Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Brawn Swag Zepp! - Braunschweiger Zeppelin with Bermuda Onion, Heirloom Tomato, Upland Cress and Dill Mustard Spread

Swag baby!

     Sometimes I just publish a food article about something simple.  Occasionally the simple food item is something that the viewers or myself have overlooked or completely forgotten about.  Braunschweiger is a good example of such an item.  
     Habitually eating the same food items everyday, week or month is what some folks do.  Sometimes it is by choice, but most often a repetitious food venue in the home kitchen is actually a habitual rut that a consumer might not be aware of falling into.  
     Morning sleepy heads that eat the same brand of cereal everyday for a week, often end up making a comment about how they did not realize that they ate the same breakfast for the previous seven days.  
     On the seventh day, these words are expressed:  "I am getting sick and tired of this same old lousy soggy cereal everyday!  How did I fall into this rut without realizing it?  Tomorrow, I am eating something different for breakfast!"  ...  
     Then tomorrow comes.  "...  And  on the eighth day, the sepreme being created a refrigerator and cabinets to stare into, when trying to think of something different to eat for breakfast."  
     Because the mind is numbed by repetitious meals and habitual rituals each morning, it becomes difficult to break out of the mold.  After staring into the fridge like somebody experiencing legal recreational marijuana for the first time after taking a vacation to Colorado, enlightenment occurs.  Of course a self commentary ensues:  "You know something  ...  I am totally clueless!  I have been eating the same breakfast everyday for so long, that I cannot think of anything else to eat, even though I am staring at tons of food in my fridge!  Forget about it!  I'm just going back to bed and I will get a pizza to-go later around lunch time!"  
     Food psychology, general psychology and organizational psychology are classes that I recently excelled in while attending a culinary management BA college degree program.  My success in getting high grades in psychology was due in part to having decades of experience in the restaurant business and by making observations.  In health cuisine class and nutrition class, food psychology is applied when diagnosing eating disorders and when discussing the eating habits of consumers.  From a professional chef standpoint, these are interesting topics to delve into, because they are relevant in today's modern age.  
     Some of those who suffer from eating disorders have no self control when eating food or when selecting food to eat.  Ingrained psychological disorders are usually the root of the problem in this case.  The problem might be a frustration that is difficult to overcome.  The problem might be a simple phobia that leads to selecting certain foods that provide fearless comfort.  
    The root problem of an eating disorder also might have something to do with lifestyle.  For instance, mindlessly spending too much time watching television can numb all sense of creativity and inspiration.  Classic television brainwashing techniques have the goal of causing the audience to dumb down, stare at the picture tube and use audio visual impulses to guide the participent toward common thoughts shared within the audience that are triggered by the content of the program.  
     The TV show might be boring, then the audience perks up, because the commercial is more exciting.  The television brainwashing goal is achieved and the commercial sponsors are pleased.  Unfortunately, the dumbed down audience ends up eating the same brand of cereal everyday till it becomes tiresome, then they draw a total blank while staring into the fridge when seeking something different to eat.  Now the dumbing down effect becomes evident as being a negative lifestyle influence.  Because no alternative or new food thoughts come to mind, frustration takes over and a stopgap measure is employed, before settling back into the same old routine.  One might say that the realization of this behavioral pattern by the subject, is the only self sufficient thought during the entire series of circumstances.  
     When that singular enlightening thought occurs while stuck in a habitual eating pattern, grasp the thought and do not allow it to escape!  Run with it and go for it!  Create change.  Just stop staring into the fridge, slap a few odd food items together that are out of the norm, give the creation a name and eat the stuff.  Even if the stopgap food creation tastes awful, it will help to break the chains of repetitive behavior and it will help to trigger more self sufficient thoughts.  Giving up, giving in and settling for the same old bowl of cereal status quo will be less likely to occur, even after breaking the behavioral pattern for just one short moment. 

     Why people overlook food items or completely forget about certain foods is a bit more difficult to figure out.  Factors that weigh heavily are a individual's lifestyle or recently adopted lifestyle changes.  
     For example, a consumer is sitting on porch with friends that are having boring conversation and his thoughts go adrift.  He recollects how he used to really like liverwürst sandwiches and remembers eating one 20 years ago in the past.  An urge to make a liverwürst sandwich occurs.  After staring into the home fridge, he find no liverwürst on hand.  He says to himself "I need to get some liverwürst next time I go to the store."  
     While at the grocery store, the consumer completely forgets about the liverwürst.  He returns home and keeps wondering about what he forgot to get at the store.  Then while staring into the crystal ball of the spirit world, which just happens to be his home kitchen refrigerator, he remembers the liverwürst.  Then he goes out on the porch with his friends.  His friends ask him:  "Why in the heck are you eating that same old cereal at 3:30 in the afternoon?"  ...  In response:  "Because I forgot the liverwürst, dammit!"
     The friends laugh and laugh because they thought the consumer was trying to be funny.  They laugh because they think that nobody in their right mind could possibly like liverwürst.  Out of frustration, the consumer jumps in the car and makes a mad dash to the grocery store to get the forgotten liverwürst.  Then the ultimate downer occurs when the consumer finds out that every hunk of liverwürst in the store was previously sold out.  
     After the frustrating experience concludes, the liverwürst is forgotten about for another few years.  Even when liverwürst is in stock at the grocery store and the consumer sees it on the shelf, the thought never crosses his mind to make a purchase.  Every once in a while as time moves on, he sees liverwürst on the store shelf and thinks "Gee!  A few months ago I was going to buy that stuff."  Because of the frustrating series of events that happened during the last liverwürst mission, the consumer takes a pass on the liverwürst and purchases something else.  
     Cravings that end in frustration have a way of influencing a consumer's food choosing ability.  Avoiudance or overcompensation are usually the course of action taken after a frustrating food incident.  It is comical, but this is human nature in modern times.  
     Liverwürst happens to be an item that people do not think about everyday, so even thinking about this food item can be frustrating.  This is true, especially when the mind draws a total blank when trying to remember the name of this product.  There is no use trying to describe this food product to a bystander, when trying to remember the name of this food, because most people are not liver fans and they will just say "yuck!"  Ce est la vie!   

