Saturday, July 18, 2015

Petit-Déjeuner de Nord-Africaine

     A North African Style Breakfast Entrée!
     I used to work with an old French chef who was in the French foreign legion.  He was posted in North Africa and his restaurant cuisine reflected upon this.  Many French chefs made infused the cuisine of North Africa with French cuisine throughout history. The unique style of French cuisine was well liked by the retirement age clientele that remembered Hollywood movies like "The Maltese Falcon."  

     Those who like the classic Egyptian breakfast recipe, Ful Medames, will surely like today's North African style breakfast creation.  Harissa Tomato Chickpeas adds a nice flavor to this breakfast entrée.  Moroccan spiced couscous has an interesting flavor that is suitable for breakfast.
     Hard boiled eggs are traditional for breakfast nearly everywhere in North Africa and the Middle East.  In the old days before paved roads and automobiles, hard boiled eggs were easier to transport long distances by Beduins riding horses or camels.  Hard boiled eggs became a traditional breakfast out of necessity for cultures like the Beduin.
     One of the long lasting French culinary influences in North Africa is bread.  French Baguettes are popular nearly everywhere in North Africa, especially Tunisia.
     Boiled Eggs:
     Sometimes I publish this boiled egg recipe for beginners. 
     Fresh eggs that are only a few days old are nearly impossible to peal.  Eggs that are closer to 2 weeks old are the best for making hard boiled eggs.
     Step 1:  Place 1 to 12 large eggs in a sauce pot.
     Add enough cold water to cover the eggs with an extra 2" of liquid.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
     Place the pot over high heat.
     Step 2:  As soon as the water starts to boil, set the timer.
     *For soft center yolks, set the timer for 8 to 10 minutes.  For fully cooked yolks, set the timer for 12 minutes.
     Boil till the timer goes off.
     Step 3:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Place the pot under cold running water to cool the eggs.
     Step 4:  Peel the eggs under water.

     Harissa Tomato Chickpeas:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     This harissa sauce contains tomato for a mellower breakfast flavor.
     Harissa can be made with dried ground mild red peppers or it can be made with fresh roasted and smoked mild red peppers.
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Sauté till the onions turn clear in color.
     Step 2:  Add 1/2 cup of water.
     Add 4 ounces of tomato puree.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of ground Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1 small pinch of cayenne pepper.  (optional)
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Add 1 pinch of coriander.
     Stir the sauce.
     Step 3:  Add 1 cup of rinsed pre-cooked garbanzo beans or rinsed canned garbanzo beans.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer till the sauce becomes thick enough to easily coat the beans.
     Keep the chickpeas warm over very low heat or reheat them to order.

     Moroccan Spice Couscous:
     This recipe yields 3 to 4 portions.
     Step 1:  Place 3/4 cup of water in a small sauce pot.
     Add 1/2 cup of chicken broth.
     Add 1 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of garlic paste.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced onion.
     Step 2:  Add 1 pinch of turmeric.
     Add 1 pinch of saffron.
     Add 1 small pinch of cinnamon.
     Add 1 small pinch of mace.
     Add 1 very small pinch of ground clove.
     Add 1 pinch of cumin.
     Add 2 pinches of coriander.
     Add 1 small pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1 small pinch of ground fennel.
     Step 3:  Place the pot over medium high heat.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Add 3/4 cup of small fine couscous.
     Stir and boil, till most of the liquid becomes absorbed by the couscous.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of virgin olive oil.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of lime juice.
     Stir the couscous.
     Place a lid over the couscous pot.
     Keep the couscous warm on a stove top.

     Petit-Déjeuner de Nord-Africaine:
     Use a custard cup mold to place the Moroccan Spiced Couscous on the center of a plate.
     Spoon the Algerian style harissa chickpeas on the front half of the plate.
     Place several slices of toasted French baguette bread on the back half of the plate.
     Cut the boiled egg into quarters and place them on the harissa chickpeas.
     Garnish with Italian Parsley sprigs.

     Viola!  A nice looking North African style breakfast with a little bit of French influence!

