru since long before the age of the Incan empire.  Those gigantic temples in Cuzco were not built by the Incan people.  In fact, the Incan have mentioned that the Cuzco sites were there long before their own culture came to be.  To move massive stone blocks at high altitudes, one has to eat some potent food!
     Quinoa is one of the most potent grains that there is.  Quinoa has protein levels that are on a par with meat, fish and beans.  Quinoa is gluten free and it is a fibrous carbohydrate.  There are a few types of quinoa and I chose an Heirloom Whole Incan Red Quinoa for today's recipe.  The flavor is unique!

     Oats are very nutritious.  They are also a good source of protein and fiber.  Steel cut oats offer far more nutritional value and fiber content than regular pressed processed oats.  Steel cut oats are cut groats of oat grain.  Ireland and Scotland offer great steel cut oat porridge recipes.  Origins of Oats have been traced to wheat hybrids in Switzerland that date back to the Dark Ages.  Some say that Oats are a bread of wheat that may have evolved from animal feed grain that originated in the Middle East or Southern Russia.

     The word "Cacao" is an alternate way to spell "cocoa."  Cocoa was used as a ceremonial drink by the Aztecs and Mayans.  Cocoa was also used as a recipe food staple ingredient by cultures that predated this civilization.  Basically, before the Mayan and Aztec hierarchy valued cocoa as a sexy concoction, bitter cocoa was added to stews or it was used medicinally.  The ashes of a cocoa plant are used to naturally synthesize many ancient natural medicines and the cocoa ashes were also used to make Nixtamal Corn Flour.

     Canella (canela) was commonly used by Mesoamericans to flavor recipes that had bitter cocoa in the list of ingredients.  Canella is a spice made from the bark of trees that are native to the Caribbean, Central America and South America.  Canella is also known as wild cinnamon.  Cocoa and canella add a nice ancient American flavor to today's porridge recipe.

     Dried apricots can vary in quality.  I recently found some that were perfect!  Dried apricots are specified in many recipes, because the flavor is more intense than fresh apricot.  Pecans and apricots taste good together, especially when they are cooked in a syrup.  Pecans are native to the Americas.

     *This entire recipe yields 1 large hearty portion!

     Ginger Glazed Apricots and Pecans:
     Sometimes there is no getting around using sugar in recipes.  Moderation is the key.  
     Step 1:  Place 10 dried apricots in a small sauce pot.
     Add enough water to cover the apricots with an extra 2" of water.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger powder.
     Add 1 tablespoon of brown sugar or piloncillo.
     Add 3 tablespoons of raw sugar. 
     Place the pot over medium heat.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer till the apricots become tender.  Add water if necessary.
     Step 2:  Raise the temperature to medium/medium low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the liquid, till it becomes a medium thin syrup cosistency.
     Keep the apricots and syrup warm over very low heat.
     Add 10 pecan halves 2 minutes just before serving.  (Adding pecans too far ahead of time will cause them to become soft.)
     
     Canella Cacao Incan Red Quinoa and Steel Cut Oats Porridge:
     Step 1:  Place 2/3 cup of steel cut oats in a small sauce pot.
     Add 1/3 cup of Heirloom Whole Incan Red Quinoa Grain.
     Add enough water to cover the grain with 3" of extra liquid.
     Place the pot over medium high heat.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Step 2:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of brown sugar or piloncillo.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of canella.  (Substitute 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon if none is available.)
     Add 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Simmer till the grains become soft and till the porridge becomes thick.  Add water if necessary.
     Keep the porridge warm on a stove top.

     Porridge of Canella Cacao Incan Red Quinoa & Steel Cut Oats ... with Apricots and Pecans en Ginger Glacé:
     Place the Canella Cacao Incan Red Quinoa and Steel Cut Oats Porridge in a shallow soup bowl.
     Arrange the apricots on the porridge, so they look nice.
     Arrange the pecan halves on the porridge, so they look nice.
     Spoon a generous amount of the ginger syrup glaze over the pecans, apricots and porridge.
     Serve with a petite pitcher of milk on the side!

     This is a nice tasting porridge!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Neufchatel Blinchiki with Blueberry Gastrique







     Blinchiki, Blintz And Blini
     The three "B Words" can sometimes cause confusion in the kitchen.  Clarifying the basic definition of each of these items is good to do.
     Blinchiki are similar to French crêpes.  Traditional Blinchiki can be made with a variety of different kinds of flour, but white wheat flour is the most popular choice.  Blinchiki are not made with a yeast batter.
     A thin egg batter is used to make delicate thin blinchiki.  When blinchiki are stuffed, the batter is modified with a little more flour, so the blinchiki are more durable.  Savory blinchiki can be stuffed with a wide variety of meat, vegetable or cheese fillings.  Stuffed blinchiki do not have to be called a blintz, even if it is stuffed with sweetened fresh cheese.

     Blintzes are made with blinchiki style crêpes.  Breakfast blintzes are usually stuffed with a savory cheese filling or a sweetened cheese filling.  Blintzes are usually accompanied by fruit preserves, syrup or compote.    