     Liverwürst and Braunschweiger are similar yet different products.  Both contain liver and pork fat.  Braunschweiger differs liverwürst, because by USDA and European standards there is specific percentages of liver, minced scalded hog jowl meat, minced meat scraps, smoked bacon, pork fat and seasonings that compose the sausage meat mixture.  Beef liver, pork liver or a combination of both can be used to make either of these sausages, but in some cultures, only pork liver can be used.  
     Braunschweiger was created in Brauschweig Germany and the original recipe actually is similar to the braunschweiger that is sold in modern markets.  Sausage makers at butcher shops and specialty markets do produce hand crafted braunschweiger that is a little bit better quality than commercial braunschweiger, but the differences are minimal.  Commercial braunschweiger actually is a an authentic accurate product.  Local manufacturers and small German American sausage companies to produce braunschweiger that has more character than national name brands.
     There are three major braunschweiger varieties.  One is like a sliceable fairly firm smooth liver pâté that has an inedible plastic sausage casing.  The second is braunschweiger in a natural sausage casing.  The third is smoked braunschweiger.  Smoked branschweiger is always smoked whole in its natural casing and minced smoked bacon becomes an optional sausage mixture ingredient.  
     One intangible thing that these two specialty sausages have in common, is that consumers tend to overlook, forget or avoid liverwürst and branschweiger when shopping or thinking of something different to put on the dinner table.  Not everybody is a liver fan, but those who like liver relish the thought of a good lverwürst or branschweiger sandwich!
     Today's sandwich recipe is simple.  The goal was to use modern popular sandwich garnishes to make the braunschweiger sandwich more appealing.  Upland cress, non-GMO organic heirloom tomato and a nice sandwich spread flavor achieve this goal.  Giving the sandwich a modern catchy name also helps the cause.  The name "Brawn Swag Zepp" is a slang sandwich name that has a ring to it and would look good on a delicatessen menu.  Trendy food names like this do create customer interest.  A Zeppelin Sandwich is the same thing as Subamarine Sandwich, but a Zeppelin is usually made with German style ingredients.  German American sandwich shops in the northeast region of America often call their sub sandwich offerings a Zeppelin or a Zepp for short.  

     Dill Mustard Sandwich Spread:
     This recipe yields enough spread for 1 large zepplin sandwich!      
     Place 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped dill weed.
     Add 1 pinch of blackk pepper.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Chill the spread for 20 minutes, so the flavors meld.  

     Brawn Swag Zepp: 
     Braunschweiger Zeppelin Sandwich with Bermuda Onion, Heirloom Tomato, Upland Cress and Dill Mustard Spread.   
     Warm an 8" to 10" whole wheat sub roll in an oven, then split it in half.
     Spread the dill mustard on the bread.
     Layer these garnishing ingredients:
     • A generous amount of upland cress
     • Thin sliced Non-GMO organic heirloom Brandywine Tomato or Beefsteak Tomato
     • Very thin sliced sweet bermuda onion
     Overlap 6 ounces to 8 ounces of 1/4" thick slices of braunscheiger on top of the garnishes.  
     Attach the top slice of bread with bamboo skewers, cut the zeppelin in half and place it on a plate.
     Garnish the plate with dill sprigs and petite sweet gherkin pickles.  

     Get your braunschweiger zeppelin swag on!  Yum!  

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Omelette de Cilantro Haricot Blanc avec Avocat, Poivre Verte et Sauce Soubise