Monday, July 13, 2015

North Carolina Pulled Pork BBQ, Grits and Egg Breakfast Platter

     North Carolina Pulled Pork BBQ For Breakfast?  Why not!
     Pulled Pork BBQ has been a very popular item nationwide in in the last ten years.  North Carolina folk do kind of get a chuckle out of all the late comers!  It is not like Pulled Pork BBQ is something that is brand new.  Pulled Pork BBQ has been a local favorite from Virginia to South Carolina for well over 150 years.  In North Carolina, a Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwich is more popular than BBQ ribs or chicken!
     I have been eating pulled pork BBQ since I was a kid.  On three day weekends, my family sometimes took a drive to North Carolina to visit to relatives there.  The big southern country style meals at a relative's home were great.  After doing a traditional big dinner spread, nobody felt like doing much in the kitchen the next day.  Hopping in the car and going to a local BBQ stand was just as good as homestyle southern hospitality for visiting guests.  Everybody looked forward to getting their fill of good old fashioned North Carolina style Pulled Pork BBQ!
     Years ago, Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwiches were usually relatively small in size and it was easy to munch on a few sandwiches at a time.   During a family get together BBQ run, we ordered dozens of small Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwiches for each carload of family members.  Everybody hopped in the car with the bags of Pulled Pork BBQ sandwiches, then we would just take a drive in the scenic countryside while chowing down.  The Pulled Pork BBQ usually ended up getting smeared and spilled all over the interior of the car.  Thats what is called North Carolina BBQ style car air freshener!

     I have seen plenty of different interpretations of Pulled Pork BBQ in recent years that are made by cooks that have never been to North Carolina.  Outside of the Carolinas, most of what is currently sold as pulled pork BBQ is incorrectly made.  For example, at the Las Vegas BBQ Championships, I noticed that what one of the competitors was calling Pulled Pork BBQ, was nothing more than big tough chunks of coarsely chopped roasted pork with sweet BBQ sauce dumped all over it.  That is not even close to being real North Carolina Pulled Pork BBQ!

     Pork shoulder is the best choice of pork cut for making Pulled Pork BBQ.  The pork shoulder is slow roasted and constantly basted with an acidic vinegar pepper sauce over a low temperature on the grates of a big Open Pit BBQ.  The pork is Open Pit Barbecued and basted, till the meat is tender enough to pull off the bone and shred into chunks by hand.  This is the traditional way to make Pulled Pork BBQ.
     Some folks use a meat smoker instead of an Open Pit BBQ to make Pulled Pork BBQ.  This method works pretty good too, as long at the meat is constantly basted with the acidic vinegar pepper sauce.
     Baking the pork in an oven is okay, if you are in an apartment or there are smog regulations in your area.  The Pulled Pork BBQ will be tender, but it will lack the light smokey flavor.