     Blini are made with a thin yeast batter.  Any kind of flour can be used to make blini.  Buckwheat and wheat flour are the most popular.  Blini are usually shaped like silver dollar pancakes or oblong pancakes.  Blini can be made thin or thick, depending on the application.  Blini can be served with savory or sweet accompaniments.

     American Neufchatel
     American Neufchatel is a creamy soft fresh cheese that is perfect for a blintz filling.  American Neufchatel is like American Cream Cheese, but it is a little bit lighter.
     American Neufchatel was created by a cheese maker that attempted to imitate French Neufchatel Cheese.  American Neufchatel should not be compared to French Neufchatel, because these two products do not have similar flavors.
     French Neufchatel is a light French cheese that originated about 2,000 years ago.  Fresh French Neufchatel looks kind of like its American counterpart, but the flavor is much more aromatic.  Aged French Neufchatel is grainy and crumbly.

     Gastrique
     Gastriques are used as a garnishing sauce, a cocktail mixer and as a digestif.  Gastriques can be made semi sweet or savory.
     Light amber yellow molten sugar will produce a semi sweet gastrique.  Dark amber brown molten sugar will produce a savory gastrique.  Either way, the molten sugar should enter the amber caramel temperature stages when making a gastrique.
     If a gastrique is made with extremely tart or sour fruit, the molten sugar can be cooked to the pale yellow hard crack sugar temperature range, in order to create a balanced tart flavor.  I sometimes use hard crack stage molten sugar to make a tart pomegranate gastrique for certain applications.  Semi sweet gastriques cannot be reduced to a glacé consistency or they will harden like candy on a plate.
     The addition of the digestif herbs, pepper, salt, shallot, citrus and vinegar gives the gastrique its digestif flavor.  Wine or liquors can be used as additional flavors, but they are not part of the basic gastrique recipe.
     Syrups are usually made with molten sugar that is cooked within the candy making temperature range and the sugar is not caramelized.  Sweet caramel syrups are the exception.
     When working with molten sugar, wearing protective clothing will prevent serious burns.  
 
     Blueberry Gastrique:
     This recipe yields about 1 cup of gastrique, depending on the consistency.  
     Step 1:  Place 3/4 cup of granulated sugar and 1/2 cup of water in a sauce pot over high heat.
     When the sugar enters the molten candy stages, keep an eye on the sugar.
     When the sugar becomes a light amber brown color, immediately add 1 cup of blueberries.  (Do not stir!)
     Allow the molten sugar to harden and seize the blueberries.  The blueberries will stop the sugar from cooking any further.
     Step 2:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Wait for the mass of seized hard amber sugar to start to melt.
     Add 3 tablespoons of Blueberry Pomegranate Vinegar.  (Use white wine vinegar if none is available.)
     Add 2 cups of water.
     Add 1 or 2 pinches of sea salt.
     Add 1 teaspoon of thyme leaves.
     Add bay leaf.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped shallot.
     Add tablespoon of whole black peppercorns.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of lemon zest.
     Step 3:  Gently simmer and reduce the blueberry gastrique, till it can lightly glaze the back of a spoon.  The gastrique should have a thin syrup consistency.
     Step 4:  Pour the gastrique through a fine mesh strainer into a container.
     Keep the gastrique warm on a stove top.
     *A gastrique can be refrigerated for nearly 6 months.  
     
     Blinchiki:
     This recipe makes about 4 to 6 blinchiki, depending on the size of the crêpe!  
     For today's recipe, the crêpes should be cooked to a pail color.  The batter has to have just a slightly thicker than average consistency, so the crêpes do not tear or split open when stuffed.
     Step 1:  Place 3 eggs in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of sugar.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1/2 cup of milk.
     Whisk the ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Add a little bit of flour at a time, while whisking, till batter is becomes a medium thin consistency that can coat the back of a spoon.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of melted unsalted butter while stirring.
     Step 3:  Heat a 6" to 8" wide non-stick saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Brush the pan with melted unsalted butter.
     Pour enough crêpe batter in the pan to make a 6" to 8" diameter crêpe.  Tilt the pan, so the batter coats the pan evenly with no holes in the crepe and so the crepe forms a uniform round shape.
     Step 4:  When the crêpe becomes firm, use a rubber spatula to flip the crêpe.
     Briefly cook the other side.
     Slide the crepe onto a plate and let it cool.
     Make 4 to 6 crêpes.
 
     Sweet Neufchatel Blinchiki Filling:
     The recipe yields enough for 4 to 6 blinchiki, depending on the size!
     Place 8 ounces of neufchatel cheese in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of sugar.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 3 tablespoons of whisked egg.
     Mix the ingredients together till blended.
     Refrigerate the cheese filling for 20 minutes, so it becomes firm.
  
     Neufchatel Blinchiki:
     Place about 1 1/2 to 2 ounces of the neufchatel cheese filling on the center of each crêpe.
     Fold 2 opposite ends of the crêpe over the cheese.
     Fold the loose crepe ends, so they overlap over the filling to form a rectangle shaped blinchiki.
     Place the blinchiki on a buttered baking pan with the folded side down.
     Brush the blinchiki with melted unsalted butter.
     Sprinkle a little bit of sugar over the blinchiki.
     Bake in a 300º oven, till the cheese filling becomes hot and the blinchiki puff up.  Allow the blinchiki to turn a light golden color.
     Set the blinchiki on top of a stove top and allow them to cool to a safe serving temperature.

