Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Scorpion Tongues!

     Brine Poached Duck Tongues en Pomegranate Scorpion Pepper Glacé with Buckwheat Soba Noodles ... Scorpion Tongues!

     That Irritation TV Insurance Salesman Duck 
     Anybody that says duck tongues are normal everyday food, must have a big old farm with plenty of quiet ducks.  Thats it! ... Starting a duck tongue cuisine trend could be the way to get that big dumb duck in those TV insurance commercials to shut the up for good! 

     I do not own a TV and I never go out of my way to watch anything on TV, but the "boob tube" is everywhere and it is nearly impossible to avoid.  I go to a craft beer brewery and there is a boob tube, with two or three hops heads watching a skateboarding competition.  I go a dentist office and there is a TV in the lobby tuned to an educational channel and nobody is watching.  It seems like any place where people spend idle time, there is a TV nearby.   

     I go to a friends house and the boob tube is blaring at full volume.  Everybody is stare crazy from shock value commercials that suck viewers right in.  Then the unmistakable sound of that door to door insurance duck echoes from one end of the place to the other.  
     Then someone says, "I hate this commercial.  I used to like that duck when these commercials first came out.  These duck commercials are not as funny as they used to be."  Thats when my own imagination goes right down the toilet, because establishing a love-hate relationship with TV commercials is totally insane!  

     "You see one duck and you seen them all."  The same goes for geese.  They all waddle around the same, they all get equally doofy and they all go "quack quack."  So why would somebody willingly stare at a duck in a TV commercial?  The only reason that I would even take a glance, is because the way my mind works, I would think of countless ways to cook that big fat plump duck up and write a recipe! ... "How could you think of such a thing.  That duck is cute and funny and ... and ... Why are you sharpening your knife?"

     Duck Tongues
     It is easy to get sidetracked when duck tongues are the subject matter.  When talking about duck tongues, it is nearly impossible to make it through the first sentence without hearing someone say, "You mean you eat those things?"  Yes, I am a weird chef and I eat anything, so hide your pets where I cannot find them, just in case I get hungry! 

     All kidding aside, duck tongues are considered to be a delicacy by gourmands worldwide, especially in China.  Restaurants in Chinatown, Las Vegas, serve authentic food that is unlike the Chinese American restaurant cuisine that most people are familiar with.  A high percentage of tourists from Asia dine in Chinatown, so authentic traditional Chinese food items that are offered on the menu.  
     There are at least a half a dozen restaurant in chinatown that offer duck tongues on the menu.  I published an article about the dining experience at the King Fu Chef restaurant a couple years ago.   The Kung Fu Chef ha gone out of business since then, but this restaurant was quickly becoming famous for its odd cuisine, which featured gourmet Asian style offal offerings.  On this visit, I ordered Brine Duck Tongues and I was quite impressed with how tasty these little tidbits were.  

     After trying duck tongues for the first time, I did a little bit of research on the topic.  Apparently duck tongues were once lauded as being a gourmet food item by Europeans many years ago.  Duck tongues pickled in sweet brine served with mustard and pickles was a snack that the wealthy elite enjoyed.  In China, duck tongues are not limited to elite circles.  Duck tongues are pretty much eaten by anyone who likes duck tongues.  

     Just like how Soul Food features many cuts of meat and offals that mainstream people rarely eat, the same can be said about duck tongues in China.  Food is food and wasting food of any kind is not part of the Soul Food theme or Chinese cultural cuisine.  This is in part out of necessity, rather than convenience.  
     In China, there are plenty of mouths to feed, so there are traditional ways to cook every edible part of a plant or animal.  During tough economic times, poor people are accustomed to eating secondary cuts of meat, like liver, trotters, gizzards or even duck tongues.  Many Soul Food recipes were borne during times of economic depravity.
     When duck tongues are offered on a Chinese restaurant menu, this menu item is not only meant to appeal to gourmand customers.  A duck tongue menu item is also meant to appeal to those who have memories of hardship during tough economic times, when a secondary meat cuts were the only affordable food.  So, in a sense, duck tongues could be considered to be Chinese Soul Food. 

     Scorpion Tongues?   
     "I did not know that scorpions had tongues!  Do scorpions really have tongues?"

     I do not really know if scorpions have tongues and this will certainly be another worthwhile topic to research.  The word "Scorpion" in today's recipe title refers to Scorpion Peppers.  Scorpion Peppers are the world's hottest chile peppers.  These peppers are about ten times hotter than a habanero pepper and they are about four times hotter than a Ghost Pepper, so care must be taken when preparing a Scorpion Pepper recipe for guests.

     Since the price of chicken wings is ridiculously high, seeking alternative meats is the best thing to do.  Chicken legs and chicken breast meat that is cut into fingers are easy alternatives to find.  Those few hardcore gourmands that are adventurous enough to seek an exotic alternative will certainly like the duck tongue option.  

     Just like what was mentioned earlier in this article, duck tongues were once a renowned gourmet item and they still are in many places around the globe.  Duck tongues must be in high demand in Las Vegas, because they are marketed at Asian food markets and butcher shops all over this town.  Duck sells for a fairly high price, so duck tongues do command similar pricing.  
     The flavor of duck tongue is tasty.  It tastes rich like duck leg meat.  A piece of cartilage runs through the center of each tongue, so it is best to caution guests that try this delicacy for the first time.  Duck tongues are eaten by grasping the cartilage at the base of the tongue, then biting down on the meat, pulling duck tongue cartilage and the meat is scraped of with the teeth.  Its a "one, two, three" eating process that is kind of fun!