     After slow roasting, the pork meat will have a golden color with few brown highlights, because the meat was basted so often.  Constantly basting with a thin vinegar pepper sauce that is enriched with butter is the secret to cooking great North Carolina Pulled Pork BBQ.  The acidic liquid and butter is what makes the meat so tender.  A fork stuck in the meat that is twisted, should be able to tear a off a shredded piece of tender moist pork.  The pork meat should easily pull from the bones and fat.  The meat should easily shred with a fork or fingers.  If the meat has to be chopped, because it is too tough to shred, then the meat was not cooked correctly.
     The only way to accomplish cooking a pork shoulder that is perfect for making Pulled Pork BBQ is to slowly roast the pork at a temperature of 275ºF and to baste the pork once every 10 minutes or so.  The thin vinegar BBQ basting sauce is what does all the work!
     North Carolina Thin Vinegar Basting BBQ Sauce:
     This recipe yields almost 1 quart of thin basting sauce.  This is enough for an average size pork shoulder roast.  
     This sauce is very thin and it is diluted with water, as it should be, because this sauce is meant to be mopped on the pork meat as often as possible.  
     The sauce does not look like much and the sauce does not taste great on its own.  This sauce is designed to baste spare ribs quite often as they slowly roast over a very long period of time.  
     The end result is pork meat that is saturated with a great tasting vinegar, mustard and hot pepper flavor.  The butter in the BBQ basting sauce will keep the meat very moist and tender after hours of slow roasting.
     Step 1:  Place 3 cups of water in large sauce pot.
     Add 4 ounces of unsalted butter.  
     Add 3/4 cup of cider vinegar.
     Add 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire Sauce.
     Add 3 tablespoons of Louisiana Mild Cayenne Pepper Sauce.
     Add 3 tablespoons of Dijon Mustard or 2 tablespoons of English Dry Mustard.
     Add 3 tablespoons of North Carolina style Crushed Red Peppers In Vinegar.
     *This is a North Carolina style pickled pepper table condiment.  The hot pepper infused vinegar is sprinkled on food and the peppers remain in the bottle.  The remaining crushed hot pepper in the bottle is often used in recipes.  If you cannot find this kind of pepper sauce, then a good substitute is Korean style Coarse Ground Red Serrano Chile Pepper Paste.  (Sambal)
     Step 2:  Add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper.
     Add 3 tablespoon of granulated sugar.
     Add 1 teaspoon of garlic powder.
     Add 1 teaspoon of onion powder.
     Step 3:  Place the pot over low heat.
     Stir the ingredients, till the butter melts into the thin vinegar basting sauce.
     Set the pot aside.  
     North Carolina Pulled Pork BBQ:  
     This recipe yields 1 average size whole pork shoulder roast.  (A 16 ounce piece of pork shoulder can be used in this recipe if less Pulled Pork BBQ is needed.)  
     • The pork shoulder roast can be cooked in a 275ºF oven if you need to cook indoors.  
     • The pork shoulder can also be cooked in a 250ºF smoker.  
     • For a deep Open Pit BBQ, use a mix of 1 part hickory and 3 parts white oak.  Build a fire and let the wood turn into embers.  Spread the embers to one side of the pit, so the temperature is in a slow BBQ roasting range of 250ºF to 300ºF.  The fire may need to be stoked a few times, so there are enough embers to slow roast the meat over a long period of time.
     • The meat must be basted at least once every 10 minutes.  If you run low on basting sauce, make more!
     Step 1:  Making good pulled pork BBQ is easy, but the meat will have to be tended once every 10 minutes for a long period of time.
     *For the oven or smoker method, place the pork shoulder roast on a wire screen roasting rack on a roasting pan.  Load the pan in a 275ºF oven or a 250ºF smoker.   
     *For the Open Pit BBQ method, place the pork shoulder on a grate over a moderately low temperature spot.
     Step 2:  Slowly roast the pork shoulder.
     Lightly baste the pork shoulder at least once every 5 to 10 minutes with the thin vinegar BBQ basting sauce.
     Turn the meat occasionally, so it cooks evenly.
     Step 3:  By the time a hour goes by, the meat will start sputtering fat and juices.  This is when the meat just starts getting tender.  Keep on basting and roasting, till the meat is tender enough to pull and shred.  There should be little or no of basting sauce leftover when the pork is done.
     *When finished, the pork should have a light orange color with flecks of hot red pepper.  The pork should be minimally caramelized from the low heat slow roasting and because of the constant basting.
     Step 4:  Test for tenderness.  Stick a fork in the meat and give it a firm twist.  The fork should be able to tear off a shredded piece of tender moist pork.  The pork meat should easily pull away from the bone and fat.  The meat should be tender enough to easily shred with a fork or fingers.  
     Step 5:  Allow the pork to cool to less than 100ºF.
     Use fingers or a fork to pull and shred the pork meat into small pieces.  Big pieces can be coarsely chopped.
     Discard the fat and any pieces of bone or tough gristle.
     Step 6:  Place the pulled pork in a sealed oven proof container or a sealed Dutch Oven Pot.
     Warm the Pulled Pork BBQ to 165ºF before serving.  
     Serve the Pulled Pork BBQ with your favorite picnic style fixin's.
     *Save an extra portion of Pulled Pork BBQ for today's breakfast recipe!

     Hominy Grits:
     This recipe yields 2 portions.
     Step 1:  Boil 2 cups of water in a small sauce pot.
     Add 1/2 cup of old fashioned stone ground hominy grits, while constantly stirring with a whisk.
     Step 2:  When the grits just start to thicken the liquid, reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Simmer the grits till they are tender and be sure to whisk the grits often.  Simmer till the grits are thick, but not stiff.  Add water if the grits become too thick.
     Step 3:  Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Keep the grits warm over very low heat.

