Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Brat In A Mojo Blanket ~ With Sweet Mustard Sauce and Grilled Onions








A gourmet Pig In A Blanket variation.  Bratwurst in a Mojo IPA Beer Bread Blanket with sautéed onions and sweet mustard sauce!  

     Writing Craft Beer Recipes
     Western craft beer recipes are currently en vogue and they are in demand.  Not all new craft beer recipes are created equal.  The worst new craft beer recipes call for pre-made food products and "instant mix" style ingredients.  Creating a new craft beer recipe that makes use of products that were created to suit someone else's tastes is like inviting a stranger to help design the recipe.  "Too many cooks in the kitchen, spoil the broth!"  
     Many new craft beer recipes are made by simply adding craft beer to an existing recipe.  Sometimes this strategy works and sometimes the idea is a complete flop.  Simply adding some craft beer to something like a tired middle of the road ground beef chili recipe is not really the way to go.  The chili will be just turn out to be an old worn out middle of the road chili that has a craft beer flavor.  Writing about boiling bratwurst in fancy craft beer is just too simple to even bother with writing a recipe.  Adding western craft beer to a great grandma's sacred spaghetti sauce recipe might not be such a good idea, because this could possibly cause great grandma to roll over in her grave.  
     
     There are two good courses of action to follow, when writing new recipes for craft beer.  One course of action is to create brand new recipe that features the craft beer in a tasteful way.  Designing a recipe with the goal of making a specific type of craft beer integral to the recipe does require experience and forethought.  The other way is to modify a traditional beer recipe, so it is well suited for the flavor of the craft beer.     
     
     As one can imagine, creating a brand new beer recipe that has never been made before is not as easy as pulling a rabbit out of a hat.  Beer itself has thousands of years of history and cooks have used beer in recipes for an equally long period of time.  When a new western craft beer recipe is created, is it really brand new or is history repeating itself?  
     An experienced chef who has an extensive culinary arts education background can take one glance at a new craft beer recipe and is able to determine the origins of the recipe's geographical background, its cultural background, its culinary timeline, the cooking method background and the traditions that contribute to the flavor theme.  A chef who has an educational background in food history, cross cultural cuisine and gastronomy, plus many years of international cuisine working experience can easily accomplish this task.  The analytical information that the chef provides about a new craft beer recipe could be short and concise, or it could be so complex, that a book the size of Leo Tolstoy's "War And Peace" would be required to present the information. 
     Nearly every new recipe does have roots in historical cuisines, no matter how novel the new recipe idea is.  The better that a chef understands the timeline of culinary history, the better that authenticity is understood.  It is common practice for a chef to use culinary ideas of the past to design a new recipe in the present.  A recipe that makes use of this practice can be considered to be a cultured recipe.
     
     Beer
     The history of beer really has no exact starting point.  Basically the first beer brew probably occurred when a mixture of grain, fruit, nuts and herbs were boiled together for a porridge meal, then the cooking process was interrupted.  The boiled grain mixture sat at room temperature and somehow yeast was introduced to the liquid.  More than likely, airborne yeast or yeast from the skin of fruit started the fermentation process.  After a few days or a couple of weeks, the cook returned to find that the porridge turned into a potent alcoholic beverage known as beer.  After feeling its effect, the liquid was more than likely poured off to be consumed and the soured grain mixture was fed to domesticated animals.   
     A link between the origin of beer and bread making is possibly another way that beer came to be.  Long ago, coarsely ground grain was used to make bread.  A wet sloppy crude yeast bread batter can ferment to become the start of an alcoholic beverage.  Yeast is the common link.  To find the origin of beer, one has to research the culinary history of yeast.  
    
     Beer Bread 
     Just like how there is no exact starting point for the history of beer, there is no exact time and place where beer bread was first made.  Since beer making and yeast bread making are common combined culinary traditions in many cultures, the origins of beer bread can be found wherever a history of culinary yeast usage existed.  
     Long ago, beer was not pasteurized.  Beer was alive and the yeast in beer was active.  All that a cook had to do was add a little bit of beer to flour to make bread.  When the traces of live yeast in old fashioned beer are introduced to a food source like flour, the yeast rapidly converts the sugars in grain, while feeding and reproducing.  As a result, a light airy bread is produced in a few hours.  Basically, the rule of thumb is, where there is beer in history, there is also bread made with beer.
     
     In modern times, there are three good sources for beer that has active living yeast in the brew.  Some European beer, like German wheat beer or Belgian white beer is not filtered or pasteurized.  The beer looks cloudy and the yeast is alive.  These kinds of beer are perfect for making beer bread the natural way.  
     The British Isles are another source of beer that contains active yeast.  There are many kinds of English bitter ales that actually have a few small lumps of active yeast in the keg.  Ireland and England both produce unfiltered unpasteurized beer that contain active yeast and this beer can be used to make natural beer bread.
     Western craft breweries have been making unfiltered wheat beer and unfiltered Double IPA beer in recent years.  These unfiltered beers are usually unpasteurized, just like many European and British Isle brews.  The yeast is still very active in these craft brewery specialty beers and this kind of beer is perfect for making natural beer bread.  
    
     Making beer bread naturally with beer that contains active yeast is good option, but it is not the only option.  The yeast in many beer brews, like traditional IPA Beer and many Pilsners or Lagers is no longer active or it is only marginally active.  Beer bread that is made with beer that contains no active yeast, will turn out to be heavy as a brick and it will not be a pleasure to eat.  Yeast can be reintroduced to the beer bread dough or baking powder can be added to create a light bread texture.  
     Just like how beer drinkers have their favorite beer, baker who make beer bread have their favorite choice of beer for making beer bread.  Often the choice is a beer that contains no active live yeast.  A small amount of yeast can be activated in water and added to the recipe to create a lighter texture, but baking powder is much easier to use.  Baking powder will create a light airy beer bread texture, when beer that has no active yeast is used to make beer bread.
     