     Fancy omelets never go out of style.  Omelette entrees can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Depending on the ingredients, omelets are also fairly cheap to make.  These thrifty egg entrees can dramatically lower food cost in a restaurant. 
     Most restaurants just offer the same old worn out breakfast menu and the omelette selection lacks ingenuity.  The sky is the limit, as far as omelette creativity goes, so why limit omelets on menus to a limited choice of standard run of the mill ingredients?  Be creative!  Make a new novel omelette!  Use exotic ingredients.  Combine classic sauces with non traditional ingredients.  Create a theme for the omelette and give it a nifty name.  Omelette cookery is an arena for creativity!  
     I once had to endure listening to a stubborn old culinary instructor drone on and on about one topic after another.  Most of the material presented in the classroom was actually based on personal opinion and it was not factual in nature.  Just how many opinionated chefs do, this instructor liked to play the teacher's pet game in a detrimental way.  The teacher showed favoritism to naive students that bought opinionated material hook line and sinker.  The instructor made life difficult for those who had enough culinary experience to see through her charade.  Needless to say, this stubborn old mule teacher hated my guts!
      The teacher was kind of a hack when it came to egg cookery.  This instructor stated that eggs cannot be cooked to a golden color or golden brown color.  Not only is this rule just a matter of opinion, it is an example of faulty defunct logic.  Honestly, eggs should be cooked to a color that is appropriate for the recipe or they should be cooked to the preference of the individual.  
     When recreating antique omelette recipes, it is often necessary to cook the eggs till golden brown highlights appear.  Up till the 1980's, omelets with golden highlights were the standard in fine restaurants, especially if the omelette was served as a dinner entree.  In the late 1800's, when every fine dining restaurant offered an elegant breakfast or brunch, an omelette with golden brown highlights was considered to be perfection.  As one can see, there really is no sense in a chef making a tyrannical one size fits all cooking rule that demands that eggs cannot have golden brown highlights.
     While cooking in Philadelphia in the 1970's and early 1980's, it seemed like every restaurant offered fancy dinner omelets.  At one restaurant that I worked in, the menu offered 27 different fancy omelette creations.  Three other cooks and myself served over 2,000 customers every night at that restaurant.  Many of the Philadelphia customers requested that their omelet be cooked till it was lightly browned.  In fact, a few customers actually always specified that they preferred their omelette be cooked till it was thoroughly browned.  A dark brown omelette?  If it makes the customer happy, then it must be done, even if it makes an opinionated chef feint.  If a chef applied the "do not brown the eggs rule" at this restaurant, many customers would have been alienated.  The restaurant would also receive criticism, because golden brown highlights on omelets was stylish at that time.  
     Part of being a chef involves discerning fact from fiction.  Tossing out cooking rules that are based on one chef's personal opinion is part of the game.  Not discounting the opinion of chefs with slander is the other part of the culinary game, because opinions do have a way of being handy at some time, some way.  Authenticity and tradition shape the real rules of cooking, while anything else is just a matter of opinion.  Ultimately the common goal is to please the customer and the goal is not to enact arbitrary cooking rules that do not respect the taste preferences of the customer.  In the case of today's omelette recipe, this omelette was specifically cooked to a golden color, because the savory flavor works well with a sweet soubise sauce.  On a personal note, I cook the food for this website and I have to eat the stuff that I cook.  Occasionally like golden brown color eggs!  Go with it!  

     Sauce Soubise is a sweetened onion and shallot béchamel sauce.  Soubise adds a nice contrast to savory entrees that have a delicate flavor.  After giving it some forethought, I figured that sauce soubise would be an interesting choice for today's omelette recipe.  Soubise actually tastes incredibly good with eggs, cilantro and avocado.  White kidney beans (cannellini) have a gentle neutral bean flavor.  Brine packed green peppercorns add a contrasting offsetting flavor accent.  This is not the easiest flavor combination to imagine, but after one taste, the senses are pleased!  

     Bechamel Sauce:
     This recipe yields 2 to 3 portions of sauce.
     Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour, while constantly stirring, to make a roux.
     Constantly stir till the roux become a white color, with very little hazelnut aroma.
     Add 1 cup of milk while whisking.
     Add 1/2 cup of cream.
     Stir as the sauce heats and thickens to a very thin sauce consistency.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped onion.
     Add 1/2 of a clove.
     Add 1 small laurel leaf.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 tiny pinch of nutmeg. 
     Gently simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a thin sauce consistency.
     Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a second sauce pot.
     Keep the sauce warm on a stove top.     

     Sauce Soubise:
     This recipe yields 2 to 3 portions of sauce!  The sweet flavor should be delicate and not overpowering.
     Heat a sauce pot over medium low/low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/3 cup of finely chopped onion.
     Add 1 minced small shallot.
     Gently sauté and sweat the onions, till they become very tender.  (Do not brown the onions!)
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar.
     Add the bechamel sauce.
     Add 1/2 cup of cream.
     Reduce the sauce, till it becomes a medium thin sauce consistency.
     Add 1 pat of unsalted butter while whisking.
     Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a second sauce pot.
     Press as much of the onions as you can through the sieve into the sauce.  Scrape the bottom of the strainer into the sauce.  Discard the coarse onion pieces that remain in the strainer.
     Keep the soubise sauce warm over very low heat.

     Cannellini Preparation:
     This recipe yields enough for 1 omelette!  Canned Cannellini are fine for this recipe.
     Place 1/3 cup of canned cannellini in a strainer and rinse the beans under cold running water.
     Place the white beans in a small sauce pot.
     Add 1/2 cup of water.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Heat the cannellini over medium low heat.
     Simmer till almost all of the liquid evaporates.
     Keep the cannellini warm on a stove top. 

     Brine Packed Green Peppercorns Preparation:
     This recipe yields enough for 1 omelette!
     Heat a small sauce pot over low heat.
     Add 1/3 cup of water.
     Add 8 to 10 brine packed green peppercorns.
     Add 1 tablespoon of brandy.
     Gently heat the peppercorns.
     Simmer and reduce, till almost all of the liquid evaporates.
     Keep the peppercorns warm on a stove top.

     Omelette de Cilantro Haricot Blanc avec Avocat, Poivre Verte et Sauce Soubise:
     Place 2 large eggs in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 teaspoon of milk.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Whisk the eggs till they become foamy.
     Add about 1 to 2 tablespoons of torn cilantro leaves while stirring.
     Heat a non-stick sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add the egg mixture.
     Add the warm cannellini beans.
     Use a rubber spatula to even the edges of the omelette.
     Sauté till the bottom of the omelette becomes firm.
     Flip the omelette.
     Sauté till the omelette is fully cooked and golden highlights appear.
     Fold the omelette while sliding it onto a plate.
     Spoon a generous amount of the sauce soubise over the omelette and onto the plate.
     Fan 5 overlapping slices of avocado on the center of the omelette.
     Garnish the avocado with 3 thin strips of red bell pepper.
     Place the prepared warm green peppercorns on the avocado garnish.
     Garnish the plate with cilantro sprigs. 

     Viola!  An elegant tasting flavor combination that will certainly appeal to the ladies in the crowd!  This omelette is not too challenging for those who prefer gentle comfortable breakfast flavors.  Yum! 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Temptation Melon with Desert Wildflower Honey Dill Goat Milk Yogurt

Its summer melon season!

