Thanksgiving Tacos

Thanksgiving was great! The 1910 Mexican Revolution was even greater! I just wanted to pop in to say hello and thank you for your readership. I’m thankful for your snark, patronage, and sexy, sexy eyes, readers. To commemorate this amazing holiday, the likes of which I have just Googled, I decided to make a handheld version of Thanksgiving dinner for your personal enjoyment and pleasure. It’s Thanksgiving tacos. It’s made of leftovers.
DSC_6587
Continue reading “Thanksgiving Tacos”

Taste of the Union: Fall Bites

Womp womp, when was the last time I did one of these awesome round-ups? Probably around the same time Pandora thought it was appropriate to play ‘Hey There Delilah,’ which it’s doing right now. This time, it’s a little different- I have a mix of gluten-free products that I’ll give numerical ratings to, just like my big features, but…smaller. Think of it as the specialty food equivalent of GrubGrade’s First Looks or TIB’s Quick Reviews. Interspersed through this will be some recipes I’ve recently made that I’m particularly proud of.

Brooklyn Salsa Mole Tacos

With an enormous rainstorm and a chilly wind, we’ve finally ushered the oppressively hot summer out and have welcomed in autumn. I forgot how much I missed those good New England fall evenings. My new place is on the top floor of the building, and has an advantageous position both for a pleasant view and smoky winds, coming in from the fields and filling the place with that scent I so missed while abroad.

Last evening, the Bedfellow and I decided to mimic the smoky scents with a dinner reminiscent of that pungency, using an ingredient we picked up at the Fancy Food Show. This is Brooklyn Salsa’s newest creation, a hot mole salsa that speaks more like a sauce.  I can’t give it a higher opinion- it’s the best jarred mole I’ve ever tried, with absolutely no fatty or oily texture to speak of, with a smooth, rich flavor redolent with roasted chili peppers, sesame, and chocolate.

The tacos had equal aplomb, coated in crema, queso fresco, avocado slices, and roasted tomatoes. Color me gauche, but I love Hunt’s fire-roasted canned tomatoes. They added a decent depth of flavor without diluting the sauce, and if anything, contributed to the strength of the more roasted flavors.

With those and the aforementioned toppings piled on fresh blue corn tortillas- a pleasant and snappy diversion from the blank white corn canvases, we had ourselves a wonderful autumn meal. Making these vegetarian would likely also be fun, as I can imagine the flavors would translate well to squash or other dense vegetables.

I’m curious to try the other salsas- I’d love to see if they’re as dualistic as dips and sauces as this one was.

Yancey’s Fancy Tandoori Gouda Cheesesteaks

A few weeks ago, I retrieved a shipment of cheese from Yancey’s Fancy (retrieved as UPS and their terrible shipping policies held my cheese random) and received a selection of delicious flavors, one of which was this amazing-looking tandoori gouda.

I knew I wanted to cook something special with it, but I wasn’t sure what would do the flavor justice. Making normal Indian food didn’t seem to fit the bill, and fusing too many flavors together would overwhelm the delicate gouda’s flavor.

A beautifully serendipitous sale on brisket gave me a great idea, though- why not make tandoori brisket cheesesteaks? The cheese is the biggest player, and I’d realized I was overdue for a good sandwich. Realizing I lack the capacity to eat an entire loaf of bread is sobering, but the bliss found at being able to make an enormous sub with baguette and eat it for dinner outside, with Red, was incomparable.

I made the brisket in the slow cooker. I want to eventually do one in the oven, but the oven in this apartment is erratic and tends to dry meat out unless I check it religiously. As I started the brisket at 4AM, I figured I ought to prioritize sleep over meat-checking, so I just popped it in the cooker and took it out at 5PM the next day. The brisket had a dry rub and a wet rub, the former a mixture of tandoori spices, curry powder, salt, pepper, garlic, and chili powder, and the latter, whole-grain honey mustard, honey, and brown sugar. This was all accompanied by a few shakes of hot sauce to balance out the sweeter flavors.