     Mojo IPA Beer Bread
     The better the beer tastes, the better the beer bread will taste!  The rule for wine cooking is to only cook with wine that is suitable for serving at the table.  The same goes for beer.  If cheap domestic light beer is the favorite, then by all means, use it for making beer bread.  If a western craft brewery Russian Imperial Stout, a German Bock or English Bitters is the favorite drinking beer, then use it for beer bread.  Using a familiar beer flavor to make beer bread is best. 
     
     Today's craft IPA beer bread recipe was made with the Boulder Beer Company's Mojo IPA.  This western craft IPA has marginally active yeast in the brew.  Baking powder was added to the dough to create a light bread texture.  By adapting the same baking powder to flour ratio used to make biscuits, the beer bread gains a light airy texture.  The IPA Beer in the bread recipe simply takes the place of water or milk.  
     
     Traditional beer bread is usually made with a wheat beer or a malty beer.  A beer with a strong hops flavor is a little bit more difficult to work with, because the strong hops flavor will need to be tamed.  All craft India Pale Ales tend to be on the hoppy side and they all have a high specific gravity.  Many western craft IPA brews have an excessively strong hops flavor.  Beer with an extra strong hops flavor is not really a good choice for beer bread that is served on its own.  As far as making beer bread for a "Pig In A Blanket" goes, a strong hoppy flavor IPA beer is not a bad choice.  
     A western IPA that has a balanced hops flavor is a better choice for beer bread.   Some craft IPA brews do have a gentle balanced hops flavor that compares to traditional British Imperial IPA.  Mojo IPA has a balanced western style hoppy flavor that is somewhat gentle, when compared to the rest of the craft IPA pack.  Mojo is a good choice for making IPA beer bread and the word Mojo does sound cool in the recipe title.    
     The hops flavor does need to be adjusted when making beer bread, even when using a balanced hoppy IPA like Mojo.  Sugar and a small amount of spice is added to the beer bread in order to keep the hops flavor in check.  If the hops flavor is not accented with sugar and spice, then the beer bread will have an unpleasant dry bitter aftertaste. 

     This entire recipe is written for 1 serving!

     Bratwurst:
     Poaching a fresh sausage gently will keep the sausage from splitting when it is grilled. 
     Select one 6" to 8" fresh bratwurst.
     Place the bratwurst in a pot.
     Cover the bratwurst with 1" of extra water.
     Place the pot over medium low heat.
     Gently simmer the bratwurst, till it becomes cooked firm and the sausage casing is set.  The water temperature should be 157º. 
     Set the poached sausage aside.
     Heat a saute pan or griddle over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add the poached bratwurst.
     Grill the bratwurst till it becomes fully cooked and brown highlights appear.
     Set the bratwurst aside and let it cool to room temperature. 

     Mojo IPA Beer Bread For A Brat In A Blanket:
     This recipe yields enough dough for one 6" to 8" bratwurst pig in a blanket, plus enough extra dough to make a petite mini loaf of beer bread.  
     Any kind of hoppy western craft IPA beer can be used to make this recipe, but Boulder Brewing Company's Mojo IPA makes the "Brat In A Mojo Blanket" recipe name official.  Everybody knows that a Mojo Bag needs the right items placed in the bag, if the charm is expected to work!   
     Place 1/2 cup of Mojo IPA beer in a mixing bowl.
     Float 3/4 cup of all purpose flour or bread flour on top of the beer.  (flour island technique)
     Place 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt on the flour island.  (salt to taste)
     Place 1 tablespoon of sugar on the flour island.
     Place 1 small pinch of allspice on the flour.
     Place 1 small pinch of cardamom on the flour.
     Place 1 small pinch of white pepper on the flour.
     Place 1 small pinch of nutmeg on the flour.
     Place 2 teaspoons of baking powder on the island.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of melted unsalted butter or warm bacon grease.
     Mix the ingredients together to create a loose wet dough.
     Add a little bit of flour at a time, while mixing, till soft dough texture is created and the dough can be gathered in a ball shape.
     Bench the dough on a lightly floured countertop.

     Brat In A Mojo Blanket:
     The grilled onions and mustard sauce can be made while the Brat In A Mojo Blanket bakes.
     Roll the Mojo IPA Beer Bread dough into a sheet that is 1/4" to 3/8" thick.
     Cut the dough into a rectangular shape that is the same length as the bratwurst and wide enough to wrap the bratwurst.
     Roll the bratwurst and dough together, till the dough slightly overlaps (1/4" overlap).
     Cut off the excess dough.
     Pinch the seem, so it seals.
     Place the brat in a mojo blanket on a parchment paper lined baking pan, so the seam side faces down.
     Score the top of the dough on the brat in a blanket, by cutting several evenly spaced cross slashes along the entire length. 
     Brush the dough blanket with melted unsalted butter. 
     Bake in a 400º oven, till the mojo blanket becomes a golden brown color.
     Remove the pan from the oven and allow the Brat In A Mojo Blanket to cool to a safe serving temperature.

     Grilled Onions:
     Heat a saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 cup of thin sliced onion strips.
     Saute till the onions become tender, with minimal browning.
     Season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Keep the grilled onions warm on a stove top.

     Sweet Mustard Sauce:
     Heat a small sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 1 tablespoon of whole mustard seed.
     Gently saute, till the mustard seeds start to make a popping noise.
     Add 3 ounces of dry white wine.
     Add 1/2 cup of water.
     Add 2 tablespoons of sugar.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of dijon mustard.
     Add 1 pinch of black pepper.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Simmer and reduce till the sauce becomes a thin sauce consistency.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped Italian parsley.
     Add 2 pats of unsalted butter, while stirring with a whisk.  (about 1 tablespoon)
     As soon as the butter melts and finishes the sauce, remove the pan from the heat.
     Keep the sauce warm on a stove top and stir occasionally.

     Brat In A Mojo Blanket ~ With Sweet Mustard Sauce and Grilled Onions:
     Spoon a generous amount of the Sweet Mustard Sauce on a plate as a bed for the Bratwurst In A Mojo Blanket.
     Place the Brat In A Mojo Blanket on the sauce.
     Place a small mound of the grilled onions on the sauce next to the entree.
     Garnish with an Italian parsley sprig.