     The sauce for today's recipe is a glacé that is semi sweet and full of nice flavor.  Chinese five spice powder adds a complex spice flavor that is hard to resist.  Pickled ginger was added to the sauce and this flavor really tastes nice with duck tongues.  Pomegranate Molasses gives this sauce a tangy flavor.  The level of spicy Scorpion Pepper heat can be adjusted to suit personal taste.  A medium hot spicy heat level is best for this recipe.  
     Since Scorpion Peppers are rarely sold fresh at food markets, a bottled Scorpion Pepper sauce is the best choice.  Dave's Gourmet makes an unadulterated Scorpion Pepper Sauce that can be used as a cooking sauce.  One or two teaspoons in a sauce will send the spicy heat level to the uppermost limit!     

    Scorpion Lollypop
    I have eaten several scorpions in my lifetime and they taste pretty good when they are cooked.  Scorpion Lollypops are a popular candy here in Las Vegas.  In fact I just happened to have a one handy, so I took a picture and posted it in this article.  The scorpion is so tiny that it is nearly impossible to tell if this insect has a tongue with the naked eye.
     As far as garnish food goes, serving a Scorpion Lollypop with Scorpion Duck Tongues is not a bad idea.  The sweet candy will sooth the fiery pepper scorched senses.  Those gourmands who relish the thought of exotic food, will savor the though of getting to the crunchy scorpion in the center of the lollypop!
     Scorpion Lollypops are worth recommending!  These lollypops are great conversation starters and they are a perfect "Trick or Treat" item.  They are available in several flavors.  The crunchy scorpion center tastes pretty good!

     Marinated Duck Tongues:
     This recipe yields 2 portions!
     Place 12 ounces of duck tongues in a container. 
     Add 2 tablespoons of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar.
     Add Kosher Salt and white pepper.
     Add 1/2 cup of water.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Marinate for 12 hours in a refrigerator.  Toss the duck tongues in the marinade occasionally.
     Drain the marinade off of the duck tongues.
     Keep the duck tongues chilled till they are needed.

     Scorpion Tongue Sauce:
     This recipe yields 2 to 3 portions!
     Heat a stainless steel sauce pot over mediom high heat.  
     Add 1/2 cup of water.
     Add 1/2 cup of sugar.
     Boil till the water evaporates and the molten sugar starts to bubble.
     Cook the sugar till it becomes a light amber color.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Immediately add 1 tablespoon of Pomegranate Molasses.  (Available in Mediterranean Markets.)
     Add 1 1/2 cups of water.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of cider vinegar.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Chinese five spice powder.
     Add 1 pinch of ground clove.
     Add 1 pinch of allspice.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of garlic paste.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of onion powder.
     Add 2 tablespoon of finely chopped pickled ginger.  (sushi ginger)
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of coarse ground Szechuan Pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1 to 3 teaspoons of Scorpion Pepper Sauce.  (to taste)
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of thin soy sauce. 
     Add 1 tablespoon of organic ketchup.  
     Add 1 to 3 drops of red food color, to give the sauce a red tint.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a thin glacé consistency that can glaze the back of a spoon.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Keep the sauce warm over low heat.   

     Buckwheat Soba Noodles: 
     This recipe yields 1 small portion!
     Shocking noodles is a traditional Asian method for creating a chewy texture.  
     Boil a pot of water over high heat.
     Add 1/2 of a full portion of Buckwheat Soba Noodles.
     Stir the noodles occasionally, till they become fully cooked.
     Drain the hot water off of the noodles.
     Place the noodles in a bowl of ice water.
     Stir the noodles by hand, till they feel like they have a firm chewy texture.
     Drain the ice water off of the noodles.
     Set the noodles aside.

     Brine Poached Duck Tongues:
     Care must be taken to not overcook duck tongues because they will skrink in size and the meat will become tough.  
     Place 3 cups of water in a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 2 teaspoons of sea salt.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of Himalayan Black Salt.  (available in Indian markets)
     Bring the brine to a gentle boil.
     Add the reserved marinated duck tongues. 
     Return the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Turn off the heat.
     Let the duck tongues sit in the hot water for 1 to 2 minutes, till they are fully cooked.
     Drain the brine off of the duck tongues, just before serving.

     Scorpion Tongues:
     This recipe yields 1 serving!
     Reheat the 1/2 portion of prepared Buckwheat Soba Noodles in a pot of hot water.
     Drain the water off of the noodles.
     Mound the noodles on the center of a plate.
     Place the hot brine poached duck tongues in a mixing bowl.
     Add enough of the Scorpion Tongue Sauce to generously coat the duck tongues. 
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Mound the Scorpion Tongues on top of the noodles.
     Spoon a little bit of the sauce on the plate around the noodles.
     Garnish the plate with cilantro leaves.
     Serve with chopsticks and a Scorpion Lollypop on the side.

     "Whats the matter?  Scorpion Tongues bit your tongue?"  Spicy hot gourmet Scorpion Tongues!  mmm!

Candy Zombie Fingers, Bone and Bloody Brain Lollypops ~ A Convenient Halloween Candy Making Product Test!

     The Learn The Finished Product, Before Learning The Basics Teaching Principle 
     Homemade Halloween candies, gummies, candy apples, caramel apples and popcorn balls are an old American tradition.  Hand crafted Halloween sweet treats always get plenty of compliments at Halloween parties.  It seems like manufactured Halloween candies never seem to have the macabre look, that hand crafted creepy candies have.  The flavor of homemade sweet treats is better too.

     Those who have little candy making experience not only have to figure a candy recipe out, they also have to figure the candy application techniques out too.  If one or two recipe items do not turn out like they are supposed to, then the entire candy making project can end up being flawed.  This leads to frustration and one disappointing experience often puts an end to candy making altogether.