     Neufchatel Blinchiki with Blueberry Gastrique: 
     The plate can be garnished with any dessert sauces and fruit that tastes nice with sweet fresh cheese and blueberry gastrique.  Here are some suggestions:
     • Cinnamon Cocoa flavored Crème Anglaise.
     • White Chocolate or Vanilla Crème Anglaise.
     • Crème Fraîche or Sweet Whipped Cream
     • Blueberries
     • Orange Wedges
     • Mint Sprigs
     The two presentation styles in the photographs above can be used as guidelines or you can create your own unique presentation.  Getting creative is what it is all about!
     A little bit of Blueberry Gastrique goes a long way.  The Blueberry Gastrique is tart and it is not sweet like a syrup.  The Blueberry Gastrique flavor is intense and strong.  About 1 tablespoon poured over each individual blinchiki will add plenty of complex blueberry flavor.

Petite Anchois Omelette and Courgette Stack with Lumpfish Roe







     Layered Petite Anchovy Zucchini Omelets with Red Lumpfish Roe!  
     The anchovy word does cause many folks to balk when looking at a recipe.  Many classic fine dining breakfast entrées from the late 1800's do have a small amount of anchovy paste in the list of ingredients.  A small amount of anchovy paste creates a unique savory umami flavor.  Customers often describe entrées like this as having a particularly nice flavor that they cannot identify.
 
     The eggs in today's recipe are flavored with a small amount of anchovy paste.  In classic European cuisine, anchovy is used like salt or a seasoning.  Only a small amount of anchovy is needed to give the eggs a very mild umami flavor.
     Not all anchovy products are created equal.  Cheap low quality anchovies or anchovy paste tastes very salty and fishy.  High quality imported anchovy products do not taste fishy and they have a very nice mild flavor.  It truly is worth spending the extra dollar for higher quality anchovy paste, because the flavor will please guests, instead of turning guests off.

     Lumpfish Roe has a fairly intense fresh open sea flavor, just like Salmon Roe.  The mild anchovy umami flavor of the omelets is meant to contrast with the stronger Lumpfish Roe flavor.

     Not every recipe that I create is meant to please a wide range of people.  Pleasing the few is important to do and a few people really do like seafood umami flavors for breakfast.  I worked as a cook in many commercial fishing communities and seafood was served for breakfast just as often as bacon in those places.  Those who are fond of rich seafood flavors will surely like today's breakfast entrée.

     *This entire recipe yields 1 entrée!

     Zucchini Preparation:
     A small to medium size firm zucchini is best for this recipe.
     Heat a sauté pan over medium low/low heat.
     Add about 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 3/4 cup of very thin sliced zucchini.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of thyme.
     Gently sauté and sweat the zucchini slices, till they are tender.
     Keep the sweated zucchini slices warm on a stove top.

     Petite Anchois Omelets:
     Step 1:  Place 2 large eggs in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of milk.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1 teaspoon of anchovy paste.  (Use the best available!)
     Add 1 pinch of white pepper.
     Whisk till the ingredients are blended.
     Step 2:  Heat a non-stick saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of melted unsalted butter.
     Place a 4" to 4 1/2" diameter steel ring mold in the pan.
     Use a tablespoon to slowly pour a 3/16" layer of the egg mixture in the ring mold.  (By adding the eggs slowly, the eggs will not leak under the ring mold.)
     Remove the ring mold when the eggs start to become firm.
     Carefully flip the mini omelette.
     Cook both sides, till light golden brown highlights appear.
     Set the petite omelette on a dish on a stove top and keep it warm.
     Step 3:  Repeat these steps, till several petite omelets are made.  About 6 or 7 petite omelets will be needed.
     Stack the little omelets on a plate, cover the omelets with a domed pot lid and keep them warm on a stove top or a bain marie.

     Petite Anchois Omelette and Courgette Stack with Lumpfish Roe:
     Lumpfish Roe can be black or red.  Both taste the same.  Lumpfish Roe is usually referred to as being "Poor Man's Caviar."  It is best to place a portion of the roe in a ramekin and allow it to reach room temperature before applying it to the omelets.  
     Step 1:  Place 1 petite omelette on the center of a plate.
     Place a thin layer of the sweated zucchini slices on the petite omelette.
     Place a second petite omelette on top of the layer of zucchini.
     Repeat these steps, till only 1 or 2 petite omelets remain.
     Step 2:  Place the remaining little omelets on top of the stack.
     Spread a thin layer of lumpfish roe on top.
     Garnish the omelette stack with an Italian parsley sprig.
     *Seasoned grilled tomato slices that are flavored with a pinch of marjoram are nice with this breakfast entrée!  The tomato offsets the umami flavor.   

     Those who relish the thought of waking up to the smell of an ocean breeze will like this breakfast entrée!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Salmon Sauté with Poached Egg and Danish Vincent Gouda Dill Brandy Crème en Rustic Phyllo Bowl








     A Nice Brunch Or Dinner Entrée!
     I originally created this recipe as a breakfast entrée, but it really can be served for any meal.  The phyllo bowl is very easy to make, unless this recipe is made in arid conditions, like here in the high Mojave Desert.  
     The dryer the air is, the faster phyllo sheet will dry out!  Keeping the phyllo sheets covered with a towel to prevent drying is necessary in arid conditions.
     It is best to unevenly cut the phyllo sheets or tear the sheets to create uneven edges for a bowl presentation like today's recipe.  Trying to apply phyllo evenly in patterns can take way too much time.  The faster that phyllo is assembled, the better.