     As far as Pig In A Blanket style recipes go, this Brat In A Mojo Blanket is awesome munch material!  Mardi Gras is near and Super Bowl Sunday is just a few days away.  A pan full of Mojo Brat In A Blanket would be a real crowd pleaser at a football game party.  This is beer food at its best!  

Monday, January 27, 2014

Smoked Turkey Drumettes roasted over Russian Sweet Spice Cabbage










A nice smokehouse winter entree!

     Smoked meats are traditionally winter food.  Cured meat, cured smoked meat and smoked meat are all preserved meats that have a long shelf life if they are stored at a cool temperature.  In the old days, the cellar of a house served as the refrigerator during winter months.  
     A large root bin or root cellar was part of nearly every home that was located away from urban life.  A moderately cool spot in a cellar was used to store pickled products and jars of preserved fruit or vegetables.  Dried vegetables and fruit were also stored in this cool area.  A cold spot in the cellar was usually reserved for hanging smoked or cured meats.  The object in the old days was to store enough food in the cold cellar to get through most of the winter, but hunting during winter was also necessary, especially if arctic air extended winter by an extra month or two.  
     
     In regions that have a harsh winter climate, there is no guarantee that hunting for fresh food can be done.  The harsher the winter, the less prey seems to be available.  During a harsh winter, wild animals that graze often starve to death.  Bagging a deer that is starving really does not put much meat on the table.  Even ice fishing can be nearly impossible when winter temperatures drop well below zero, because the ice can become too thick to chip through and the fish do not have the energy to seek food.
     Hunters usually  respect hibernating bears during winter, but if conditions become extreme, then digging into bear dens to find a male bear to bag is done out of necessity.  If the bear in the den also happens to be hungry, then this can create a very dangerous situation.  Being in close quarters with an angry bear is something that no hunter looks forward to in winter, because even by just being knocked unconscious, the result can mean freezing to death. 
     
     The food stored in the cold cellar sustained life during winter.  Protecting the food was a high priority.  Old houses and cabins in rural and wilderness areas had to be built securely in order to keep scavengers from robbing the cellar.  
     Hungry wild animal can smell food cooking from miles away and during harsh winter the aroma draws them like a magnet.  A bear that did not put on enough fat for hibernation will have no choice but to wake from its sleep before winter is over and start looking for food.  A food cellar in a cabin is a prime target.  If a bear is hungry enough, it will try to dig into a root cellar even if the cabin is occupied.  It is necessary to build a cabin a cabin so it is bear proof, raccoon proof, wolf proof and mice proof.  Otherwise, when the cabin is unattended, the food stored in the cellar may not be there when the occupants return.   
    
     Just like North America, Russia has plenty of wilderness areas and many folks live old traditional lifestyles.  Southern Russia is fairly temperate, but for the most part, the winter in the rest of Russia is as harsh or harsher than a Canadian winter.  Part of living the old traditional way is maintaining a farm smoke house or a community smoke house.  Using a smoke house to preserving meats and sausages for winter not only keep food on the table, it also gives that food a great flavor.  
     Every traditionalist and every outdoorsman likes the flavor of smoked meat.  Some human flavor preferences are inherent and mankind's taste for smoked meat goes all the way back to the stone age.  The first preserved smoked meats probably were made by chance, while cave dwellers maintained a fire in a cave during winter.  Meat that was strung up in the cave off of the ground, so it was out of the reach of small scavengers, became slowly smoked from the fire in the cave and voila!  The smoking process was noted and it became a food preparation custom.  
     In many countries cave smoked meat is still a tradition.  Adobe or dry mud huts are the next best thing.  Wooden smoke houses eventually became the standard for smoking meats and smokes houses were known to stand for a long time, because the smoke not only preserved the meat, it also preserved the wood in the smokehouse.  There are actually smoke houses in America that have been standing since colonial times.  

     Turkey is native to the Americas and smoked turkey is a traditional favorite.  Cured smoked turkey or plain smoked turkey secondary cuts like the legs, neck and wings, are often used like smoked ham to flavor recipes.  The quality of smoked turkey secondary cuts can vary.  Some smokehouse operators have a knack for producing tender juicy meats.  Other smokehouse operators prefer to smoke the meats dry and tough, so they are more durable and they last longer.   
     Smoked turkey wings and legs can be very tough or the meat can be tender.  It is hard for the average consumer to judge whether smoked turkey wings or legs will be tough or tender just by looking at them.  Cutting a sample of the meat and giving it a test chew is the best way to to judge whether smoked turkey legs or wings are tender enough to be served whole on their own, or whether the meat will need to be stewed till it becomes tender.  

     Tender juicy smoked turkey wing drumettes are best for today's recipe.  Wing drumettes have no large tendons.  Two smoked turkey wing drumettes provides enough meat for a hearty portion.
     As everybody knows, Russia is a big country and there are many cultural cuisine influences within this country.  In some parts of Russia the food is very plain and simple.  Some Russian cuisine is fancy enough be considered to be high cuisine.  Eastern Russian food often is similar to Chinese and Himalayan cuisine.  Some of the southern regional Russian food makes use of spices that are commonly use in cultural cuisines from Turkey to Afghanistan and India. 
     Today's recipe makes use of spices that are easy to obtain in south central Russia.  When I was a young kid, I lived in places where we had Russian neighbors.  I knew very little about cooking at that time, but I did have an adventurous taste for food.  One faint memory that I have is when I tasted some of the Russian neighbor's food and the spice combination tasted so good that it was like a new awakening.  The flavors woke up my culinary interests and I never forgot the taste of that good Russian food.  Spices do add élan to life! 

     Cider Pairing:  
     Beer or wine is okay for pairing with today's smoked turkey entree, but hard cider is even better.  Some modern ciders are better than others.  Low quality ciders look and taste like canned apple juice that has alcohol added.  Good traditional ciders have a much better flavor.
     Strongbow Cider has been produced in England since 1962 and it is the world's most popular hard cider.  Strongbow has a nice dry natural apple flavor that tastes nice with roasted or smoked poultry.  Hard cider naturally goes well with smoked turkey and Strongbow Cider is a nice choice for pairing.      