     Sometimes it is better to learn one aspect of recipe cooking at a time.  For example, when I worked in a French bakery as an apprentice, the first thing that I learned how to do was shape danish pastries.  I shaped danish pastries and croissants for many weeks, before I learned how to make a basic baguette dough or anything else.  The pastry chef's training regiment basically involved making an apprentice learn how to make the finished product, before learning to make the components of that product.  This creates a clear image of the finished product in the mind of an apprentice.  This also makes it easier for an apprentice to learn the nuances involved with making each component, so the original finished bakery product is easier to duplicate.
     The same can be said about making chocolate ganache truffles.  The best way to teach this art is to make a batch of chocolate ganache, show the apprentice how to roll and finish truffles, then let the apprentice keep on shaping the truffles till they thoroughly understand the characteristics of chocolate ganache.  After the clear image of the finished product is sunk into the apprentice's mind, then it will be easier to understand the ganache recipe when it is made for the first time.

     Wilton Candy Melts
     Today's Candy Making Product Test involves Wilton Candy Melts.  This product is good for teaching a beginner how to shape or mold "chocolate" candies, because there is no chocolate tempering or blending involved.  All an aspiring candy maker has to do is melt the Wilton Candy Melts and start making candy.

     The reason that the word "chocolate" is in parenthesis in the previous paragraph is because the Wilton Candy Melts product is not really chocolate.  Most candy makers use white chocolate when making light color candies that resemble chocolate.  There are many sophisticated candy recipes that produce candy that looks and shines like chocolate, but the candy contains no chocolate.  Candy like this is usually made with a thick emulsion of vegetable oil, whey, milk solids, soy lecithin and/or arabic gum.  The flavors and colors can be natural or artificial.

     The Upside:
     • Basically, Wilton Candy Melts are like a modified thick oil based cake frosting that easily melts in a double boiler at 115º and it solidifies like chocolate when it is chilled.
     • Wilton Candy Melts are available in several flavors and colors.
     • The price is about half the price of chocolate.
     • Wilton Candy Melts are convenient.  A home cook can make well over 100 pieces of Halloween candy on short notice with this product, in two hours time.
     • As long as an adult supervises the melting of the Candy Melts, this product is safe for children to use.
     • Any gummie candy molds, fancy ice cube molds or chocolate molds can be used with this product.  (A Zombie Brain Lollypop Mold and Zombie Finger/Bone Ice Cube Tray are pictured above.  Amazon is a good source for molds like these.)

     The Flipside:
     • Artificial ingredients and colors.
     • Modified food product ingredients.
     • High saturated fat coconut oil.
     • An oil based candy that is not compatible with water based substances, like standard food colors.
     • Water based gel or icing will not adhere to this product.
     • This product does melt faster that chocolate, when held with fingers.
     • The flavor is sweet, like firm cake frosting and it is not a classic candy flavor.  The flavor is okay, but it is nothing exciting.
     Tinting and Custom Colors
     Because Wilton Candy Melts are an oil based candy, water base food colors should only be used to very lightly tint the melted candy.  One or two drops of food color is okay, but anything more than a couple of drops will result in candy that will never harden when chilled.  It is best to mix one color with another to make a custom color tint.  For example, to make light grey zombie fingers add 1 drop of black food color or about 2 tablespoons of Black Candy Melt to 1 cup of White Candy Melt.

     Simply spoon the melted Candy Melt into a candy mold.  Smooth the surface.  Chill till the candy hardens.  Trim off any flash or rough edges.

     Since this product review is all about convenience, purchasing small tubes of cake decorating gel is the way to go.  Betty Crocker Brand is just okay because this product has no flavor, but it looks nice.
     Black gel was used to to paint the fingernails on the zombie fingers.  Red gel was dripped like blood on the zombie fingers in the pictures above.  A latex glove was used to smear red gel on the Zombie Brain Pops and the bone.

     Overall, I recommend Wilton Candy Melts for those who have limited time for making Halloween Candy for a Halloween party.  This product is good for those who want to get the hang of Halloween candy making.  This product also helps children to develop creative skills.

     For more information about Wilton products, follow this link:
     • Wilton - Candy Melts


Monday, October 20, 2014

Zombie Brain Headcheese! ... with Herb Focaccia, Neon Relish and Russian Godzilla Spread

     Hubby:  "What's for Halloween dinner?  I hope its a macabre favorite of mine!"
     Wifey:  "I made a new zombie chef surprise, Dearest!"
     Hubby:  "Wow! ... Well, what in the hell is it???"
     Wifey:  "Its a fresh made Zombie Brain Headcheese !!!" 
     Hubby:  "... mmmm !!!  I'm the luckiest zombie in the whole wide world !!!"

     Tis The Season ...
     According to statistics behind the scenes at this website, Halloween Cuisine seems to be more popular than Autumn Season Food or Oktoberfest Food.  In fact, there really is no comparison.  There are plenty of recipes for all three of these cuisine styles in this food website, yet the amount of Halloween Food viewed each week this month is the winner by a wide margin.  This gives me the inspiration to whip up a few more macabre creations, before the October 31st deadline nears!

     A few more Halloween recipes and fun cocktail creations will be published this month.  Most will be posted this week.
     Yesterday, I did an "easy to make candy product" testing evaluation.  The product actually is user friendly.  The finished product will please guests.  The product is relatively safe for children to use, as long as an adult does the solitary cooking step in the recipe.  Making fresh candy for Halloween is a cinch with this product, so viewers that are pressed for time, just might be interested.  This product review will be published this week too.

     Headcheese Information
     • Headcheese is made with the meat scraping from a pig's head.  Brains or organ meat are not used to make head cheese.  The meat is usually scraped off of the pig head after the pig head is boiled.    
     • Whole pig heads are rarely sold at grocery stores or specialty food markets.  A whole pig head can be ordered at a butcher shop, but delivery takes time.
    • Head cheese gelatin is usually made from slowly simmered pig feet that are cooked for a lengthy time.  The gelatinous substance in the pig feet transfers to the simmering liquid.  After clarifying or filtering the liquid, the liquid is simmered and reduced, till gelatinous substance is condensed.  When cooled, the gelatin will have a firm rubbery texture.