When it was done, I shredded it. It was my original objective to slice it, but it was just too tender! I popped the pan in the oven to get a bit of a crispy crust on it before assembling the sandwiches. After sauteeing some peppers and onions with a little olive oil, I was ready. Tandoori mayo, meat, veggies, and cheese went atop the bread, and the whole thing went into the oven for about 20 minutes at 350 to melt the cheese. Once finished, I drizzled the sandwiches with some of the sauce leftover from cooking and we ate them.

And of course, nothing is better than a tandoori cheesesteak, except a tandoori cheesesteak omelet in the morning. It was a really fun way to get creative with my sandwiches! I have a few more cheeses from Yancey’s to try — strawberry chardonnay and maple bacon are two that I’m itching to cook with. What should I make?

Earl Grey French Toast

Autumn in Paris: Not exactly like those old Bunuel films you watched as a child. That’s my running tagline and I’m sticking to it. Parisian Seasonal Tourist Board, here I come! Imagine a classic, smoky New England autumn. Now, remove 75% of the leaves, replace the woodfire smoke permeating the air with cigarette smoke (admittedly comforting in its own right) and make it rain, baby. Literally. Luckily, I have plenty to occupy my time with, including, but not limited to, perusing museum exhibits solely devoted to the sex lives of wild animals, creating playlists about said museum exhibit, and making weird French toast with my guiltiest French pleasure, Harry’s white bread. 

Seriously, Harry’s is like a food diaper. It may be part polymer. It soaks up sauces, liquids, butter, you name it- and never loses its shape or wilts underneath the pressure of the many condiments I subject it to. It is perfect for French toast, and pretty much everything else. Lacking the ingredients to make anything else, I turned my sights toward French toast- as well as the leftover bag of Earl Grey I had after getting sick last week. I made this as a lazy Tuesday breakfast after eating dinner with my fellow exchange friend, Optimus Prime, and will go to bed with dreams of brown butter, infused with the smell of spices throughout my apartment.
Earl Grey French Toast
Ingredients (serves 4)
12 slices of thick, squishy white bread
6 eggs
1 cup of whole milk
The zest of one lemon
3 bags of Earl Grey tea
1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt

1. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, vanilla bean, nutmeg, and sea salt. Set aside and prepare your milk, setting it up to boil in a saucepan on the stove. Once the milk is boiled, put the lemon zest and tea bags in. Let it steep for 15-30 minutes.

2. Once the milk is cool, beat with the egg mixture. Pour over bread and let soak until completely absorbed. In a large pan on the stove, melt two tablespoons of butter until sizzling.

3. Fry the bread until brown on both sides and custardy on the inside. Serve with sea salt and syrup if desired.

I don’t think this will make it to the morning.

Carnitas Francaises, Habanero Raspberry Bergerac Sauce

I am not the most observant Jew. Case in point, posting about Franco-prepared pork on Yom Kippur, albeit two days after I actually made it, still makes me look like a halfhearted Sasha Baron Cohen progeny. Even if I told you I was fasting today, my flagrant offense of everything Jewish ever makes it pale in comparison. Still, it goes without saying that when steaks run up to $24/pound and when frozen chicken breasts swallow the bulk of your birthday money, seeing a 2 lb. pork shoulder for 4 Euro means that you put your money where your mouth is and eat like a queen for four days. Hence, Carnitas Francaises.