     Seasonal Herb Focaccia:
     Bread is traditionally served with Russian home style entrees and it definitely should accompany items like borscht.  Everybody likes good bread and people like to try new bread styles.  A traditional Russian style bread is great with a Russian style meal, but so is a good Italian focaccia.  Italian focaccia is respects worldwide and it is a good bread for accompanying any entree that has jus on the plate.
     When making one of my bread recipes, keep in mind that I live in the arid Mojave Desert at a high altitude.  At a lower altitude in a humid environment, the bread recipe may need slight adjustments, like less water in the recipe or the bread may need less time to rise.  This is why I rarely use precise measurement or the element of time in bread recipes for anything other than the basic ingredients.   
     Bread is made with the sense of sight and feel.  Experience and practice is the only way to develop these senses and bread making skills.  Learning the feel and pace of bread making is as important as learning bread recipe proportions.  
     Here is a hyperlink to the bread recipe:  

     Smoked Turkey Drumettes roasted over Russian Sweet Spice Cabbage:
     This recipe yields one large serving portion!  
     The entire recipe is made in one roasting pan.  Easy one pan recipes are nice after being out in the cold on a winter day!
     Turkey is not a native bird in Russia, but turkey is catching on worldwide.  Turkey is a popular modern alternative healthy meat.  In Italy, many cooks use turkey in place of pork.  Turkey sausage is a nice alternative to pork sausage.  
     Smoked turkey has a long shelf life and it is often sold as a frozen product.  Smoked turkey wings or legs can be tender or tough.  Chewing on a sample of smoked turkey wing is the best way to determine whether the meat is tender enough to be served on its own or whether the smoked turkey wing will need to be stewed.  Tender smoked turkey wing drumettes are needed for this recipe.  
     Select a small head of white cabbage that is about 6"to 7" in diameter.
     Cut 2 center cut slices that are about 3/4" thick.
     Minimally trim the cabbage core, so the leaves remain attached.
     Brush a small roasting pan with vegetable oil.
     Place the cabbage in the pan.
     Place a 3/4" thick slice of onion in the pan.
     Place 2 pieces of carrot in the pan that are about 4" long.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of turkey broth or chicken broth to the pan.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of cider vinegar.
     Brush the cabbage and vegetables with melted unsalted butter. 
     Season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of sugar over the cabbage.
     Sprinkle these herbs and spices over the items in the roasting pan:
     - 2 pinches of cardamom.
     - 2 pinches of marjoram. 
     - 2 pinches of dried fenugreek leaves.
     - 1 pinch of thyme.
     - 1 pinch of dried mint.
     - 1 small pinch of ground cumin.
     - 1 small pinch of ground clove.
     - 1 pinch of ground ginger.
     - 1 small pinch of cinnamon.
     - 1 pinch of black caraway seed.
     - 2 pinches of crushed Szechuan pepper. 
     Place 2 tender smoked turkey drumettes on top of the cabbage.
     Cover the roasting pan with a domed lid or aluminum foil.
     Roast in a 325º oven, till the vegetables become tender.
     Remove the lid or foil.
     Roast in a 375º oven, till the smoked turkey returns to a dry brown color.  (about 2 to 4 minutes)
     Remove the the pan from the oven and allow the ingredients to cool to a safe serving temperature.

     Presentation:
     Set the smoked turkey drumettes aside.
     Use a large spatula to place the cabbage slices on a plate as a bed for the turkey.
     Place the smoked turkey drumettes on top of the cabbage.
     Garnish the plate with the roasted onion slice and carrots.
     Spoon a generous amount of the jus from the roasting pan over the turkey, cabbage and vegetables.
     Garnish the plate with an Italian parsley sprig.
     Serve with bread and a potato of your choice on the side.  (Creme russet potato is nice with this entree!)  

     Other than the complex spice and herb mixture, this is a simple entree to make.  The complex flavor of the seasoning adds plenty of sensory satisfaction.  Yum!  ...  Shawna  

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Mojo Beer Batter Bacon Wrapped Dates with Raspberry Coulis










A tasty appetizer or snack!  

      Frying actually is a French cuisson and good fry cooking skills are worth learning.  Some people never cook fry food at home, because they think this cooking style creates an excessive mess.  There are ways to minimize the mess.  Being organized and being disciplined does make fry cooking steps easier to accomplish.  
     One should never be in a rush or nervous when fry cooking.  Haste makes waste and when fry cooking, one hasty move can result in serious burns.  There should be no distractions and there should be no small children or pets in the kitchen.  Protective clothing should be worn and the kitchen should be equipped with a grease fire rated fire extinguisher for emergencies.  
     Always think ahead when fry cooking and set up the fry cooking area ahead of time.  When a high sided pot is used, there are few grease splatters, so lining half of the kitchen with something like aluminum foil is unnecessary.  Kitchens are made to be cleaned, so dealing with a few oil spatters or drips is just something that comes with the territory.  Drips can be minimized by placing a roasting pan on the stove top, so it butts against the base of the fryer pot.  A wire screen roasting rack should be place in the roasting pan.  When using a fryer net to remove item from the hot frying oil, tap the fryer net handle against the rim of the fryer pot to knock off any excess oil, before placing the items on the roasting rack in the roasting pan.  Since there is no gap or space between the pot and the drip pan, there will be no mess from drips. 
     