     Souse Information
     • Souse is headcheese that is made with pickled pig head scrapings or pickled pork meat trimmings.  It takes 2 to 3 days for pork meat to pickle in a curing salt brine, if the pieces are cut into a small bite size shape.  The bigger the pork pieces, the more time it takes to pickle the meat.
    • Pork meat becomes a bright pink color when it is pickled.  The pickled pork meat does have to be boiled, before it is added to the head cheese gelatin.

     Headcheese Style Zombie Brain Terrine:
     Zombies and Headcheese are definitely scary horror movie topics.  Anybody that has seen "The Night Of The Living Dead" or "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part II" will know exactly why!
     Making headcheese from scratch is a project that many home cooks will avoid at all cost.  There are alternatives!
     A Headcheese Style Terrine is a good choice for a Zombie Brain presentation.  A terrine can be made that resembles headcheese.  It will not be a true authentic headcheese, but it is acceptable for a Halloween Zombie Brain food presentation.
     A Zombie Brain Gelatin Mold like the one in the photos above can be found at the Amazon internet shopping website or at seasonal Halloween Costume Stores.
     These two methods can be used to make a Zombie Brain Headcheese Terrine ...
     Headcheese Style Zombie Brain Terrine Method #1: 
     • Purchase a piece of headcheese or souse at delicatessen, that is the same volume as the Zombie Brain Mold.
     • Place the headcheese in a pot over medium low heat.
     • Add about 1/3 cup of water.  (To compensate for evaporation.)
     • Gently simmer till the headcheese gelatin liquifies.
     • Remove the pot from the heat and allow the contents to cool to almost room temperature.
     • Place the headcheese meat and its gelatin in a Zombie Brain Mold.
     • Refrigerate overnight, so the gelatin becomes a firm texture.
     • Dip the outside of the Zombie Brain Mold in hot water to loosen the gelatin.
     • Invert the Zombie Brain Mold onto a serving platter and remove the mold.
     Headcheese Style Zombie Brain Terrine Method #2:
     This entire recipe yields enough Pickled Pork Aspic Terrine mixture for a 4 1/2 cup capacity Zombie Brain Mold!  The entire mold does not need to be completely filled.  The Zombie Brain in the photos above is a little less than 4 cups in volume. 

     Pickled Pork:
     Cut 3 1/2 cups of raw pork trimmings or pork shoulder meat into small to medium bite size pieces.  Trim off all of the fat.
     Place the pork in a 2 quart capacity plastic container and cill till later in the recipe.
     Place 1 quart of water in a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of Morton Tender Quick Curing Salt.
     Add 1 1/2 Tablespoons of Kosher Salt.
     Add 1 tablespoon of sugar.
     Add 1/4 cup of cider vinegar.
     Add 2 laurel leaves.
     Add 6 whole dried allspice berries.
     Add 1 teaspoon of whole fennel seed.
     Add 1 tablespoon of whole mustard seed.
     Add 2 tablespoons of Brazilian peppercorns.
     Add 6 cloves.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Turn off the heat and allow the pickling liquid to cool to room temperature.
     Add the pickling liquid to the chilled pork in the plastic container.
     Chill at less than 40ºF for two to three days.
     Place the pickling brine and pork in a pot over medium high heat.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer till the pickled pork is fully cooked.  (This only takes a few minutes!  Try not to overcook the pork or it will become tough.  The pork pieces will shrink in size and this is okay.  The total volume of cooked pork will end up being about 2 3/4 cups to 3 cups.)
     Pour the pork and brine into a colander strainer and discard the liquid.
     Rinse the spices off of the pork under cold running water and place the pickled pork in a container.
     Chill the pickled pork in a refrigerator.
     Aspic For The Headcheese Style Zombie Brain Terrine:
     This recipe yields 3 1/2 cups of firm aspic!  This is a little bit more than what is needed for the terrine project. It is better to have too much aspic, than not enough!  Any extra aspic can be diluted, chilled and served with salad.
     There are three types of gelatin that can be purchased in grocery stores or from restaurant food purveyors.  Vegetable based gelatin, animal based gelatin and seaweed agar.
     Standard powdered gelatin and standard sheet gelatin are both animal based gelatins.  Animal based gelatin is made from pig feet and cattle hooves, just like headcheese gelatin.  Standard powdered gelatin is used to make today's Zombie Brain Headcheese Terrine. 
     Aspic is a flavored gelatin.  Consommé or bouillon is used to flavor the gelatin in this recipe.  As a convenience, canned Consommé or dried bouillon is fine for this recipe.  Ham Bouillon Cubes are the best choice.  Pork Bouillon Cubes are the second best option.  A 50/50 mixture of Chicken Consommé and Beef Consommé is also a good choice for flavoring the gelatin.  
     If dried bouillon is used, follow the directions on the package for making 3 1/2 cups.  Bring the bouillon to a boil, then cool the bouillon to room temperature.
     The aspic has to have a fairly firm texture, or the Headcheese Terrine will fall apart when sliced.
     Place 3 1/2 cups of a consommé or a bouillon flavor of of your choice in a stainless steel sauce pot.  The liquid should be at room temperature.
     Rain 26 grams of powdered standard gelatin over the liquid in the pot.
     Allow the gelatin to bloom.
     Place the pot over low heat.
     Gently simmer till the gelatin dissolves.  Stir occasionally.
     Remove the pot from the heat.
     Allow the liquid to cool to almost room temperature.