     Now is the time to go to the market and shop for refreshing summer melons.  There is nothing like a chilled melon for beating the heat.  Melon is full of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants that help the body to overcome stress, fatigue and that tired feeling that occurs just about siesta time on a sweltery July afternoon.
     Temptation Melons are also called Orange Honeydew.  This melon is milder tasting than a cantaloupe and it has a bolder classic melon flavor than a honeydew.  The rind has an opaque very light pale whitish tan color.  The rind is very thin and easy to trim.  The flesh has a greenish color close to the rind.  The orange color flesh is fairly bright, but it is a bit paler than a cantaloupe.  
     A few weeks ago I purchased a mason jar full of Desert Wildflower Honey at a roadside stand.  Desert Wildflower Honey is very dark and rich tasting.  It is the perfect match for a light refreshing melon, especially when it is mixed with dill weed and tart tasting goat milk yogurt.  The dill adds a gentle garden herb flavor that tastes nice with fresh melon.  
     This recipe can be whipped up in a matter of minutes.  The flavor balance is very forgiving, so do not be afraid to use a fair amount of fresh dill weed.  Adding honey to goat milk yogurt causes a thinning reaction.  The yogurt sauce becomes very thin and the flavor easily coats slices of melon.  This crafty sauce tastes nice on a hot day! 

     Desert Wildflower Honey Dill Goat Milk Yogurt Sauce: 
     This recipe yields 1 serving or enough for a half of an average size Temptation Melon! 
     Place 1 1/2 tablespoons of Desert Wild Flower Honey in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of goat milk yogurt.  (Greek Yogurt)
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of chopped dill weed.
     Add 1 small pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Set the Desert Wildflower Honey Dill Goat Milk Yogurt Sauce aside.

     Temptation Melon with Desert Wildflower Honey Dill Goat Milk Yogurt:
     One half of a temptation melon is 1 portion!   
     Cut a Temptation melon in half from stem to bottom.
     Scoop out the seeds.
     Use a chef knife to shave off the rind.
     Cut the melon into long, wedges that are about 3/8" to 1/2" thick.
     Arrange the melon wedges in a pattern on a platter, so they look nice.
     Spoon a generous amount of the Desert Wildflower Honey Dill Goat Milk Yogurt over the Temptation Melon Wedges.
     Garnish with dill sprigs.

     Viola!  A simple easy to make plate of summer melon with a tasty sauce that is perfect for starting the day.  This recipe can be served as a snack or a light desert too.  Yum!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Fried Catfish, Eggs, Mississippi Potatoes, Biscuit, Grits and Coffee ... Mississippi Home Cookin' at the M&M Soul Food Café, Las Vegas!

Great Soul Food in Vegas!  

     Good old fashioned down home southern cooking' is food for the body and soul.  Southern cooking is Soul Food.  I grew up on this cuisine as a kid and when it comes down to it, nothing is better.  Everything is made from scratch.  There is no shortage of flavor.  There is nothing wasted and no flavor escapes being served up on the plate.  The portion sizes are honest.  Soul Food is hearty, healthy and nutritious.  
     Soul Food not only satisfies the soul, it provides comfort and satisfaction.  Far too many chefs forget that customer comfort is the key to success in the restaurant business.  Ego driven chefs strive to reign at the top of whatever the latest greatest cuisine trend is.  Lately it has been petite portion fusion food and petite portion French health cuisine.  Petite portion food for an extremely high price does nothing for the soul, body or wallet.  There is no value in these cuisines, from a monetary or comfort standpoint.  
     In the opinion of many critics, modern fine dining petite portion food is too challenging to create customer comfort.  Back in 2001, I was hired on 9/11 at a 5 Diamond Resort as a tournament and entremetier in a 3 Star Michelin rated French restaurant.  After 9/11, sales plummeted at that restaurant, because the petite portion fusion cuisine did not satisfy the needs of customers during stress filled times of disaster.  The food was far too challenging and it provided no comfort.  
     The executive sous chef sent the chef de cuisine packing and he personally took over the French restaurant kitchen.  The exec sous chef was from the prestigious Grenbriar Resort in West Virginia, where classic fine American fine dining cuisine runs supreme.  The exec sous chef dumped the fusion food theme at the restaurant and created a great menu of Modern American - Classic French Haute Comfort Cuisine.  Sales skyrocketed!  The restaurant set new sales records and the best night netted over $98,000.  The money does all the talking in the case.  Customers prefer great comfort food that provides satisfaction, even in a 3 Star Michelin French restaurant that has an average plate price of $120.  There is no need to say anything more!
     I was part of the team that made it all happen at that restaurant.  As readers can plainly see in the food website, my recipes range from gourmet fine dining honest portion size cuisine to down home comfort food.  Many of my recipes are actually in the gourmet French comfort food category.  Statistically, the most popular recipes in the website are the comfort food creations and traditional comfort food recipes.  In fact, the Collard Greens and Smoked Neck bones recipe has been the number one most viewed recipe for nearly five years.  This is more than just a gentle hint for guidance when thinking about what cuisine is really number one.  Good old fashioned comfort food wins hands down!  As far as comfort food goes, Soul Food takes the cake!
     Thoughts and memories like these run through my mind every time that I visit a restaurant to gather information for an informative article.  These thoughts are the basis of my vantage point when I analyze the cuisine strategy at a restaurant, but I do not let this become a bias.  I respect petite portion creations made by great chefs, but when my soul craves a belly full of food, I steer clear of fine dining restaurants that serve overpriced small portions of fine food.  As a college student on a tight budget, comfort and value is what I seek most often at a restaurant.  There is no better place to find value and comfort than in a good old fashioned Soul Food restaurant.  Ce est la vie! 