     Danish Vincent Gouda has become a popular cheese in recent years.  Vincent Gouda is a 5 month aged cows milk gouda that has subtle caramel, honey flavor undertones with a nutty spicy taste.  This cheese easily melts and a little bit goes a long way, when making a sauce.

     Rustic Phyllo Bowl:
     This recipe yields 1 phyllo bowl!
     Step 1:  Select a 10" to 12" wide stainless steel mixing bowl that has a smooth flat bottom.
     Place the the mixing bowl upside down on a baking pan.
     Brush the outside of the bowl with melted unsalted butter.
     Step 2:  Unevenly cut or tear 12 to 14 sheets of phyllo dough that are roughly a 12"x12" shape.  The sheets do not need to be perfectly square.  The more exposed coarse edges, the better.  In fact, long scrap phyllo sheet pieces can be used to make the bowl.
     Keep the bare phyllo sheets covered with a dry towel at all times.
     Step 3:  Place 1 sheet of phyllo on a plastic or wood pastry board.
     Brush one side with melted unsalted butter.
     Drape the phyllo sheet over the buttered mixing bowl with the butter side facing down.
     Gently press the phyllo sheet into place.
     Brush the phyllo sheet on the mixing bowl with melted unsalted butter.
     Repeat these steps till the phyllo sheets become 12 to 14 layers thick and a rustic bowl shape is created.
     Step 4:  Place the sheet pan with the phyllo bowl in a 375ºF oven.
     Bake till the phyllo becomes golden brown and crisp.
     Set the bowl aside to cool.
     Step 5:  Invert the phyllo bowl and the mixing bowl mold together as one into a plate.
     Very carefully loosen the mixing bowl free from the crisp phyllo bowl.  
     *Use a long thin piece of flexible food grade plastic or a very thin cake spatula to loosen the bowl so it frees up if necessary.  Some damage will occur no matter what, but that is expected.  Try to keep the damage to a minimum.  This is why the bowl was designed with 12 to 14 layers instead of only 8!
     After the mixing bowl is removed, there will usually be pieces and crumbs of phyllo that fall on the plate.  Carefully place the phyllo bowl on a clean serving plate or a shallow wide soup bowl.  
     Set the plate and phyllo bowl where it will not be accidentally damaged.

     Danish Vincent Gouda Dill Crème:
     This recipe yields 3/4 cup to 1 cup of sauce!
     The mother sauce for this recipe is bechamel.  For a small portion of bechamel sauce, it is easier to just add a loose onion and a clove and then strain the sauce before serving.  Small piquet of onion and clove tend to fall apart and the sauce will need to be strained anyway.  
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour, while constantly stirring, to form a roux.
     Stir till the roux cooks to a white color, with very little hazelnut aroma.
     Step 2:  Add 1 1/3 cups of milk while whisking.
     Add 1/4 cup of cream.
     Add 2 ounces of brandy.
     Stir as the sauce heats and thickens to a very thin sauce consistency.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Step 3:  Add 1/2 of a clove.
     Add 1 tablespoon of coarsely chopped onion.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1/2 of a laurel leaf.
     Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
     Gently simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a thin sauce consistency.
     Step 4:  Add 1/4 cup of grated Danish Vincent Gouda while gently stirring.
     Stir till the cheese combines with the sauce.
     Step 5:  Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a second sauce pot.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh dill weed.
     Add 1 pat of unsalted butter, while gently whisking.  (monte au beurre)
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.  Stir the sauce occasionally.  Add milk if the sauce becomes too thick.

     Salmon Sauté: 
     This recipe yields 1 portion!
     Heat the egg poaching water for the next stage of today's recipe first!
     Step 1:  Select a 5 to 6 ounce Atlantic Salmon filet that has the skin attached.
     Cut the filet into 2 petite filets.
     Cut a few very shallow criss-cross slashes through the skin on both filets.
     Season the salmon with sea salt and black pepper. 
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 1 teaspoon of unsalted butter.
     Place the salmon filets in the pan, with the skin side facing down.
     Sear the salmon, undisturbed, till the skin becomes dark and crisp.  (The salmon should not stick to the pan, after the skin becomes crisp (Maillard Reaction).  The salmon will be more than halfway cooked at this point.)
     Use a spatula to flip the salmon.
     Sauté till the salmon becomes fully cooked.
     Set the sautéed salmon filets aside on a wire screen roasting rack to rest.
     Keep the salmon filets warm on a stove top.
  
     Poached Egg:
     Place enough water in a sauce pot, so it is 4" deep.
     Add sea salt.  (Do not add vinegar!  Vinegar makes eggs rubbery.)
     Bring the water to a boil over high heat.
     Reduce the temperature to medium heat.
     Add 1 egg.
     Poach the egg till the egg white becomes firm.