     Headcheese Style Zombie Brain Terrine:
     Select a Zombie Brain Mold that has a 4 cup to 4 1/2 cup capacity.
     Place the mold on a curled up kitchen towel in a roasting pan, so it sits evenly.  Place the towel around the base of the mold to prevent it from tipping over.
     Pour enough of the aspic into the Zombie Brain Mold to make a layer that is about 1/2" deep.
     Chill the aspic in a refrigerator till it becomes firm.   (About 20 minutes)
     Place the chilled pickled pork pieces in the Zombie Brain Mold.
     Add enough of the aspic to cover the pork with an extra 1/4" of liquid.
     Cover the mold with plastic wrap.
     Chill the aspic overnight, so the aspic completely gels.

     Herb Focaccia:
     This recipe yields enough dough for two medium size flat round shaped loaves!  
     Any herb mixture can be used to make this bread.  I used a generous amount of Herbs de Provence to make the bread in the Photos above.  
     Follow this link to the recipe in this website:
     • Seasonal Herb Focaccia

     Russian Godzilla Spread:
     This recipe yields about 3/4 cup!
     The word "Godzilla" refers to the Wasabi and the green color.  
     Potent strong Russian Mustard is used to make this extra zesty tasting sandwich spread.  Russian Mustard can be found at Eastern European food markets.  
     Place 1/2 cup of mayonnaise in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 2 tablespoons of Russian Mustard.  
     Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of Wasabi Powder.  (Asian food markets stock Wasabi Powder.)
     Add 1 or 2 drops of green food color, to give the sauce a creepy green look.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Place the Russian Godzilla Spread in a large ramekin.  Keep the sauce chilled till it is needed.
     Zombie Brain Headcheese Platter:
     Dip the outside of the Zombie Brain Mold in pot of tepid hot water to loosen the gelatin.
     Invert the Zombie Brain Mold onto a Halloween Theme Serving Platter and remove the mold.  (Dollar Stores stock nifty looking Halloween platters!)
     Cut a Spanish Onion in half from from top to bottom.  Cut several thin demi-lune onion slices.  (half moon slices)
     Overlap the demi-lune onion slices on the platter around the Zombie Brain Head Cheese.
     Evenly space several thin heirloom tomato wedges around the Zombie Brain on the onions.
     Place an Italian parsley sprig on each tomato slice.

     Herb Focaccia, Neon Relish and Russian Godzilla Spread Platter:
     Cut a loaf of Herb Focaccia into sandwich slices and overlap the slices on a large serving platter.
     Place the ramekin of Russian Godzilla Spread on the platter.
     Garnish the Godzilla Spread with a swirl of organic ketchup.  Drag a chopstick through the ketchup to create an artistic effect.
     Place a ramekin of Chicago Neon Relish on the platter.  (Neon Relish is available at Amazon or a Chicago Hot Dog Stand.)

     Three Halloween Zombie Brains are better than one!  This is the third Zombie Brain that I have created for this website.  "There is always room for more brains!" ... mmmmm!

Bratwurst Pig In A Blanket Pancake with Winter Spice Pomegranate Apple Compote

     Oktoberfest can only be celebrated on a few specific days in October?  No! 
     Some folks say that Oktoberfest lasts only 16 days.  Some say Oktoberfest runs the entire month of October.  
      Originally, Oktoberfest began after the mad rush to get the fall harvest completed was accomplished.  In northern regions like Germany, this meant harvesting the crops before the first frost of winter struck, so the exact date that Oktoberfest began, really depended on the weather.  If it was an Indian Summer year, then the fall season harvest might have been closer to November.  If Arctic air arrived early and the skies were filled with thin wispy clouds, then the autumn harvest might have gotten started in early September. 

     In the old horse and wagon days, it usually took every able bodied person in a village two full weeks of working nearly around the clock to bring the harvest in, before the first frost took its bite.  
     Those who were not able to do the heavy duty harvest field work were relegated to tending to duties in town that required plenty of effort too.  Cooking food for the workers, canning or drying food for winter, milling grain and stockpiling livestock feed had to keep pace with the flow of the harvest coming in.  

      Part of the duty of those who could not work the fields was to prepare libations for work force, when the harvest was completed.  Good strong beer was brewed and for many workers, this was the incentive to get the fall harvest job done.  After the grueling labor intensive harvest was completed, the entire workforce was exhausted and it was time to replenish the energy that was spent.  In the old days, this is when the Oktoberfest celebration got underway!
     Every tired harvest season worker got their fill of food and beer after that last grain of spelt landed in the hopper.  It takes the body a few weeks to recover from doing hard physical labor for more than 12 hours per day, everyday, for two to three weeks.  
     The best way to help sore tired muscles recuperate, is to eat good hearty food like a horse and drink good beer like a fish!  Singing beer songs and dancing a jig is part of celebrating a job well done.  The Oktoberfest celebration lasted till the celebration beer ran out and the cows went home to the barn.  Sometimes Oktoberfest lasted a week and sometimes the celebration went on for nearly an entire month.  
     Part of the reason for the Oktoberfest indulgence was to put on a layer of winter fat.  In the old days, having an inch or two of extra fat around the midriff was like having a good insurance policy.  When stuck somewhere in an early blizzard with no food, the fat built up from Octoberfest practically guarantees survival.  
     When some kind of a politically correct pencil pushing geek demands that celebrating Oktoberfest can only be done during a specific short time frame in the month of October, just tell that party killer to bug off and get a life!  
     Oktoberfest officially starts when the fall season harvest is done and the celebration lasts till everybody gets their fill of hearty food and beer.  The party really only ends after everybody in the village puts on a cushion of fat for the first icy cold spell.  So, feel free to celebrate Oktoberfest as much as necessary for as long as necessary, because there truly is no specific beginning or end! 