     I probably have driven past the M&M Soul Food Café a thousand times over the years.  This restaurant looks plain and quaint from the outside and it has been around for a long time.  I do enough southern style Soul Food cooking at home to satisfy cravings for this cuisine, but during the peak of the high desert summertime hot weather, I rarely do any hot food cooking in my home kitchen.  The A/C power bill is high enough as it is, without heating the house up with a gas stove, so I write back logged recipes instead during the summer months.  Yesterday, I had a deep craving for some good old fashioned southern food and the image of the M&M Soul Food Café flashed in my mind like a bright neon light.  Dining destination confirmed!  
     After walking through the doors, I was surprised at what I saw.  The dining room at the M&M was just like a classy diner down south.  There was even a diner style counter with stools that added a classic touch.  A cup of coffee, breakfast and reading the newspaper while sitting at a counter in a diner is an old American tradition.  The M&M Soul Food café is definitely a comfort zone. 
     The M&M breakfast menu is plain and simple, just like down south.  There is no long list of one, two or three egg entree selections that serve to do nothing more than thoroughly confuse customer.  The Breakfast menu reads like this:  "Breakfast is served with your choice of Mississippi Style Potatoes, Rice or Grits, 2 Eggs cooked your way, and choice of homemade biscuits or toast."  A nice list of Soul food breakfast entree meat selection options follows the breakfast menu description.  This is all that really needs to be stated on a breakfast menu, because most customers know every breakfast entree option by heart anyway.  Here is an example of how smoothly a breakfast order can be placed with this simple, clean, effective, unique old fashioned diner style menu: 
     Customer:  "I think I will have breakfast ..."
     Waiter:  "How do you want your eggs?"
     Customer:  "Over medium with Mississippi Potatoes and a Biscuit."
     Waiter:  "Any sides?"
     Customer:  "Fried Catfish and Grits."
     Waiter:  "I will be right back with your order.  ...  Can I refresh your coffee?"
     Customer:  "Sure! ...  Thanks!"
     Viola!  Part of creating customer comfort is elimination complications.  The breakfast menu at the M&M Soul Food Café achieves this goal in a big way.  This style of menu also works best in a very busy diner, because it expedites customer waiting time efficiency.  It also enables the service staff to handle far more customers.  I like this style of breakfast menu, because it cuts through the fat right to the meat of the matter.  
     The list of meat options on the breakfast menu is chalk full of southern style Soul Food favorites.  Liver & Onions, Pork Chops, Sausages, Catfish and Beef Patties are some of the options.  Because controlling cholesterol intake is of high importance these days, Turkey Links and Turkey Bacon are also offered.  The rest of the breakfast menu lists side dishes and a few specialties like French Toast, Omelets and Pancakes.  Of course the all time classic Soul Food breakfast entree is offered at M&M.  Chicken & Waffles!

     The lunch and dinner menu has a great selection of classic southern style Soul Food offerings.  Everything from Red Beans & Rice to Oxtails and Gumbo are on the menu.  Chitterlings are on the menu seven days a week.  For those who never tried chitlins, this is a Soul Food entree that must be tried at least once in a lifetime.  Once you try chitlins, you never have to ask the question that plagues the minds of the common average white folks ever again.  "What are these things called chitlins?  Is it some kind of delicacy?"  Ha!

     Needless to say, I really enjoyed the dining experience at the M&M Soul Food Café.  The dining room and counter areas were spotlessly clean.  The service was attentive, friendly and professional.  The Fried Catfish and Eggs Breakfast was beyond expectations.  The portion size was big and honest!  The quality was superb and the Mississippi style cooking was comfortable, tasty and satisfying, just like it is down south.  As far as the atmosphere goes, it is easy to get in the mood for dining on some great Mississippi style Soul Food, because old school Funk, Motown and Soul Music play at a comfortable level in the background at M&M.  Parking is easy to negotiate, because there is plenty of room on both sides of the building.
     The M&M Soul food Café is located at 3923 West Charleston Boulevard at the intersection of Valley View.  This restaurant is close to downtown, the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Las Vegas Strip.  It is just a short hop from I-15 and Highway 95.  For more information about this restaurant, follow this hyperlink to their website:  M&M Soul Food Café   
     I highly recommended the M&M Soul Food Café for local and visitors that crave good old fastened Mississippi food that satisfies the soul!  The portion sizes are honest and satisfying.  This Soul Food restaurant provides a level of comfort like no other in Las Vegas!  Yum! 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Big Kahuna Meatball Pipeline

Surfs Up!