Two pounds, four Euro. And to think that all that I had to do was roll up my sleeves and hack at this sucker with a serrated knife like my life depended on it. After trimming and removing the skin and most of the fat and filleting the meat from the bone, I ended up with roughly 1.25 lbs of tender meat. I knew I wanted to make carnitas on the stovetop, and I also knew that I wanted to have a spicy, but distinctly French flavor profile, so I made a spice blend that incorporated all of those components.
The result, after three hours of simmering and twenty minutes of frying and chopping, was transcendental. Roddy, here’s that Franco-Mexican fusion we spoke of. Sheer, tender delight in miniscule shreds accompanied by a quick gastrique. I had every plan to make this into tacos, buy or make tortillas and eat it over the period of a few days, but its allure ensured that that never came to fruition. I ate it plain, slathered with its spicy, fruity sauce, on baguette, on white bread, but never on tortilla. However, there will be another time for this, that much I am sure of.

Carnitas Francaises
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 2lb. bone-in pork shoulder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon of garlic powder/1 clove of chopped garlic
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 tablespoon of parsley
1/4 cup of red wine (I used Bergerac AOC)

1. Trim, debone, and cut the pork shoulder into small  pieces, roughly 3-4 inches long. Heat a pot with roughly 3 cups of water on the stove on high.

2. Mix the spices together and toss to coat the pork. When the water is boiling, put in the pork and lower the heat to a simmer. Let the pork cook for 2-3 hours uncovered, or until all the water is evaporated.

3. When the water has evaporated, the pork will start to caramelize and fry in its own fat. After the pork is brown, remove it and let the bottom of the pan continue to brown. Pour in the wine and deglaze for a few minutes until reduced and toss in the pork again, allowing the wine to cover the meat. Remove the pork and shred.
Habanero Raspberry Bergerac Sauce
Ingredients (serves 4)
2 tablespoons habanero hot sauce, or 2 chopped habanero peppers
1/4 cup of red wine (I used Bergerac AOC)
1/3 cup fresh raspberries or raspberry jam

1. Let all ingredients simmer in a saucepan until reduced and thick. Stir frequently. Keep in a sealed container for up to 4 days.

Roasted Nectarine, Riesling, and Bacon Panini

Excessive? Nah. Not here. There’s a world of foie gras and French fries out there to explore. In comparison to the rows of éclairs at the bakery down the street and the wafting scent of waffles rising up to my apartment, this sandwich almost seemed pedestrian, or dare I say, healthy- in comparison. To celebrate completing most of my law school applications (!!!) I made dinner at home tonight, using up some nectarines and chopped bacon and part of the Poilâne loaf I’d purchased earlier in the week. My mission? A killer panini.

You wouldn’t expect to see panini in Paris, but they’re as common as croissants in some areas and street corners. While doing some photoresearch for my latest blog, Dogs of Paris, (check it out!) I got a craving for the filled baguettes and savory sandwiches and decided to go home and make one of my own. I started out by tossing sliced nectarine in cane sugar, salt, and pepper, then caramelizing it in rendered bacon fat. Deglazed the pan with a little Riesling, and smashed the whole thing between two pieces of Polaine’s famous brown bread and a few slices of Cousteron cheese. Nom.

Roasted nectarine and bacon panini
Ingredients (serves 2)
Four slices of brown bread
Two tablespoons of butter with sea salt crystals
Three ounces of Cousteron or other soft cheese, sliced or shredded
1/3 lb of chopped bacon
1 nectarine, sliced
1/2 teaspoon of cane or brown sugar
1/4 cup of Riesling or other white wine
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Spread the butter on the bread and sprinkle cheese on each slice. In a medium-sized saucepan, start frying the bacon over a low heat, rendering the fat out and crisping it. Sprinkle the nectarine with sugar, salt, and pepper, and let sit for five minutes.
2.  Put the bacon on a plate, leaving the fat in the pan, and cook the nectarine over medium-high heat until soft and caramelized. Toss with the bacon and deglaze the pan with Riesling until it is reduced and forms a pan sauce. 

3. Spoon the toppings onto the bread and sandwich together, grilling until outside is toasted and cheese is melted. Serve warm with sauce on the side for dipping.

Riesling won’t know what hit it! And neither will you.