     Today's Breakfast Pig In A Blanket
     Today's breakfast features pomegranate and apples.  These are autumn season fruits.  Fresh pomegranate can be use to make the compote glacé, but Middle Eastern Style Tangy Pomegranate Molasses is a better choice.  Pomegranate Molasses really is not a true molasses.  It is a very rich, condensed pomegranate syrup.  Imagine packing the flavor of 100 pomegranates in a 12 ounce bottle and this will give an idea of just how strong Pomegranate Molasses is.  A little bit goes a long way.  
     A bottle of Pomegranate Molasses will oxidize to a brown color with age, but the flavor will not change.  An open bottle of Pomegranate Molasses can be kept in a refrigerator for several years and it will still be good.  Any time that pomegranate flavor is needed, a spoonful is all it takes  This product comes in handy when pomegranate is out of season or when making sauces.

    The tart tangy flavor of pomegranate accents the sweet flavor of fresh apple in a nice way.  German winter spices are almost always used to flavor an autumn or winter season fruit compote.  A fruit compote is basically fresh fruit that is cooked in a sugar syrup or honey.  The fruit can be cut into any shape, but thick pieces ensure that the fruit will not degrade and turn into a mushy puree.  The fruit should not be overcooked or mushy.  It should be tender, yet slightly firm.  
     The amount of syrup needed for fruit compote depends on the application.  A fruit compote served on its own should have a minimum of syrup.  A fruit compote that will be used like a sauce for ice cream, desserts, French Toast, crêpes or pancakes should have an abundant amount of syrup with the fruit.  People that like compote do like fruit, so be generous when adding fruit to a compote recipe.  One whole Red Delicious Apple was served as compote with today's pig in a blanket.  Generous portions of fruit in autumn can boost the strength of the immune system, even if the fruit is cooked en syrup as compote.

     According to food historians, original Pig In A Blanket was a Vienna Style Weiner Sausage covered with biscuit dough and baked.  Oversimplifying food history does make thins easier to convey or commercialize.  
     It does not take a genius to wrap a sausage with dough and cook it, so the original Pig In A Blanket actually dates much farther back than Weiner sausages made with a mousseline style slurry, which were created in the mid to late 1800's.  In all probability, sausage of any kind cooked in dough was the first Pig In A Blanket, even though the name of this recipe was not yet coined.  
     Naming a cooked dough wrapped sausage a Pig In A Blanket was actually an act of sheer creative genius.  The name infers a pork sausage cooked in a blanket of dough.  The name also describes an artistic vision of a pig curling up in a blanket trying to stay warm, so the name suggests that this recipe is meant to be cooked when the weather is chilly. 

     I have published a few nice gourmet Pig In A Blanket recipes in this website so far.  All of them get plenty of views from people around the globe.  Apparently there is plenty of interest in gourmet Pig In A Blanket entrees and an entrepreneurial chef with savvy could capitalize on this food item theme, but the bulk of sales would be limited to chilly weather seasons.  

     Pancake Breakfast Sandwiches and Pancake Pig In A Blanket Breakfast Entrees are nothing new.  At chain restaurants that specialize in breakfast cuisine and at average greasy spoon diners, quality is always sacrificed in the name of profits and the lowest bidder gets the cooking job.  I never recommend chain restaurant food, especially for breakfast.  Trendy restaurants where quality is number one is where a good creative gourmet Pig In A Blanket breakfast item might be found and that is a big maybe.  

     In Germany, bratwurst is often served for breakfast.  The seasoning for basic bratwurst is nearly the same as American breakfast link sausage.  Bratwurst is mild tasting and the flavor goes well with apple compote and pancakes.  Settling for teeny little American style breakfast link sausages wrapped in a pancake is not the way to go, especially when Oktoberfest is going on!  Go Oktoberfest and go big!  A big plump juicy bratwurst is much more appealing when served as a breakfast pig in a blanket this time of year.     

     Winter Spice Pomegranate Apple Compote:
     This recipe yields 1 large portion or 2 small portions!  
     This compote is saucy, because it is served with pancake in today's recipe.
     The sugar is cooked to light yellow caramel color for this recipe.  Always wear protective clothing when working with molten sugar! 
     Heat a small sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 1 cup of water.
     Add 1/3 cup of raw organic sugar.
     Rapidly boil and reduce, till the liquid evaporates and the sugar starts to bubble as it enters the soft thread stage.  
     Boil the molten sugar, till it reaches the hard crack stage and the sugar starts to become a very light yellow amber color. 
     Reduce the temperature to medium low heat. 
     Add 1 cup of apple juice.
     Add 1 tablespoon of Pomegranate Molasses.  (Available at Mediterranean Markets)
     Add 1 cup of water.
     Add 1 pinch of ground clove.
     Add 1 pinch of allspice.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon og ground ginger powder.
     Add 1 pinch of cinnamon.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of finely grated orange zest.
     Adjust the color to a red tint, by adding 1 to 3 drops of red food color.  (organic food colors are available)
     Add 1 Red Delicious Apple that is cut into 1/4" thick wedges.  (Core the apple and leave the skin on.  A medium to medium large apple is plenty.)
     Gently simmer and reduce, till the sauce becomes a thin syrup consistency.  
     Keep compote warm very low heat.  Add water if the syrup becomes too thick.

     Southern Style Flapjack Batter:
     Yield:  1 cup flour = about 1 1/2 cups of flapjack batter.  This is enough batter for 1 portion of 3 large pancakes or 1 portion of several sliver dollar pancakes! 
      Increasing this recipe's yield can easily be done.  A 2 cup yield is a good pancakes portion for 2 guests.
     For making a Pig In A Blanket, the batter should be thin enough to create a pancake that is about 1/4" thick at the most.  Adjust the consistency of the batter by adding 1 to 3 more tablespoons of milk or water.  Pour a tiny test size pancake to see if the thickness is correct.  
     Place 1 cup of sifted all purpose flour into a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 1/4 teaspoons of baking powder.
     Add 1 tablespoon of sugar.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Add 1 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.
     Add 1 tablespoon of melted unsalted butter, while stirring.
     Set the flapjack batter aside for ten minutes, then gently stir the batter one more time.