     It is summertime and it is time have fun in the sun!  One travel destination that is fairly easy on the budget is the beach.  That is of course, if the ocean is a short drive away.
     In the old days, a day at the beach meant loading up the station wagon with coolers full of drinks and picnic food on ice.  That was the easy part.  Cramming the inflatable canvas duck surfing rafts, styrofoam skimmers, surfboards, bongos, beach blankets, goggles, fins, diving masks and snorkels into every nook and cranny in the station wagon required a bit of ingenuity.  Whatever stuff could not fit inside the car was strapped on the rooftop luggage rack.
     "By golly, something is missing!  Oh yeah!  The family, friends kids and pets.  Gosh darn it.  How in the heck are they all going to fit in the station wagon with all this junk crammed inside?"  Oh well ...  Here we go again."
     After unloading the car and repacking it about a half dozen times, everybody is crammed into the station wagon with coolers full of snacks on their laps and junk piled up everywhere.  With no room to breathe and kids faces mashed up against the windows, somebody has to reach over to turn the key, because the driver has no room to move an arm.
     Two miles down the road the car air conditioner fails, the dog passes gas and a couple of kids start screaming about how they need to go to the bathroom.  Rolling down the windows is impossible to do and everybody is sweating up a storm.
     The driver loses all sense of being cool and screams "You kids will just have to poop your pants and empty your drawers at the beach, because we are not emptying this station wagon out and repacking it again, just so you can go to the bathroom!"  Then the wife slides a surfboard over the driver seat head rest to whack daddy in the head for being mean and the the car just about goes out of control before the driver regains consciousness.
     A few minutes later, the ocean is within sight and all is well.  Given the choice of going to the shore in a station wagon packed full to the brim or going on an African deep jungle safari, the second destination would probably be the wiser and safer choice, but this is summertime and it is time to have fun in the sun!
     There are far too many restaurants that offer the same old food and they serve the same food that competing similar theme restaurants are marketing.  For example, it seems like every Mexican restaurant offers the same old 25 food items on the menu.  This might be part of the reason why Mexican restaurants have an 87% failure rate.  The same lack of menu offering diversity problem goes for "cookie cutter" Asian restaurants, American diners and Hawaiian restaurants here on the mainland.
     Variety is the spice of life!  Why not run a mixture of a few unique chef creations on the restaurant menu, instead of trying to sell the same old tired traditional entrees that every similar restaurant sells?  It that a chef in the restaurant kitchen or a low level fast food cook with no brain that is only capable of cooking the same old burger day after day?  Allow chefs to do their creative thing and let it fly!
     Personally, I easily tire of the status quo.  Cooking the same old recipes over and over again at a restaurant for years on end is not my cup of tea.  As a chef, I prefer to run seasonal menus or daily handwritten menus that offer an ever changing food selection for customers.  I like running an aggressive special du jour board.  I like offering a combination of traditional entrees and creative food entrees.  I like getting customers excited about the ding experience and this is how it should be.
     When working in a restaurant, every employee should remember that the restaurant business is part of the entertainment industry.  Customers do not simply go to a restaurant just to eat food.  Customers go to a restaurant to wine, dine and have a good time!
     Spur of the moment entertaining food creations are always meant to be fitting for the moment.  For example, when working at a casual restaurant in a beachfront tourist destination and a few groups of beach goers walk through the door with sand on their feet, it is no use offering them plain old burgers or pizza.  These customers are still thinking about the fun time they had splashing in the surf!
     Go with it!  In a spur of the moment decision, whipping up a special du jour that has a fun in the sun theme pasted all over it for those customers would add even more fun to their summertime beach going experience.  Offering a Hawaiian theme special creation could not only make money, it could increase customer satisfaction and inspire customer loyalty.  The happy satisfied customers in all likelihood would return again, because the chef took the time to not only cater to their needs, the chef made their fun summer day even better!

     Las Vegas is called the ninth Hawaiian island, because this city is a favorite destination of Hawaiians.  There is a large population of Hawaiians living in Vegas and there are many good Hawaiian restaurant that serve up good island style food.  Some of the Las Vegas Hawaiian restaurant have highly skilled chef that market creative unique new entrees.  Some of the Hawaiian restaurant only offer true same old limited selection of casual island style diner menu items.
     Doing something different is what today's Hawaiian style sandwich recipe is all about.  It is not enough to just create a new thematic food item and tell a waiter to just describe a new Hawaiian theme entree to customers by rattling off a list of ingredients.  It is better to give the new thematic food creation a fitting name!
     There is a stigma about meatballs, Italian restaurants and the mob.  Where the syndicate operates, there are bosses.  Who is the boss?  In the mafia, it is not wise to tell, but in the restaurant business its okay.  Rephrasing the question appropriately for today's recipe scenario is best to do.  Who is the boss of Hawaiian style meatballs?  The Big Kahuna!  Hawaii is the land of summer surfing and it is the home of the Bonsai Pipeline.  When somebody that has a really bad case of the munchies looks at the curling waves in surfer paradise, the see a big sub sandwich.  Pipeline is synonymous with a food long sub and far as sandwiches go, so just go with the thought.  This actually was the thought process involved with coming up with a good thematic name for today's Hawaiian style Big Kahuna Meatball Pipeline!
     Beer Pairing:
     "I am sorry to say, old chap ... the Big Kahuna says that there is only one choice of beer to pair with a Hawaiian Meatball Pipeline Sandwich and it has to be a Hawaiian brew!" 
     The Kona Brewing Company is a great craft brewery that has been around for a few decades now.  The Kona Brewing Company was established by folks that care about Hawaii.  This company practices sustainability and they really care about the Hawaiian environment.  Recycled materials and an environmentally friendly building design were employed in the construction of this brewery.  Eco friendly businesses always rate high on my list and I like this company's ethics.
     The Kona Brewing Company is a craft brewery that specializes in the style of beer that Hawaiians like to drink.  Folks in warm temperate tropical climates tend to prefer a good tasting beer that is refreshing.  A heavy high gravity beer with an excessively strong hoppy flavor would be completely out of character in such a place.  The Kona Brewing Company produces high caliber lagers, wheat beer and light ales that are most definitely refreshen on a hot summer day.  None of their brews are out of character or too strong on the palate.  Even the IPA has a tasteful balance of hops that is not overpowering.
     Recently in Las Vegas, Kona Brewing Company beers started appearing on the store shelves.  After trying a few selections, I was impressed.  Not only was I impressed with the beer quality, I liked the old traditional Hawaiian artwork on the label design.  Even the name of the beer had a tasteful Hawaiian theme.
     The Kona Brewing Company's Big Wave Golden Ale is one of the most refreshing light ales on the market.  This is the perfect choice for a summertime golden ale.  It is not too heavy or too strong.  There is no repulsive overbearing hops flavor.  The hops flavor is just right.  Big Wave Golden Ale has great clarity and it goes down easy.  All that the Big Kahuna can say is Big Wave Golden Ale is the perfect match for today's Hawaiian style meatball sandwich.  Bottoms up!  
     Hawaiian Style Meatballs:
     This recipe yields enough meatballs for 1 large Big Kahuna Meatball Pipeline!   
     Either ground pork, ground beef or ground veal can be used to make the meatballs.  A combination of beef and pork is a nice option. 
     Place 8 ounces of lean ground beef in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 cloves of finely minced garlic.
     Add 1 finely minced green onion.
     Add 2 teaspoons of ginger paste.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of whisked egg.
     Add 1 teaspoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of oregano.
     Add 2 pinches of Chinese five spice powder.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Chinese chile powder or cayenne pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 2 pinches of cumin.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Spanish paprika.
     Add 1 tablespoon of finely minced cilantro.
     Add about 1/3 cup of fine plain French bread crumbs.
     Mix the ingredients together, just like kneading bread dough.  If the mixture looks too wet, the add  1 to 3 more tablespoons of bread crumbs.
     Scoop the meat mixture into medium size meatball portions.  (About 2 1/2 to 3 ounces.)
     Hand roll the meatballs, so they are all the same size and so they have a smooth round shape.
     Place the meatballs in a roasting pan that is lightly brushed with oil.
     Bake the meatballs in a 350º oven.
     The pan will need to be removed from the oven once in a while, so the excess grease can be poured off.  The meatballs will need to be turned occasionally too.  Use a thin metal spatula to free the meatballs from the pan.
     Bake the meatballs, till they are fully cooked and lightly browned.  Do not cook the meatballs for too long, or they will become dried out.  The meatballs should be juicy inside.
     Set the meatballs aside and keep them warm on a stove top.