     Grilled Tomato:
     Heat a sauté pan or griddle over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Cut the top and bottom off of a small tomato.
     Season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Grill the tomato till it starts to become tender.
     Keep the grilled tomato warm on a stove top.

     North Carolina Pulled Pork BBQ, Grits and Egg Breakfast Platter:
     Place 1 portion of Pulled Pork BBQ (5 to 6 ounces) in a covered casserole dish.
     Warm the pork in a 275ºF oven.
     Cook 1 or 2 eggs any style that is preferred.
     Use a ring mold to place the warm pulled pork BBQ on a plate.
     Spoon a generous serving of grits on the plate.
     Place the eggs on the plate.
     Garnish the plate with the grilled tomato and an Italian Parsley sprig.
     Serve with toast, cornbread or biscuits on the side.

     Pulled Pork BBQ is nice for breakfast! 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Finger Banana Cinnamon Pancake with Sesame Raw Blue Agave Syrup

     Gourmet Pancakes!
     Banana Pancakes are a popular item in diners and breakfast restaurants.  They are usually made with thin sliced bananas.  I chose finger bananas for today's cinnamon flavor pancake recipe, because they have an intense sweet banana flavor.  This combination of flavors kicks the good old banana pancake up a notch into the realm of gourmet status!
     Walnut or pecan flavored syrups taste great with banana pancakes.  Sesame Seed tastes great with with banana pancakes too.  The sesame seeds were toasted to increase the flavor.  Pure Sesame Oil also was added to the raw blue agave nectar to create a richer flavor.
     Raw blue agave nectar has been around since the days of the Aztecs.   The flavor of raw blue agave nectar does have a slight cactus or tequila flavor.  Agave Nectar pours like honey and it is a natural fructose syrup.
     Many people recently jumped on the blue agave nectar health kick bandwagon, but a high fructose sweetener, like agave nectar, can pose health problems even if it is natural.  To maintain health is best to use moderation when consuming agave nectar.
     Southern Style Cinnamon Pancake Batter:
     Yield:  1 cup flour = about 1 1/2 cups of pancake batter or 1 portion of 3 large pancakes!
     Step 1:  Place 1 cup all purpose flour into a containter.
     Add 1 1/4 teaspoons of baking powder.
     Add 1 tablespoon of sugar.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon.  (to taste)
     Sift the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl 
     Step 2:  Add 1 large egg.
     Add 3/4 to 1 cup of milk, while slowly whisking, till a medium thin consistency batter is formed.  The batter should be thick enough to coat a spoon and it should be able to be poured.
     Add 1 tablespoon of melted unsalted butter, while stirring.
     Set the batter aside for ten minutes, then gently stir the batter one more time. 
     Chill the batter till it is needed. 

     Sesame Raw Blue Agave Syrup:
     This recipe makes enough for 1 serving!  
     Place 1/3 cup of raw blue agave nectar in a small sauce pot.
     Add 1/4 cup of water.
     Add 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil.
     Place the sauce pot over low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till most of the water evaporates and it becomes a thin syrup consistency.
     Keep the syrup warm over very low heat.

     Finger Banana Cinnamon Pancake:
     There is enough batter for a yield of 3 large pancakes.  
     About 3 or 4 finger banana halves is enough to flavor each pancake. 
     *The steps below describe making 1 finger banana pancake!    
     Step 1:  Heat a griddle over medium/medium low heat.
     Spread about 1 teaspoon of melted unsalted butter on the griddle.
     Step 2:  Cut 2 small finger bananas in half lengthwise.
     Place 3 or 4 finger banana halves on the griddle, so the round side faces down.  Space the finger banana halves about 1" apart from each other.
     Step 3:  Pour enough batter for one large pancake over the finger banana halves.  (about 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup)
     Cook the pancake till bubbles can be seen over the entire surface of the pancake.
     Step 4:  Use a large spatula to flip the pancake.
     Cook till the pancake is a light golden brown color on both sides.

     Finger Banana Cinnamon Pancake with Sesame Raw Blue Agave Syrup:
     Place the finger banana cinnamon pancake on a plate.
     Spoon a generous amount of the sesame raw blue agave syrup over the pancake.
     Garnish with piped whipped cream and raspberries.  (optional)

     This is a nice looking pancake that tastes great!  The sesame raw blue agave syrup is perfect for this gourmet pancake!