     Place a 5 to 6 ounce sausage in a small roasting pan.
     Lightly brush the sausage with vegetable oil.
     Roast the bratwurst in a 325º oven, till it becomes fully cooked and lightly browned.
     Keep the sausage warm on a stove top.

     Bratwurst Pig In A Blanket Pancake with Winter Spice Pomegranate Apple Compote:
     This recipe yield 1 serving!
     Heat a seasoned cast iron griddle or non-stick griddle over medium/medium low heat.
     Lightly brush the griddle with melted unsalted butter.
     Use a small ladle to pour 1 thin pancake that is 1" wider than the length of the bratwurst.  
     As soon as the batter starts to warm and rise, bubbles will appear on the surface.
     When a few batter bubbles appear over the entire surface of the pancake, then it is time to use a spatula to flip the pancake.
     Grill the flipped pancake, till no raw batter can be seen on the edges.
     Place the pancake on a cutting board, with the best looking side facing down.  (The side that was grilled first!)
     Trim 2 opposing edges of the pancake, so the pancake is almost as wide as the length of the bratwurst.  
     Place the bratwurst on the trimmed pancake and roll it up, till the pancake overlaps.  Trim off any excess pancake overlap, so the Pig In A Blanket look neat.
     Spoon a generous amount of the Red Delicious Apple Wedges from the compote on a plate as a bed for the Pig In A Blanket.
     Place the Bratwurst Pig In A Blanket on the apple wedges.
     Spoon the remaining apple wedges and Pomegranate Apple Compote Glacé Sauce over the Pig In A Blanket and on the plate. 
     Garnish with a mint sprig.
     Serve with crème fraiche or whipped unsalted butter on the side.  (optional) 
    Viola!  A nice looking Pig In A Blanket for breakfast that is perfect for a chilly October morning!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Red Cowpeas Hummus on Armenian Matnakash with Virgin Olive Oil, Heirloom Yellow Tomato and Garni

     Healthy Vegetarian Football Party Snack Food!
     One thing that I have noticed while browsing menus at local gaming taverns and sports bars over the years is that few vegetarian options are offered.  More often than not, the vegetarian menu offerings are the same old worn out token items.  A pre-manufactured frozen vegetable burger patty, carrot & celery sticks with salad dressing of some kind, fried zucchini or a salad is just about all there is to choose from in most sports bars.  
     In recent years, hummus has started to hit the vegetarian option list on tavern and sports bar menus.  The only problem is that the hummus is often purchased as a pre-manufactured frozen product that contains many additives and preservatives.  Hummus is very easy to make and there really is no excuse for a restaurant to purchase pre-prepared hummus.  

     The Easy Way, Low Wages, Low Quality And Low Customer Satisfaction
     I recently went to a tavern in my Las Vegas neighborhood that is plagued with problems that range from poor customer service to food quality issues.  I saw that hummus was offered on the new menu.  I asked if the hummus was made by the cooks in the kitchen and the answer from the bartender was, "We buy that stuff pre-made from a food distributer.  I doubt if our cooks can even make hummus..."  The bartender's answer went over like a lead balloon.  
     First of all, the bartender's answer was honest, but uncalled for.  The answer did nothing to build consumer confidence.  
     The bartender's response also shed light on a company policy of only hiring the cheapest unskilled help available, instead of hiring a good experienced cook with a culinary arts education, who is capable of creating great tavern cuisine that would build a competitive edge.  
     Apparently the kitchen was just managed like an overpriced side show and only low wage robots were hired to cook pre-prepared heat & eat food for customers that did not care about food quality.  I sat the menu down, paid the tab for one small beer that tasted lousy and exited the tavern.   

     There is nothing that impresses me about a restaurant that serves pre-made food service items.  When every restaurant or tavern in a local area serves the same pre-made food service items like salad dressings, soups, sauces, chili, frozen fried food and desserts, the food at every tavern in the area looks the same and tastes the same.  There is no creative human element involved with pre-made institutional food.  

     The managerial excuse for purchasing only pre-made food, usually has something to do with maintaining food quality consistency.  Honestly, there would be no need to depend upon pre-manufactured food service food to maintain quality, if highly skilled cooks were hired at a decent wage. 
     In other words, a poorly managed restaurant would rather pay high prices for pre-made food, than to pay for highly skilled help.  Pre-prepared restaurant food costs a lot more to purchase than basic raw food goods.  
     A tavern that sells pre-made food has a food cost percentage that is close to 30%.  An experienced sous chef can prepare the same menu items with raw food from scratch and maintain a food cost percentage that is closer to 23%.  The food quality will be excellent.  
     There is no validity in saying that marketing pre-made institutional food reduces operational costs.  Great food increases customer flow, so by the end of the year the higher salary of a sous chef is easily covered and there is still a wide margin of profits over and above the increased payroll cost!     

     The quality of pre-prepared institutional food is mediocre at best and it is on a par with fast food.  Pre-manufactured restaurant food contains everything from preservatives, artificial colors to GMO food products.  Consumers realize the health threats and this is why customer flow is decreasing at restaurants that market pre-made institutional food.
     Customers are not stupid.  Restaurant customers can take one look at a plate of food and they know if the food came out of a box or whether the food was cooked from scratch.  A pre-made meal that comes out of a box that is prepared by an unskilled cook for lowball wages, does nothing to raise the standard of living, it does not improve the reputation of the American hospitality industry and it does not increase customer satisfaction.  