     Salmon Sauté with Poached Egg and Danish Vincent Gouda Dill Brandy Crème en Rustic Phyllo Bowl:
     Place the dish with the rustic phyllo bowl on a counter top.
     Ladle some of the Danish Vincent Gouda Dill Creme sauce into the bowl as a bed for the salmon. (1 to 2 tablespoons is enough at this point.)
     Carefully place the salmon filets on the sauce in the phyllo bowl with the skin side facing up.  Place the filets in the phyllo bowl, so the bowl is balanced and it does not lean to one side.  Placing the salmon off center may cause the phyllo bowl to split.  
     Place the poached egg in the bowl next to the salmon.
     Spoon the a generous amount of the sauce over the egg and around the salmon in the bowl.
     Garnish with a dill sprig.
     *If any phyllo flaked off onto the plate, then brush the crumbs off. 

     Texture and flavor is what this brunch entree is all about.  This is a fun breakfast entree!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Philly Cheese Steak and Egg Breakfast Sandwich






     The World Famous Philly Cheese Steak With Eggs For Breakfast?  Yes!
     I have to laugh when looking back on the lifestyle that the young adults in the old neighborhood and I led in Philly.  In Philadelphia, we all were working for low wages and we all were living on cheese steak sandwiches.
     A 2 1/2 foot long Philly Cheese Steak cost less than $5 back in the early 1980's.  Those old school Philly Cheesesteaks must have had at least 20 ounces of meat and cheese on the sandwich.  A $5 Cheesesteak provided enough food for more than 2 days.
     For us young workers that barely made a living, Philly Cheesesteaks were the bargain of the century, because Cheesesteaks were so heavy that just a few bites made the tummy feel full all day.  A daily diet of Cheesesteaks does add up to one heck of a high cholesterol count after a long period of time.  After 2 years of working in that city, I had to leave Philadelphia before I became a candidate for quad bypass surgery!

     About 35 years ago, every restaurant, diner and delicatessen in Philadelphia offered  Cheese Steaks on the menu.  Even fine dining restaurant marketed Cheesesteaks made with fancy ingredients for lunch.  One thing that I do have to say, there is no such thing as a bad cheese steak in Philadelphia.  Every Cheesesteak from every restaurant and deli was awesome!

     I did short order cooking in Philadelphia for two years, before I started to apprentice in fine dining restaurants.  In Philly, you gotta be quick.  Every Philadelphia restaurant that I cooked in was very busy.  Speed, organization and agility are the first things to learn when training to become a chef.  Because of the Philly high volume experience, I am lightning fast when doing pro cooking!
     The busiest cooking station in Philadelphia casual restaurants was usually the flat top grill station.  I was fast, so I usually ran the grill station.  Part of the grill cook duties in Philadelphia restaurants was making Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches.
     I cooked more than 10,000 Philly Cheese Steaks while working in Philadelphia restaurants for a couple of years.  I have actually cooked more than 150 Cheesesteaks per shift in Philly restaurants that did well over 2,000 covers a day.  If anybody is an expert at making Cheesesteaks, I definitely qualify as the master!  There is a method to the madness, when cooking 20 to 30 Cheesesteaks on a 6 foot long flat top grill at one time, that only experience can teach.    

     Whiz Kid
     Cheesesteaks are a fun sandwich to make, because a cook has to constantly be working with their hands, till the sandwich is finished.  The thin shaved meat is shredded to order on the grill and it is never supposed to be cooked ahead of time.  Anybody that cooks Cheesesteak meat ahead of time would have been laughed right out of Philadelphia in the old days.
     The meat for a classic Cheese Steak is shaved knuckle roast.  (beef shoulder.)  The roll has to be a slightly chewy soft Italian bread.  The classic cheese for a Philly Cheese Steak is provolone, although some folks prefer "Whiz."  "Whiz" is slang for canned Cheese Whiz.
     While working in Philly restaurants that sold Whiz Cheesesteaks,  I used to go through at least 2 cases of #10 Cans of Whiz per shift.  A case of #10 Cans is 6 cans, which contain 106 ounces of Whiz in each can.  In plain English, this amounts to slathering about 80 pounds of Whiz on Cheesesteaks per shift.  That is enough Whiz to clog every artery from Philly to Tokyo!

     The Cheesesteak Meat
     Manufactured Pressed Pulverized Shaped Commercial Frozen Cheese Steak Meat is not a good choice.  The real deal Cheesesteak is made with paper thin sliced raw Knuckle Roast (Chuck Roast or Beef Shoulder).
     All excess fat has to be trimmed off of the beef shoulder.  The shoulder meat has to be machine sliced while it is partially frozen, so paper thin slices can be cut.
     At home, a razor sharp chef knife or carving knife can be used to cut very thin slices of partially frozen beef chuck roast, if the cook's knife skills are good.  I cut the meat by hand for the Cheesesteaks in the photos above.  