     The two enemies of deep frying oil is moisture and salt.  Salt is really that much of a factor, if normal salt levels are used to season fried food.  Fried food should be seasoned over the drip pan and while the fried food is in a fryer basket hanging over the frying oil.  Many professional cooks make this mistake and this can drive up food cost in a restaurant.
     Moisture kills frying oil.  Beer batter food and raw chicken wings will ruin fryer oil in a short time.  In restaurants, wings and beer batter food is never fried in new oil, it is fried in oil that shows signs of coming to the end of its usefulness or oil that is starting to turn dark.  It is better to kill oil that is on its way to the recycling vat by frying moisture laden food, than is is to kill brand new oil with moisture.  This same philosophy can be used in a home kitchen to reduce food cost.  
     Freshly breaded food is best for frying, but some items do have to be frozen or partially frozen to be fried.  Chicken Cordon Bleu and Chicken Kiev are good examples of partially frozen food items that are deep fried.  
     I never purchase pre-made manufactured frozen food items for frying in a fine dining restaurant or at home.  Everything that I fry is made from scratch and this includes french fries.  The quality of most frozen fried food products are sub par and the price is high.  The problem with pre-made frozen food products for deep frying is that moisture gathers on the products as ice.  
     I have seen frozen battered fish, frozen breaded shrimp and frozen french fry products that looked like they had ice cubes clinging to them, because so much moisture gathered in the freezer, especially in areas that have a humid environment.  Thawing off the ice results in a lousy looking coating after the product is fried.  In my opinion, frozen pre-made fried food products are a waste of time and money.  Frozen fried food products are usually only served at fast food restaurants, chain restaurants and restaurants that have lower quality standards.  Pre-made frozen fried food products are rarely used in fine dining restaurants or trendy casual restaurants.  Fine dining chefs are not fast food fry cooks! 

     Filtering fryer oil can extend the life of the oil.  In restaurants, fryer oil is filtered while it is hot.  At home, fryer oil should be filtered while it is cold.  A fine mesh chinoise strainer is good for filtering cold fryer oil.  A strainer with a paper frying oil filter is better for filtering fryer oil, but a paper filter only works with hot oil.  When oil is cooled before filtering, the brown impurities will settle to the bottom of the pot.  The cold oil can be carefully poured off through a fine mesh strainer into a container and the impurities will be left in the pot.  The cold fryer oil filtering method is safer for home cooks.  Cold fryer oil filtering takes too much time in a restaurant that has large oil capacity fryers.    
     
     Fryers:
     I personally prefer to do deep frying in a restaurant grade deep fryer that has a gas heat source.  Restaurant deep fryers have a very quick temperature recovery time and they have a large capacity.  They are easy to clean.  Filtering the oil is easy to do and hot oil sump filtering systems are an option.  Restaurant grade deep fryers are rarely part of a home kitchen, because they take up a lot of space.  People in general do not eat the amount of fried food at home, that a restaurant grade fryer is capable of cooking.  For home use, a restaurant fryer would be overkill.  
     
     At home, I prefer to do deep frying in a high sided tall pot.  The taller the pot, the less grease spatters.  The possibility of fryer oil foam overflow is also negated with a high sided tall pot.  The bigger the pot, the higher the fry oil capacity.  A 20" tall pot can hold 10" of fry oil and there will be an extra 10" of pot wall above the oil to shield oil spatter.  The wider the pot, the more stable the pot will be.  For most of my recipes, 6" to 8" of frying oil is needed for individual portion frying.  This means that the pot should be 12" to 16" tall and the pot should be wide enough to be stable.  
     A good stainless steel deep frying thermometer or candy maker thermometer that can measure temperatures up to 450º is needed for deep frying in a high sided pot.  A thermometer that clips on the side of the pot is good.  Only the tip of the thermometer needs to be in the hot oil.  Even better is a specialized deep frying thermometer.  The sensor is attached to a stainless steel cable shielded wire that connects to the digital readout housing.  The wire should be draped over the edge of the pot and the wire should be secured to the pot with a clip, so the sensor is suspended in the oil above the bottom of the pot.  Letting a thermometer sensor rest on the bottom of a fry pot will result in false temperature readings.        
     
     There are many good electric deep fryer appliances on the market.  Some are better than others.  When it comes to deep fryer appliances, the bigger the better.  The deeper and wider that the vat is, the shorter that the fry oil temperature recovery will be.  When chilled items are place in hot  frying oil, the temperature of the oil rapidly drops.  A good electric fryer appliance should have a high BTU rating and it should be capable of quick temperature recovery time.   Good home style deep fryer appliances do have ant splatter features.  A stainless steel housing is better than plastic, but this adds to the price.  
     
     Deep Frying Temperature:
     Deep frying temperatures are a minimum of 350º and the maximum temperature should be just below the smoking point of the oil.  The maximum temperature for most frying oil is 400º.  A frying temperature of 360º is what I prefer, because this temperature promotes a quicker temperature recovery time and when col items are added, the frying temperature does not drop below 350º.  Any temperature above 375º will shorten the life of the frying oil.  When fryer oil loses its clarity and turns brown, then it should be discarded.  Fryer oil is sustainable and there are fryer oil recovery businesses that recycle deep fryer oil.

     Deep Frying Oil:
     There are basically three kinds of fryer oil.  Lard, vegetable frying oil and modified vegetable frying oil.  All three have good points and bad points.
     A high temperature rated vegetable oil is a good choice.  Canola oil or a canola and soy oil blend is a good choice.  Those who have soy or peanut allergen problems should read the label before purchasing vegetable frying oil.  Peanut oil used to be the number one frying oil in the restaurant industry, but because of allergen issues, peanut oil has been phased out.  The problem with vegetable frying oil is that it degrades and turns dark in a short time.  Fine dining restaurants and many quality oriented restaurants use high temperature rated vegetable oil for deep frying.    
     Deep frying lard used to be the restaurant industry standard.  Deep fat frying lard adds flavor and it it the best for achieving perfection crispy golden brown fried food.  (CGB!)  Lard is best for french fries and fried seafood.  Lard is a source of unhealthy hard cholesterol, so those on a restricted diet should avoid this frying medium.  If fried food is only eaten occasionally, then deep frying lard is not a bad choice.  Deep fat frying lard will turn dark after a few uses, because of its nature.  When deep frying lard is light brown, it is still good.  When it reaches a dark brown or chocolate brown color, it should be discarded.  Many fine dining restaurants, gourmet burger stands and seafood restaurants use deep fryer lard for frying.  
     Modified vegetable frying oil lasts the longest.  These products cost more and they can take as long as one week to go bad in heavy duty restaurant conditions.  Modified frying oils have a very high smoking point and it takes a long time for them to turn brown.  Modified oils can be natural or chemically altered.  The chemical modification of this type of frying oil involves stabilizing the fat in the oil, so it does not degrade in a short time.  Palm oil is a natural modified frying oil that has a very high smoking point, but it is high in saturated fat.  Palm oil is part of many modified frying oil blends.  The problems with modified oil is the higher price and saturated fat issues.  The benefits are perfection fried food and frying oil that lasts a long time.  Fine dining restaurants almost never use modified frying oil.  Fast food restaurants and chain restaurants almost always use modified frying oil for deep frying.