     A menu full of pre-manufactured food items opens no doors of opportunity for highly skilled experienced cooks or skilled culinary arts students that have an extensive hospitality industry education.  A restaurant or tavern that only offers pre-prepared institutional food, effectively is denying employment for the most qualified skilled personnel in the hospitality industry.  
     Serving only pre-made institutional food combined with low wage unskilled labor hiring practices supports white slavery and indentured servitude of peons.  Customers that frequent restaurants or taverns that practice this policy are in fact supporting the same negative cause.  
     Great fresh food prepared by skilled experienced educated cooks wins the quality and customer satisfaction game hands down, every time.  If a strategy of hiring skilled cooks to cook great food from scratch ends up being a flop, blame can only be placed on the management, for not using good judgement when screening employee candidates.     

     Red Cowpeas Preparation:
     This recipe yields about 6 to 8 portions of red cowpeas!  The extra cowpeas can be used to make other recipes.
     Dried red cowpeas can be purchased in Indian food markets and Mediterranean markets.  Dried Cowpeas take a long time to cook, but a pressure cooker can speed up the process.  
     Red Cowpeas are tough little beans and they will not become mushy soft, no matter how long they are simmered.  They will become tender enough to mash for a hummus recipe.
     Soak 3 cups of dried red cowpeas in water in a refrigerator overnight.
     Rinse the red cowpeas under cold running water.
     Place the red cowpeas in a pot.
     Add enough water to cover the beans with 4" of extra liquid. 
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of Kosher Salt.
     Add 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar.  (optional)
     Place the pot over medium high heat and bring the liquid to a boil for 15 minutes.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.  
     Place a lid on the pot.
     Simmer the beans till they become tender.  Add water if necessary to keep the beans covered with liquid.       
     Red Cowpeas Hummus:
     This recipe yields 5 or 6 small portions!
     Classic hummus is made with chickpeas, tahini paste, lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper and sumac berry spice.  Traditional hummus is made with a few other beans too.  
     Modern hummus can be made with any kind of bean.  The other ingredients in the classic recipe should be retained.  Extra spices, herbs or flavors that are added to jazz a hummus recipe up, should be able to taste good with the basic components of the classic hummus recipe.  Middle eastern spices like cumin, coriander, mace and black caraway seed and many herbs naturally go well with the basic classic hummus flavor.  
     Today's hummus recipe features Red Cowpeas.  Red Cowpeas have a rich bold bean flavor.  They are a good source of fibrous carbohydrates, calcium and protein.  
     Dried Red Cowpeas can be purchased in Indian food markets and Mediterranean markets.  Dried Red Cowpeas take a long time to cook, but a pressure cooker can speed up the process.  
     Red Cowpeas are tough little beans and they will not become mushy soft, no matter how long they are simmered.  They will become tender enough to mash for a hummus recipe.
     Place 2 1/4 cups of rinsed cooked Red Cowpeas in a food processor. 
     Add 1/4 cup of virgin olive oil.
     Add 1/3 cup of tahini.  (Tahini is pure sesame paste.  It is available at middle eastern markets.  Tahini absorbs a lot of water, so be sure to follow the guidelines in the last step of this recipe!)
     Add 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Hungarian Paprika.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cumin.  
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of red sumac berry spice. 
     Add 1 teaspoon oregano.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of garlic paste.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of onion powder.
     Add 1/4 cup of water.
     Puree the ingredients.  
     *It will be necessary to add a a few spoonfuls of water at a time, while pureeing the hummus, but do not add too much water.  The tahini pastes will absorb a lot of water and become thicker, till it can absorb no more liquid at all.  The goal is to create a smooth thick hummus paste that is easy to spread.
     Place the hummus in a container and refrigerate for 2 hours, so the flavors meld.

     Armenian Matnakash:
     Matnakash is the national bread of Armenia.  The dough is exactly the same as Italian focaccia.  This bread is shaped with an oval edge.  The middle of the bread loaf has straight furrows that represent a freshly plowed field.  
     Matnakash can be served on its own or it can be topped with a variety of items.  The look of Matnakash also resembles a sports stadium, so it is a natural choice for making football game snack food!
     I do support local bakeries and I do not attempt to make every single bread in this website.  Bakers need to make money and featuring good hand crafted bread from a bakery helps the cause.  
     I purchased the large Matnakash Loaf in the pictures above at the Jones Market-Eastern European Food in Las Vegas.  
     • If making fresh Matnakash is preferred, follow the link to the Focaccia Dough recipe in this website. 
     • Shape a large flat oval loaf on a parchment paper lined baking pan.  
     • Let the dough rise a little bit.  
     • Use a dull pastry wheel or a thin small plastic lid to roll the oval crust outline and furrow design on the dough.
     • Follow the focaccia baking instructions in the dough recipe.  

     Red Cowpeas Hummus on Armenian Matnakash with Virgin Olive Oil, Heirloom Yellow Tomato and Garni:  
     This recipe yields 1 medium pizza size Hummus Topped Matnakash, that can be cut into 10 to 12 football party snack portions!
      It is best to think of this vegetarian party food project as being a pizza.  In fact, this appetizer can be likened to a cold pizza!  Most hardcore football fans dig leftover cold pizza, so these characters will be pleased, especially with the flavor!  
     Spread a generous amount of the Red Cowpeas Hummus over the "infield" of the Matnakash Loaf.
     Evenly space several thin slices of an heirloom tomato of your choice on the hummus.
     Place 1 thin slice of green jalapeño on each tomato slice.
     Drizzle 2 to 3 tablespoon of virgin olive oil over the hummus and vegetables.
     Garnish with:
     - Cilantro Leaves
     - Roasted Red Bell Pepper Strips
     - Mexican Crema or Goat Milk Yogurt (optional)
     Sprinkle a few pinches of Hungarian Paprika over the hummus and toppings.  
     Serve whole on a cutting board with a knife on the side ... or cut into portions and serve on a football party platter.

     Viola!  A healthy vegetarian football party appetizer that has no shortage of flavor.  Yum!