     Today's Recipe
     When I published the Philly Breakfast Cheesesteak at my other food website, it became an instant smash hit.  There were no other Breakfast Cheesesteak recipes on the internet at that time, so my recipe was the very first on the web.  When I lived in Philadelphia, no restaurants or delicatessens offered Cheesesteaks for breakfast.
     To claim that I was the first cook to create the first Philly Breakfast Cheesesteak would be incorrect, because the idea was so simple that any grill cook could have made one for a personal employee meal at some point in history.  My only claim to fame is that I was the first chef to write a Philly Breakfast Cheesesteak Recipe.
     Now today's recipe is famous worldwide.  I actually got a thank you letter from members of the Mumbai Indians Cricket Team a few years ago.  Apparently the members of the team really liked making the Philly Cheese Steak and Egg Breakfast Sandwich while on a road game trip!  Cricket champions from India eating beef?  Because of Philly Cheesesteaks, India's Sacred Cow is sacred no more!
  
     Philly Cheese Steak and Egg Breakfast Sandwich:
     This recipes yield 1 big hearty Breakfast Cheesesteak!
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauté pan or griddle over medium heat.  Season the griddle with blended olive oil.
     Split an 10" 12" long Soft Italian Sub Sandwich Roll open.
     Grill the sub roll, till it is toasted warm.
     Keep the roll warm on a stove top.
     Step 2:  Add about 1 1/2 tablespoon of blended olive oil to the hot pan.
     Add 1/3 cup of thick sliced onion.
     Add 1/3 cup of thick sliced mixed green bell pepper and red bell pepper.
     Grill the peppers and onions on one side of the pan.
     Step 3:  Place 6 to 8 ounces of paper thin sliced beef shoulder on the other side of the pan.  (Shaved Knuckle Roast is the best choice!)
     Shred the beef slices in the pan, by using two metal spatulas together at one time.
     *Use the edge of one spatula to press the meat against the griddle and use the edge of the second spatula to shred the meat.  This is how cheese steaks are made in Philly.  As an alternative, chop the very thin sliced beef before adding it to the pan.  
     Season the ingredients with sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Mix the shredded sliced beef and vegetables together in the pan.
     Sauté the ingredients together, while tossing the ingredients occasionally.
     When the Cheesesteak meat becomes browned and vegetables become tender, reduce the temperature to low heat, till the egg is cooked.
     Step 4:   Heat a non-stick sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 whisked large egg.
     Cook and scramble the egg till it becomes firm.
     Place the scrambled egg in the pan with the Cheesesteak ingredients.
     Step 5:  Raise the temperature up to medium heat.
     Chop the scrambled egg into pieces with a spatula.
     Toss all of the ingredients in the pan together.
     Mound the cheese steak ingredients together in a straight line across the pan.
     Place a about 2 to 3 ounces of sliced provolone cheese on top of the meat and vegetables.
     Add about 1 to 2 ounces of water to the pan and cover the pan with a domed lid.  The steam will melt the cheese, so wait for about 45 seconds before removing the lid!
     Step 6:  Use a spatula to place the Cheesesteak mixture on the toasted sub roll.
     Place the the Philly Cheese Steak and Egg Breakfast Sandwich on a plate.
     Garnish with a parsley sprig.
     Serve with a breakfast potato of your choice.
     *The breakfast cheese steak in the photographs was served with par boiled potato slices that were simmered in butter with garlic, tomato, sea salt, black pepper and fennel seed.
  
     Viola!  The Philly Cheese Steak and Egg Breakfast Sandwich!  Eating this sandwich for breakfast is just like the party never ended!  Cheese steaks are notorious for "sticking to the ribs" all day long. 

Garlic Kale and Portobello Omelette with Provolone Dolce






     A Satisfying Italian Omelette with bold flavors!
     A simple omelette, like today's recipe , only requires a minimum of time and effort to make.  Only a few ingredients are needed and the only cooking skill that is needed is the ability to flip the omelette.  Flipping eggs like a highly skilled professional breakfast cook actually is a feat that can impress children, friends and visiting gourmands.  It only takes a split second to flip eggs in a pan.  A bystander who watches the eggs being flipped usually makes an awestruck statement of some kind.
 
     "Wow!  How did you do that?  I could never flip eggs in a pan, without having the eggs land all over the kitchen!"  

     I was trained as a breakfast cook by a U.S. Navy Master Cook.  The easiest way to learn how to flip eggs is to not practice flipping eggs!  Practice flipping the end slice of square shaped Pullman Bread instead!
     A heel slice of Pullman Bread weighs the same as an egg.  In one motion, slide the bread forward in the pan till it reaches the curve rim of the pan and then sharply reverse the direction of the pan with just enough force to send the bread in an arcing motion through the air back into the center of the pan.
     A seasoned non-stick pan only has to be moved 1" or 2" back and forth with sufficient energy to flip the slice of bread in an arcing motion that the vurve of the rim of the sauté pan directs.  A vertical motion will not flip the bread!  The pan has to move horizontally.  There are egg flipping videos on Youtube that demonstrate this technique, but when one master flipping the end slice from Pullman Bread Loaf, one masters the feel of the technique.  
 
     Many modern chefs cannot successfully flip eggs, because they have avoided egg cookery during their entire career.  One of the major shortcomings of the new breed of modern chefs is egg cookery.

     Today's recipe is old school.  Bold Italian flavors are featured.  This omelette is not a work of petite portion modern art.  It is an average 2 egg portion omelette that is presented with modest café style.
     Part of the philosophy of Italian cuisine is to create the most flavor with the fewest possible ingredients.  To accomplish this, the garlic has to be cooked to a golden color, the mushrooms have to be browned, the kale has to be sautéed till it wilts and the eggs should have a few golden highlights.  To do this all in one pan requires good timing and temperature control.  