     Beer Pairing and Mojo Beer Batter:  
     Craft beer recipes are en vogue at this time.  Recipes that feature a hoppy tasting craft brewery India Pale Ale are currently the most popular beer recipes.  
     Craft breweries do come up with funny names for their trendy IPA products.  The Boulder Beer Company is located in Colorado.  As everybody knows, recreational marijuana is now legal in Colorado, so there is some serious munching going on in that state.  
     The Boulder Beer Company makes a high quality balanced hoppy IPA beer that is called Mojo.  Amarillo hops give this IPA an unusually crisp clean tasting finish.  Mojo IPA was used in today's beer batter recipe, so the word "Mojo" was used in the recipe title.  Realistically, any craft brewery hoppy IPA can be used to make today's recipe, but the recipe title should be written as "IPA Beer Batter" if Mojo IPA is not used in the recipe.     
     
     The word "Mojo" is pronounced with a hard "J" sound.  The definition of "Mojo" is a charm that casts a spell or a hex.  A mojo bag is revered spiritual charm that is mentioned by many blues musicians.  There are many folks in Louisiana who believe that carrying a mojo bag will help to lure the spirit of someone they desire or someone that they are in love with.  The Mojo IPA in this beer batter will definitely get the mojo working! 
     
     As far as beer pairing goes, it is best to pair a lighter tasting beer, dry white wine or a nonalcoholic beverage with a food item that that features IPA in the recipe.  If IPA beer accompanies food that is made with IPA beer, the flavor of the IPA in the food will not be tasted.  A beer with mild tasting hops is best for pairing with this recipe.  
     To be honest, western style craft brewery IPA beer has such a strong flavor, that it is usually consumed on its own or with strong tasting spicy food like buffalo wings or savory beer food, like a grilled hot pastrami and swiss cheese sandwich.    

     Raspberry Coulis: 
     This recipe makes 2 small servings of coulis!
     Place 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar in a small sauce pot over medium/medium high heat.
     Add 1/4 cup of water.
     Boil till the water evaporates and the sugar starts to foam.
     Cook the molten sugar till it turns clear in color.  As soon as the sugar turns clear, it is close to the soft ball candy making stage.  (235º)
     Immediately add 1/2 cup of fresh raspberries.
     Allow the molten sugar to seize the raspberries and do not stir.  Just gently shake the pan.
     When the liquid from the raspberries starts to liquify the sugar, add 1/2 cups of water.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer till the raspberries become very tender.
     Remove the pot from the heat and allow the ingredients to cool to less than 100º.
     Press the raspberry mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a second small sauce pot.
     Place the sauce pot over low heat.
     Simmer and reduce, till the raspberry sauce becomes a thin syrup consistency.
     Place the raspberry coulis in a container.
     Chill the coulis to less than 41º.

     Blanched Bacon Strips:
     Heat a griddle or saute pan over medium low heat.
     Grill 4 strips of sugar cured bacon, till the fat turns from opaque to a clear color.  
     Remove the blanched bacon from the pan and set them aside. 

     Bacon Wrapped Dates:
     10 bacon wrapped dates is a good appetizer portion size!
     Place a strip of blanched bacon on a cutting board.
     Place 1 date on the end of the bacon strip.
     Roll the date and bacon together, till the bacon surrounds the dat with a single layer and so there is a little bit of bacon overlap.
     Cut off the remaining bacon strip, while holding the bacon wrapped date.
     Run a toothpick through the overlapping bacon and through the date to fasten the bacon in place.
     Place the bacon wrapped date on a wire screen roasting rack on a roasting pan.
     Repeat these steps, till 10 bacon wrapped dates are made.  (Any excess blanched bacon can be cooked crisp for other recipes.)
     Roast the bacon wrapped dates in a 350º, till the bacon becomes light brown and crisp. 
     Set the bacon wrapped dates aside.  Do not remove the toothpicks!

     Mojo Beer Batter:
     This recipe makes enough to coat 2 appetizer portions!
     Place 1 1/2 cups of Mojo IPA in a mixing bowl.  (Any western style craft brewery IPA can be used.)
     Add just enough flour, while whisking, to form a thin batter.  The beer batter should have a thin pancake batter consistency.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of allspice.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of onion powder.
     Add 1 small pinch of turmeric.
     Whisk the ingredients together.
     Set the beer batter aside for ten minutes, so the flavors meld.

     Mojo Beer Batter Bacon Wrapped Dates with Raspberry Coulis:
     Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360º.
     Lightly dredge each bacon wrapped date in flour.  Shake off any excess flour.
     Dip the bacon wrapped dates in the Mojo Beer Batter.
     Place a few of the Mojo Beer Batter Bacon Wrapped Dates in the hot frying oil at a time, so they do not stick together.
     Fry till the Mojo Beer Batter becomes crispy golden brown.  (CGB!)  
     Use a fryer net to place the Mojo Beer Batter Bacon Wrapped Dates on a wire screen rack on a drip pan, to drain off any excess oil.
     Place a bed of Italian parsley on a small appetizer plate.
     Place a portion of raspberry coulis in a shallow ramekin and place the coulis on the plate.
     Mound the Mojo Beer Batter Bacon Wrapped Dates high on the plate.

     Voila!  Beer batter and bacon sure do have mojo powers of attraction of their own.   This mojo appetizer even has dates, so the powers of mojo attraction must rally work.  This little Mojo Beer Batter Bacon Wrapped Dates appetizer has some powerful mojo charm!  Yum!  ...  Shawna  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Chat Masala Salmon Patty Sliders ~ On Butter Rolls with Betel Leaves, Crispy Onions and Spicy Sweet Adzuki Spread








Gourmet Fusion Sliders!  