     Big Kahuna Meatball Pipeline Sauce:
     This recipe yields enough for one sandwich!  
     Dried sliced pineapple works best for this recipe.  The dried pineapple slices should be fairly thick.  
     Heat a small sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of water.
     Add 1/2 cup of pineapple juice.
     Add 1/3 cup of dried pineapple that is cut into small bite size pieces.
     Add 1 tablespoon of raw sugar.
     Add 1 tablespoon of agave nectar.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of white wine vinegar.
     Taste and adjust the sweet and sour flavor balance if necessary.
     Add 2 tablespoons of organic ketchup.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of dijon mustard.
     Add 1 tablespoon of hoisin sauce.
     Add 1 tablespoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Add 1 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 2 tablespoons of small chopped red bell pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of small chopped seeded jalapeño.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 3 drops of pure sesame oil.
     Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 1 pinch of turmeric.
     Add 1 small pinch of ground celery seed.
     Add 2 pinches of Spanish paprika.
     Bring the liquid to to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce, till the pineapple becomes tender and the sauce reduces to about 1 1/2 cups in volume.
     Add just enough corn starch and cold water slurry, while stirring, to thicken the sauce to a very thin consistency.  (The sauce will be reduced further after the meatballs are added.)
     Place the reserved meatballs in the sauce.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the meatballs become hot and till the sauce clings to the meatballs.
     Keep sauced meatballs warm over very low heat.

     Big Kahuna Meatball Pipeline:
     Split an 8" to 10" sub roll open on one side.
     Place the sauced meatballs and pineapple chunks on the roll.
     Sprinkle a generous amount of grated mozzarella cheese over the meatballs.
     Place the sandwich on a baking pan.
     Bake in a 375º oven, till the cheese melts and the roll is lightly toasted.  Do not brown the cheese or it will taste bitter!
     Sprinkle some thin bias sliced green onion over the cheese.
     Place the Big Kahuna Meatball Pipeline on a plate.
     Garnish with pickles, cilantro sprigs or Italian parsley sprigs.
     Serve with macaroni salad on the side!

     Put on the dark sunglasses, crank up the Don Ho music and scarf down!  After the first bite, it is hard to stop.  This Hawaiian style Big Kahuna Meatball Pipeline simply has a flavor that cannot be beat.  Yum!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Oggie Pasty and Italian Pasty To-Go with a Dead Guy Ale for the wait at the Cornish Pasty Company, Las Vegas!

Creative modern pasties in Las Vegas!