     Provolone Dolce: 
     Imported Italian Provolone Dolce can be found at good cheese shops, Italian delicatessens and specialty markets.  Provolone Dolce is aged 2 to 3 months.  The flavor of this young provolone cheese is mild, rich and it has a sweet finish.  There are no sharp flavor characteristics, like those found in Provolone Piccante, which is aged 6 to 12 months.  Provolone Dolce has a nice gentle aroma and it easily melts.

     Garlic Kale and Portobello Omelette with Provolone Dolce:
     This recipe yields 1 two egg omelette! 
     It is best to prepare the garlic kale in a separate pan, before starting to cook the omelette.  Kale has become a trendy health food item in recent years.  Many people are not aware that Garlic Kale has been an Italian tradition for a very long time.
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 teaspoons of olive oil.
     Add 2 fine chopped garlic cloves.
     Sauté till the garlic turns a golden color.
     Add 1/3 cup of coarsely chopped green kale.
     Briefly sauté and toss the kale, till it starts to wilt.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Allow the carryover heat from the pan to finish cooking the kale.  Stir occasionally, so the garlic does not scorch.
     Season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Set the garlic kale aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a non-stick sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 medium size portobello mushroom that is thin sliced.
     Saute till light brown highlights appear.
     Step 3:  Add the reserved garlic kale.
     Add about 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter, if there is not enough butter and olive oil in the pan to cook an omelette.
     Add 2 whisked eggs.
     Use a spatula to even the edges of the omelette.
     When the bottom half of the omelette becomes cooked firm, flip the omelette.
     Step 4:  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of finely grated Italian Provolone Dolce on the omelette.
     Sauté till the omelette becomes fully cooked.
     Triple fold the omelette while sliding it onto a plate.
     Sprinkle a few pinches of finely grated provolone dolce over the omelette and onto the plate.
     Garnish with an Italian parsley sprig.

     One thing about socializing in the morning, after eating today's omelette, is that folks that you meet will think that you are Italian, because of the garlic breath!  Go with it and just say "Ciao Baby!"

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tower of London Breakfast











     A breakfast tower of gammon, mushy peas, chips, grilled tomato, egg and raw blue agave nectar chive syrup!

     Tower Style Food Presentations
     Tower presentations have been popular for more than a decade now.  Many chefs create tower presentations for dinner entrees and this style does impress guests. 

     Today's Tower of London breakfast has many traditional English food items in the recipe.  Mushy Peas (Mashy Peas) are Mashed Marrow Peas that are usually tinted with green food color.  Cooked dried marrow peas or canned Mushy Peas both are fine for today's recipe.  
     Mushy Peas are not really a main stream item for breakfast, but many English people simply cannot get enough Mushy Peas.  Mushy Peas have a comfortable flavor that is actually nice for breakfast.

     Raw blue agave nectar is not exactly an English item.  It is an old gourmet Aztec cuisine item.  Blue agave nectar has a gentle sweet cactus flavor.  Chives add a little bit of savory herb flavor to the nectar syrup.  A sweet syrup is commonly used to glaze breakfast ham.  The sweet blue agave nectar chive syrup in today's entrée actually compliments the flavors in today's tower stack.

     Construction and engineering skills do come in handy when making today's Tower Of London Breakfast.  Each layer has to be sturdily set in place.  This means that each component must be flat and symmetrically shaped.  Using a steel ring mold will ensure symmetry.  The Mushy Peas have to be as thick as mortar concrete or the breakfast will be like the Leaning Tower Of Pisa!    

     *This entire recipe yields 1 entrée!

     Mushy Peas:
     Place 5 to 6 ounces of Canned Mushy Peas or soft cooked mashed marrow peas in a sauce pot.
     Add 1/4 cup of water.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Place the pot over low heat.
     Gently heat the mushy peas and stir them occasionally.
     Simmer till the mushy peas become a thick stiff consistency.
     Keep the thick mushy peas warm on a stove top.

     Chips:
     Cut 3 1/2" to 4" diameter round slices of russet potato that are about 3/16" to 1/4" thick.  (About 8 potato medallions will be needed for the tower.)
     Heat 1/2" of vegetable frying oil in a cast iron skillet to 360ºF.
     Fry the potato slices in the hot oil, till they become blanched and so they are not brown.
     Remove the chips from the oil and let them cool.
     Fry the chips in the oil a second time, till they become fully cooked and till they become crispy golden brown.
     Place the chips on a wire roasting rack to drain off any excess oil.
     Season with sea salt.
     Keep the chips warm on a stove top.

     Gammon:
     Gammon is the English word for Ham!
     Cut 2 ham steak medallions that are 3/8" thick.  (The ham medallions should be the same diameter as the chips.)
     Heat a griddle or sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Grill the gammon medallions, till they become hot and light brown highlights appear on both sides.
     Keep the gammon medallions warm on a stove top.