     What is a slider?  A miniature grilled ground beef burger patty served on a yeast dinner roll bun is the original definition of slider.  Steadfast burger traditionalists do not stray from this definition.  This is the definitive meaning of the word slider from an authenticity standpoint.  
     Many chefs, including myself, use the slider design outline and the slider cooking technique to define the word slider.  Any kind of meat can be used to make the mini patty.  The meat can be ground or minced.  Vegetable patties, fish patties and grilled meatloaf are acceptable.  The bun can be made with any kind of bread, as long as the bread is dinner roll size.  The patty should be grilled on a flat top griddle and not char grilled.  These modified slider guidelines are acceptable for most traditionalists.  By using these guidelines, a gourmet slider will look like a slider and not a mini sandwich.
     
     Plenty of modern chefs throw out all of the slider definition rules and say that anything goes.  Many trendy chefs make sliders with small portions of items like blackened fish, prime rib, roasted glazed pork belly, pulled pork BBQ, filet of beef medallions, etcetera.  Are sliders made with these kinds of items really sliders?  When reflecting upon the definition of what a slider really is, the answer is no!  Sliders that are made with anything other than a grilled patty are really just mini sandwiches.  
     Trendy chefs use the word slider for marketing purposes, when describing mini sandwich creations on a menu.  There is really nothing wrong with calling a hot mini sandwich a slider, but why not just call the sandwich what it really is?  The word "slider" does have marketing power, but so do words like "minis" or "bites."  
     
     Back before the slider craze began, Florida chefs, including myself,  used to sell items like Beer Batter Grouper Nugget Mini Sandwiches, BBQ Sloppy Joe Sandwich Bites and Mini Cajun Chicken Sandwiches.  All of these small sandwiches were served on dinner rolls.  Two or three mini sandwiches or sandwich bites were served with fries in a paper lined basket at tourist destinations, luxury resort poolside snack bars and at bars that served food.  The sandwiches were aways called bites or minis and they were never called sliders, because integrity was part of the chef game back then.  We all knew what sliders really were and sliders had an awful reputation back in those days.  
     It was nearly impossible to market sliders at bars and restaurants in Florida before the year 2000.  Burgers of any kind had reached an all time low in popularity, because burgers were deemed to be an unhealthy food choice.  Sliders had an even worse reputation that extended beyond health issues.  Politically correct chefs avoided the word slider like the plague in those days, because the slider fast food topic involved moral issues that the news media focused on. 
     
     Back in the 1990's, sliders were publicized as being a greasy fast food item that a specific restaurant chain marketed to low income consumers in borderline urban ghetto areas.  Many fast food restaurant chains, including the slider fast food chain, were accused of racially motivated marketing practice by the news media, because a high percentage of the fast food shop locations were located near low income urban areas, which had a high percentage of Afro American residents.  The evidence of racially motivated marketing practice was based upon medical-socioeconomic-consumer statistics and studies that were compiled by major universities and the medical community.  The major grievance concerning the publicized racially motivated marketing practice was that the cheap fatty fast food, like greasy sliders, contributed to heart disease problems in low income Afro American communities.  
     
     Nowadays, the reputation of sliders has improved dramatically.  Gourmet slider creations are the rage.  Some slider fans brag up the old days of fast food slider chain restaurants just to be stylish, but it does not take long for reality to set in.  The memories of how lousy the greasy fast food sliders were, is all it takes to put any stylish statement to an end.  
     The fast food industry is not responsible for the recent dramatic increase in slider popularity.  Quality oriented creative chefs deserve all the credit for saving sliders from extinction.  Modern chefs effectively have turned sliders into one of the most popular sandwiches in history.  All that it took to accomplish this task was applying a gourmet theme to sliders! 

     Beer Pairing:
     Beer pairing or wine pairing?  Whatever!  There are gourmet slider creations that are worthy of being paired with fine wine.  Most gourmet slider creations can be paired with good table wine.  A dry white wine, like Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay would certainly be a good choice for pairing with today's salmon patty sliders.  Korean Soju or just about any semi sweet or dry rice wine is also a good choice, because these slides have a fusion theme.
     
     Because the Indian chat masala spice mix is the central fusion flavor of this salmon patty slider entree, pairing the sliders with an India Pale Ale is probably the most suitable suggestion.  Traditional English style India Pale Ales are a classic choice.  In recent years, the American craft beer brewing trend has been increasing in strength.  
     One of the most popular craft beer styles is India Pale Ale.  Western style craft IPA tends to have a high gravity and it has a strong hops flavor.  Some western craft IPA have such a strong hops flavor, that they only appeal to a limited market.  A western style IPA that has a balanced flavor appeals to a broader spectrum of craft beer consumers.  Fans of traditional English IPA beer who taste craft brews, do seem prefer a western craft IPA that has a balanced hops flavor that is not overbearing.
     
     The Sierra Nevada Brewery was founded in 1979 in California and it is one of the oldest microbreweries in America.  This company was part of the first wave of microbrew beer.  Sierra Nevada gained a large loyal clientele base of beer fans who were tired of only having a choice of cheap national brand rice beer or expensive imported European beer.  The Sierra Nevada Brewery has always had a great reputation for quality, even as production numbers steadily increased.  Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is their number one beer product and it can be found in stores and brew bars nationwide, so availability is not an issue.  Some of the Sierra Nevada Brewery's specialty beers can be a little bit harder to find, but they can be special ordered at just about any liquors store.
    Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA is a good example of a balanced western craft IPA.  Those who like traditional English IPA do like Torpedo.  Torpedo happens to be one of my personal favorite craft IPA beers and the flavor is consistently good.  The hops flavor is not overbearing and the hops selection is well suited for an IPA beer style.  Torpedo is one of the few western craft IPA brews that can be described as being refreshing.  
     Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA is a good beer pairing recommendation for today's fusion style salmon patty sliders.  So, slap some salmon patty sliders on the grill, open the Torpedo tubes and fire away!