The B4 Burger in Paris: Bean, bacon, brie, and booze

When we picked our housing for Paris, it was obvious that I was going to live in an apartment. I didn’t want to live in a dormitory for another semester, and although I wanted to get out and meet French people, I wasn’t too keen on living with a host family. What I was looking forward to, however, was the possibility of cooking and shopping for my own groceries. You’ve seen a selection of some of the things I’ve seen in grocery stores (with more to come!) so I thought it would be fun to show you what I’ve actually been cooking as well.
Buying groceries in Europe is very different from getting them in the US. Things that are typically imported into the States that are thus, more expensive, are less expensive in France due to their ease of manufacture and varied selection of items that do not have to be processed and distributed to transport overseas. This includes wine, cheese, cured meats, and bread. One can easily spend about 10 Euros, or roughly $13, on items that would add up to around $20-25 USD if purchased in stores. Recently, a 6 Euro purchase netted me a large baguette, a 250 gram wedge of fresh Brie, two 150 gram cartons of chopped bacon, and a half-bottle of Pays d’Oc red wine. This can be a very prosperous system if you do it correctly. Avoiding American brands, packaged, frozen goods (which I’ve found to be priced the most disproportionately) and fresh juices can help you stretch your Euro.

A few days ago, I picked up some ingredients that I knew I could cook in large quantities and hack around throughout the week if I had leftovers. So with some leftover white beans sauteed in bacon and thyme, wine, bread, and cheese. I made these B4 Burgers in Paris. They’re easy to make, very tasty, and can be customized to suit any flavor palate or combination.

B4 Burgers in Paris
Ingredients (makes 6 patties)
1 can of white beans, drained
1/2 stale baguette, crumbled
1/4 cup of red wine
1/4 cup of chopped bacon, cooked and drained
1 teaspoon of thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of olive oil

1. Form the patties by soaking the bread crumbs in the red wine and thyme until soft. Mix in beans and bacon until fully incorporated. Shape into patties and chill for 30 minutes to twelve hours in the fridge.

2. When ready to cook, start heating oil. Season patties with salt and pepper and fry on medium-high until golden brown on each side, roughly five minutes per side. When finished, remove patties, pour out oil and deglaze pan with red wine, reducing to a thick syrup.
3. Drain patties on paper towels and serve with brie on top. Spoon red wine glaze over the top and eat alone or with bread.

Brisket with gruyere polenta, roasted tomatoes, and heirloom eggplant tapenade.

Secret confession, secret private internet diary! I use vegetables as props. Yes, I’ve found a way, in my immense hatred of all things fibrous and green, to become the antithesis of composting and recycling. I buy vegetables and photograph them because hot sauce and bread gets old after a while. And then, I throw them away. Because I hate vegetables.

That being said, it’s an incredible feat of willpower to go to a cute, adorable Farmer’s Market in the middle of an abandoned ghost town in upstate New York after taking a break from poking around thrift stores with your color-coordinated girlfriend and not come home with some quirky phallic vegetables to brag about. And photograph. We sampled goat cheese and looked at the last of the day’s offerings, and eventually forked over a fiver for these fucking adorable Indian eggplants and baby heirloom tomatoes.
I hope these don’t taste like eggplants, I remember thinking, conflicting emotions swirling around in my head paralleling the grabby hippies wandering around the onions. Really, though, how could I not buy them? They’re not like their bulbous, bruise-colored siblings. They’re not enormous. They’re little. And they have stripes. Something tells me I’ll be dealing with this issue many more times in the future. After a brief session compartmentalizing my priorities regarding vegetables, I bought a pound of these guys to use in something, although at the time I had no idea. I wanted a sandwich. Miss Love wanted pasta because she always wants pasta. We settled on polenta and drove home, the remnants of a successful gay date in the back of our Not-Subaru.
Needless to say, the results were…okay. It was the end product of wishful thinking and a desire to cover up the vegetables with better flavors. Pray the veg away, so to speak. I piled brisket on top. I made a bacon fat, onion, gruyere and rosemary polenta that knocked my socks off. And to be fair, the roasted tomatoes were delicious in the polenta, a sort of reverse pasta and sauce dish, but the eggplants were pretty mediocre. I’m trying to be judicious and open my mind! Really! I accidentally ate an eraser shaped like a cartoon carrot the other day. I’m so open-minded!