     Grilled Tomato:
     A soft tomato will not work in this recipe.  The tomato has to be ripe, yet firm!
     Select a firm ripe plum tomato or a firm regular tomato that is 3 1/2" to 4" in diameter.
     Cut 2 medallions that are about 3/8" to 1/2" thick.
     Heat a griddle or sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2  tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Briefly grill the firm tomato slices till they become hot, yet not mushy or soft.
     Season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Keep the grilled tomato slices warm on a stove top.

     Chive and Raw Blue Agave Nectar Syrup:
     This syrup only takes a minute to make!
     Place 1/3 cup of organic raw blue agave nectar in a small sauce pot.
     Add 2 tablespoon of water.
     Heat the blue agave nectar over medium low heat.
     When the syrup becomes hot, 1 1/2 tablespoons of thin sliced chives.
     Keep the syrup warm over very low heat.

     Scrambled Egg:
     The egg has to be cook soft, so it can be shaped to fit on the stack.  A crumbly dry scrambled egg will not work.
     Heat a non-stick saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 whisked egg.
     Stir and sauté, till the egg becomes fully cooked.  Try to gather and shape the scrambled egg into a round shape that is the same diameter as the tomato slice.
     Keep the egg warm on a stove top.

     Tower of London Breakfast:
     A long skewer can be used to pierce the ingredients of the towering stack to make it more stable, if keeping the tower balances while serving is an issue.  The skewer should be removed when serving.
     The ingredients can be stacked in any order that is preferred, but the order of layer assembled described below actually created a stable tower.  
     Stack the tower ingredients in this order:
     • 3 or 4 sliced chips
     • 1 gammon medallion
     • 3/8" thick layer of mushy peas
     • 1 tomato medallion
     • 2 sliced chips
     • 1 gammon medallion
     • 3/8" thick layer of mushy peas
     • 1 tomato medallion
     • scrambled egg
     Spoon a generous amount of the chive raw blue agave nectar syrup over the breakfast tower and onto the plate.
     Garnish the tower with 2 chive strips.

     Making a tall breakfast tower that does not fall over is not an easy task.  On the first attempt, the tall Tower of London Breakfast in the pictures never collapsed, so making this stack is not exactly impossible.  If a shorter tower is easier to manage, then just use the ingredients to make 2 short towers! 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Ful Medames








     The Famous Egyptian National Dish!
     Ful Medames has been popular since before the age of the Egyptian Pharaohs.  Ful Medames has is earliest origins in Sudan.  Tribesman developed a technique of burying a pot of beans in the hot desert sand.  After cooking in the sun scorched desert sand for several days, the beans and ingredients in the pot were fully cooked with a mushy soft texture.
     Long ago, many cultures ate no beans at all, because beans are poisonous, unless they are cooked to a specific temperature.  Beans were not a common food staple in Egypt till some time after the age of the Pharaohs began.  Of course, the locally available Fava Beans were the top choice.
     The Sudanese Ful Medames cooking method of burying the pot in hot desert sand became a tradition in ancient Egypt for a short time.  The ancient Egyptians eventually applied their own cooking techniques.  The ancient Egyptian Ful Medames recipe has remained unchanged ever since.  Ful Medames is now renowned as the national dish of Egypt!
     Rich or poor, ful medames is enjoyed by all.  Ful Medames is traditionally served as breakfast.  As far as nutritional value is concerned, Ful Medames is one of the healthiest breakfast entrées of them all.
     Fava beans are the featured ingredient.  The flavor of Ful Medames is simple and gentle.  For the most part, Egyptian cooking is only mildly seasoned.  Egyptian cuisine tends to focus more on the flavors of the basic ingredients of a recipe rather than spices and herbs.  Just like with so many of the worlds best recipes, the expression "The simpler the better!" does hold true.
     Ful Medames is usually served with boiled egg and Khubz Arabi (pita bread).  There are many variations of this recipe throughout the middle east.  Today's Ful Medames recipe is a basic traditional version.  
   
     Ful Medames:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty entrée portion.  
     Canned fava beans, cooked dried fava beans or cooked fresh fava beans can be used in this recipe.  The canned or cooked fava beans need to be rinsed.  
     Place 1 1/3 cups of rinsed canned fava beans or rinsed cooked dried fava beans in a sauce pot.
     Add enough water to barely cover the fava beans.
     Bring the beans to a boil over high heat.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add sea salt.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cumin.
     Add 1 pinch of black pepper.
     Add 2 minced garlic cloves.
     Add 1/2 cup of thin sliced onion strips.
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Simmer till the ingredients become tender.
     Remove the lid from the pot.
     Simmer the beans, till almost all of the liquid has evaporated.
     Mash one half of the fava beans in the pot.
     Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil while stirring.
     Keep the Ful Medames warm over very low heat.
  
     Presentation: 
     The quality of the olive oil does make a difference.  Use the best!
     Mound the Ful Medames on the center of a plate.
     Sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice over the beans.
     Drizzle 2 tablespoons of virgin olive oil over the beans.
     Sprinkle some finely chopped Italian parsley over the beans.
     Place some sliced warm pita bread wedges (khubz arabi) on the plate.
     Place a few lemon wedges on the plate.
     Place a hard boiled egg that is cut into wedges on the plate.
  
     The health benefits of olive oil and fava beans may be the reason why Ful Medames has been popular since the days of ancient Egypt!