     Betel Leaf Information and Disclaimer:
     Fresh Betel Leaf herb is sold in bunches at Asian food markets.  Betel leaves come from the Piper betle plant.  This plant is in the Piperaceae family of plants, which include Kava Kava and pepper.  
     Betel leaves are used in Vietnamese cooking.  Betel leaves have a sharp bitter spicy hot black pepper flavor.  If betel leaves cannot be found, Upland Cress or Watercress are both good substitutes. 
     When betel leaves are used as an herb in recipes, it is best to provide a disclaimer.  Betel leaves do have medicinal value.  Betel leaves are a mild stimulant and they have mild euphoric effect.  When consumed responsibly only on occasion in minute quantities, betel leaves pose no harm.  Betel leaves are a tasty traditional herb and they pose no health threat if they are respected.      
     Betel leaves are addictive, when they are chewed as quid in high quantities.  When betel leaves are chewed with betel nut, the addictive principal increases dramatically.  Betel nut chewing addiction is similar to tobacco addiction.  Betel nut chewing is a social problem in Southeast Asia.  

     Butter Slider Rolls:
     Follow the this hyperlink to the Butter Bread Recipe:  Butter Bread  
     Follow the directions for the bread recipe to create the dough.
     Shaping:
     For shaping slider rolls, cut 2 portions of dough that are about the size of an average apricot or large plum.
     Roll the dough portions into 2 cylinder shapes that are about 1/2" wide.
     Tie the dough rope into a simple double knot shape that is round.
     Place the slider roll shape in a small silicone brioche baking mold or on a parchment paper lined baking pan.
     Allow the dough to rise by half.  
     For finishing and baking the slider rolls, continue to follow the Butter Bread Recipe!

     Spicy Sweet Adzuki Spread:
     This recipe yields enough for 2 sliders!  
     Sweet red bean paste is made with adzuki beans.  Sweet red bean paste is available at Asian markets.
     Place 1 1/2 tablespoons of sweet red bean paste in a small sauce pot.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Add 2 pinches of Chinese chile powder or cayenne pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 1/4 cup of water.
     Place the pot over low heat.
     Stir the ingredient as they heat.
     Simmer and reduce, till the sauce becomes a medium consistency.
     Set the sauce aside.
      
     Chat Masala Salmon Slider Patties:
     This recipe yields 2 slide patties!
     Chat Masala is a tangy exotic Indian spice mix that is usually served with fruits or used in dessert recipes.  Chat Masala can also be used to flavor vegetables, poultry or fish.  Chat Masala spice mix can be found in Indian food markets.
     A food processor works best for mincing the ingredients.  The ingredients can also be run through a meat grinder or minced by hand with Chinese cleavers or a chef knife.     
     Heat a small saute pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped celery.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of copped green bell pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Saute till the vegetables become tender.  Try not to brown the vegetables.  
     Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside.  
     Cut 5 1/2 ounces of salmon filet into small pieces.  (No bones and no skin!)
     Place the salmon pieces in a food processor.
     Add the sautéed vegetables.
     Pulse the food processor till the salmon and vegetables are finely minced.
     Place the minced salmon mixture in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of worcestershire sauce.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 2 tablespoons of plain fine French bread crumbs.
     Add 1 teaspoon of chat masala.
     Add 1 small pinch of Chinese chile powder.
     Add sea salt.
     Add 2 teaspoons of whisked egg.
     Thoroughly mix the ingredients together.
     Refrigerate the mixture, so it becomes firm.  (Chill for about 20 minutes.)
     Divide the salmon mixture into 2 equal size portions.  
     Use a 3" ring mold to create 2 salmon patties.
     Dredge the the salmon patties in plain fine french bread crumbs.  (Just a thin coating is all that is needed.)  
     Keep the chat masala salmon patties chilled till they are needed.

     Crispy Onion Straws:
     Cut 1 onion into paper thin slices.  About 1/2 cup is plenty.
     Place the onion slices in a mixing bowl.
     Season the onions with sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of Chinese chile powder.
     Toss the onions with the seasoning.
     Allow the onions to sweat for 10 minutes.
     Add just enough flour to coat the onions.  Toss the paper thin onion rings with the flour.
     Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360º.
     Note:  Fry the onions in small batches, so they do not stick together.
     Pick up some of the flour coated onions and shake off any excess flour.
     Sprinkle the onions into the hot oil, so they do not clump together.
     Fry the flour coated onions, till they become golden brown and crispy.
     Scoop the crispy onions out of the hot oil with a fryer net.
     Place the onion straws on a wire screen roasting rack to drain off any excess oil.
     Repeat these last few steps, till all of the onion straws are fried.
     Set the crispy onion straws aside on a stove top and keep them warm.
            
     Chat Masala Salmon Patty Sliders ~ On Butter Rolls with Betel Leaves, Crispy Onions and Spicy Sweet Adzuki Spread: 
     Heat a saute pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat.  
     Add enough vegetable oil, so the oil is about 1/8" deep.  Just a thin layer of oil is all that is needed.
     Saute the salmon patties on both sides, till they become golden brown and fully cooked.  Be sure to flip the patties twice, to avoid excessive browning.  (A 165º center temperature for 15 seconds is best, from a health standpoint.)  
     Place the salmon patties in a wire screen roasting rack to drain off any excess oil.
     Keep the salmon patties warm on a stove top.    
     Warm 2 Butter Bread Slider Roll in an oven.
     Split the 2 Butter Bread Slider Rolls in half.
     Spread a thin layer of the Spicy Sweet Adzuki Spread on the rolls.
     Place a thin layer of betel leaves on the bottom half of the slider rolls.  (About 3 or 4 leaves on each roll is plenty.)
     Place the Chat Masala Salmon Patties in the betel leaves.
     Place the unfinished slider set ups on a plate. 
     Mound some crispy onions on the salmon patties.
     Lean the top of the slider rolls agains the sliders.
     Place any extra Spicy Sweet Adzuki Spread in a ramekin and set it on the plate.  
     Garnish the plate with a few betel leaves.

     This fusion salmon patty slider recipe is about as exotic salmon patty recipes get!  All of the flavors go well together.  Yum!  ...  Shawna