     The first recipe reference that the pasty was borne from was mentioned in the French Le Viandier culinary reference book back in the 1300's.  During the dark ages, savory food was sealed in an inedible pie dough crust and preserved for future use, just like canning food in mason jars.  Later on, the crust was broken open and discarded, then the ingredients were eaten.  This is the origin of both the modern pie and the Cornish Pasty.   
     As the modern pie evolved to include an edible crust and pie dough was no longer just used as an inedible container.  Savory meat and vegetable pies were commonplace at this time and sweet fruit pies were not yet part of the scene.  Many variations of savory pies started to appear and individual portion size turnover pies were marketed to the common folks.  Home cooks made tidy little pies that served as sealed ready to eat box lunch meals for workers in the household.  Eventually the empanada and the Cornish Pasty evolved from the historic petite meat pies that were made for the working class.  
     The Cornish Pasty is probably the most famous meat pie of them all.  This meat pie has its origins in the tin mines of Cornwall, England.  The pasty was hearty enough to keep a tin miner warm when working deep underground in damp cold conditions.  The original pasty was like a complete ready to eat meal baked in Irish pastry dough.  
     The original Cornish Pasty was equipped with a pastry crust handle.  Tin mines are notorious for arsenic contamination and this toxic substance accumulated on the fingers of miners.  Cornish tin miners held the pasty by the crust handle, ate the savory ingredients, then they discarded the crust handle in a ritualistic manner.  
     Tin miners believed that all mine disasters were caused by evil little demons called "Knockers."  In order to appease the Knockers, the arsenic contaminated Cornish Pasty crust handle was tossed into dark crevices of the mine, like a food offering that was meant to keep the Knocker spirits happy.  When the Knockers were happy, no mine disasters occurred. 
     As time went on and the Cornish Pasty evolved into a modern meal that was suitable for being served in pubs, the importance of the crust handle became a thing of the past.  Now the crust handle is a symbolic relic of the past, but it is still part of the modern Cornish Pasty design.  Many chefs view the handle as being a non-functional decorative item, while chefs that value tradition, like myself, still respect the crust handle as a necessity for Cornish Pasty integrity.  When it comes down to it in this current modern age, it really does not matter how pasty crust is shaped.  It is the flavor that counts!

     When it comes to flavor, the Cornish Pasty Company has the edge on the pasty market!  This restaurant not only offers old traditional savory Cornish Pasties, a long list of modern creative pasty flavors are offered on the menu.  The pasty menu is divide into groups, like Signature Pasties, Premium Pasties and Vegetarian Pasties.  In keeping with the original Cornish Pasty theme, each pasty contains a complete warm ready to eat hearty meal.
     I posted an article about the Spotlight Lounge in Las Vegas the other day and mentioned that this place is where I have sought relief from the hot desert summer temperatures during recent weeks.  The daytime bartender and I have been friends for many years and we usually have some witty conversations during the slow afternoon hours, just to pass the time.  I was a bit peckish one afternoon and asked if any interesting new restaurants have recently popped up in the area.  He mentioned the Cornish Pasty Company opened in the plaza and stated that the food was out of this world.  While doing so, he demanded that I snag a pastry for himself, because he also had and extreme case of the munchies, so off I went to check the Cornish Pasty Company out!
     I felt like having a traditional Cornish Oggie Pasty, while my bartender friend requested an Italian Pasty.  An Oggie is made with "bits of beef steak, swedes, potatoes and onion, with brown gravy on the side."  The Italian Pasty is a modern pasty creation that is made with "pepperoni, salami, capocollo, ham, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, and roasted tomatoes.  Served with a side of marinara." Both of these pasties offer rich hearty flavors that will certainly please any Cornish pasty aficionado.

     A Cornish Pasty does take some time to bake, so there is some waiting time involved when placing a to-go order.  The Cornish Pasty Company has a pleasant laid back atmosphere that is conducive to sipping on a good western craft beer during the wait.  This restaurant appeals to the boheme and alternative crowd that frequents the Las Vegas Commercial Center area, so craft beer naturally fits the bill.  The Rogue Brewery of Newport, Oregon is one of the best craft breweries these days and their beer is simply the best.  Rogue does come up with some crafty names for their brews that add to the appeal.  Rogue Dead Guy Ale is made along the lines of a traditional English ale and the hops flavor is well balanced.  
     I thoroughly enjoyed sipping on Dead Guy Ale while waiting on the pasties and had a nice conversation with one of the owners of the Cornish Pasty Company.  She filled me in on some of the details of the restaurant concept and we exchanged a few Cornish pasty ideas.  This place was friendly, just like traditional pubs tend to be and it is easy to see why the Cornish Pasty Company is quickly becoming one of the most popular dining destinations in this Las Vegas neighborhood.  
     The Cornish Pasty Company dining area offers plenty of bar stool seating and several tables, just like at a typical English pub.  Because the Commercial Center Plaza hosts many businesses that cater to the alternative crowd and some great Asian restaurants, the clientele tends to be on an international scale.  A large group of Asians that eagerly wanted to try Cornish Pasties for the first time were thoroughly enjoying their dining venture, while I was there.  Several locals were at the bar relaxing with coffee, tea or beer during the hot summer siesta hours.  This restaurant certainly offers a cool atmosphere for a chill out session.  
     After returning to the lounge with the pasties to-go, I proceeded to do the pasty munch.  After breaking the Oggie Pasty crust open, the aroma filled the air and customers at the lounge instantly became interested in what I was eating.  Unlike old traditional bland pasties of yore, the Oggie Pasty was highly seasoned and the flavor was more than just merely satisfactory.  This steak pastry was bold enough to please the tastes of modern consumers in a big way.  The Oggie Pasty was flat out awesome tasting!  
     The Cornish Pasty Company is located at 953 East Sahara Avenue in the Commercial Center Plaza.  This restaurant location is in the central island of businesses in the plaza.  The Cornish Pasty Company is only a few blocks away from the Las Vegas Strip and Las Vegas Convention Center, so tourists and conventioneers have it made.  The service is attentive and professional.  The restaurant dining area, bar and kitchen look spotlessly clean.  The spacious parking lot is well lit and it is patrolled on a regular basis.  Most importantly, the atmosphere is laid back and friendly, just like at a good pub.    
     I highly recommend the Cornish Pasty Company for locals and visitors that crave a great modern pasty!  The Cornish Pasty Company menu offers a wide variety of modern pasty specialty flavors that will please anybody's fancy.  Yum!  
     For more information about the menu offerings and other Cornish Pasty Company locations, follow this link:  The Cornish Pasty Company