Brisket with gruyere polenta, roasted tomatoes, and heirloom eggplant tapenade
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 cup of baby tomatoes, cut in half.
1 cup of eggplant, diced
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of shredded brisket
4 3/4 cups of water
1 cup of dried polenta
1 cup of shredded gruyere cheese
1/2 teaspoon of rosemary
1 tablespoon of bacon fat
1 teaspoon of softened butter
Pepper

1. Preheat the oven to broil. Chop your tomatoes and eggplant and toss with olive oil and salt and pepper. Spread on baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until soft.

2. Warm your brisket in a small skillet or in the microwave and start boiling your water. When it’s bubbling, mix in the rosemary and pepper, and when it starts to boil, pour in the polenta and lower the heat to medium low. Stir the polenta until thickened, about 5-7 minutes.

3. Once the polenta is thick, pour in the gruyere and mix thoroughly. Remove the polenta from the heat and mix in the butter and bacon fat, which will help the mixture thicken together.

4. To serve, mix the polenta and tomatoes together and plate in the bottom of the bowl. Ladle the brisket, then the eggplant on top. Serve hot with a garnish of fresh tomato.

Three Pepper Smoked Turkey Sliders en Papillote

We don’t have a TV. Trust me, it’s better off that way. It’s a dangerous habit to ease into the swelling waters of bayou billionaires and extravagant birthday parties. There are a few shows I love the concepts of, though, like Chopped. It’s fun to think of what a random combination of ingredients could be incorporated into a dish and how the flavors could come out in any number of ways. I did my own miniature version of Chopped the other night, using some fun ingredients I’ve received over the last few weeks. Without further ado, here are my Three Pepper Smoked Turkey Sliders en Papillote.

I came up with this idea in part in homage to a classic Connecticut treat, steamed burgers, and also as a result of having some spectacular spicy ingredients around the house. I received some spice-infused salts in the mail from The Spice Lab a few weeks ago, and picked up some fantastic Cypress Grove peppered goat cheese and parchment bags from PaperChef at the Fancy Food Show that I’d been dying to use. These sliders are small, but they’re packed with flavor and are moist and tender from steaming in the oven.

Three Pepper Smoked Turkey Sliders en Papillote
Ingredients (makes 8 sliders)
8 slider rolls
1/2 lb ground turkey
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 pimento pepper, minced
1 habanero pepper, minced
1/2 teaspoon of smoked sea salt (smoked jalapeno salt found here)
1/2 teaspoon of olive oil
1/2 round of goat cheese, approximately two ounces

1. Chop and prepare your ingredients. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the salt, sliced onion, and half of the peppers together. Toss with oil.

2.  Mix the remaining peppers into the ground turkey and shape into eight small sliders, roughly 1/8th of a pound apiece.

3. Layer the onions and peppers on the bottom of the parchment bag in a single layer, evenly distributing the ingredients. Place the patties on top with a blob of goat cheese and seal the bag tightly, crimping the edges over twice to ensure that it doesn’t open while cooking.

4. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Let the burgers cool for five minutes, and open the bag from the top. Spoon burgers and onions onto buns and devour!

We served these with a cantaloupe basil agua fresca, a drink we’ve enjoyed before. It was a really refreshing treat and definitely quenched the heat these baby burgers brought! Even if the ghetto three-hour fresca drip and Death Star melon husk (pictured below) didn’t quite work out.

I’m excited to experiment with parchment bags more. Have you tried out any other interesting recipes with these? I want to go past the ubiquitous steamed salmon and asparagus. What else do you think would be fun to steam in the oven?