12/6/13

Land O Lakes

Your Kitty Boy is feelin' a little frisky today.

So, here's a little treat . . .





11/28/13

Kitchen Courageous

 
Image Credit: www.syllablesoup.com

Some actions in the kitchen require courage. They usually involve cracking something. Coconuts, for one. Those should be left to the experts, or to the foolhardy.

Just cracking an egg open can require an act of courage. There you are, you have to get the job done, and make it snappy. Too light a touch and it gets complicated; the shell cracks but not enough. Too hard, you get egg all over the place. Not to even get into just on what you hit the egg to crack it in the first place. Problem: you don't want shell bits in your egg, do you? Solution: hit the egg firmly and sharply on a flat surface. NOT ON ANY EDGE! Then move over to whatever you are wanting said egg to go into, and spread the shell halves to release that eggy goodness. One hand, or two? One. Repeat, ONE! (Practice.) Courage!

Then there's the fried egg, "Easy Over" style. A friend from the UK had to be taught how to order that style on this side of the pond. She was by nature inclined to say, "Easily over". Flipping that egg to get the other side "easily" over and done (read runny yolk) is an exercise in judgement (when do you do the flipping?); and, then, the actual flipping. Too much, and that critter can get loose and onto the floor. Too little, and only half (if even that) turns over. Courage, indeed!

Last, the omelet. Not those spread-flat-on-the-griddle-and-cooked-to-paper-dryness kind you can get at just about any diner in the country. No, we're talking those sublime light, tender darlings cooked carefully and quickly in a proper round sided pan at places of such fond memory in New York City as Mme. Romaine de Lyon or the Brasserie of past years. Ordering a proper omelet and actually getting it right in most eateries nowadays is in itself an act of courage. And, forbearance.

Here is an earlier post dedicated to the omelet. The omelet done right.

11/13/13

A Polish Kiss is Hard to Get



This is not about the kissing of the Polish girls. The cocktail named "Polish Kiss" is even harder to get.

Here's the recipe: 1 jigger Vodka Żubrówka in a tall glass with fresh apple cider over ice. This delicious concoction is also known as the "Frisky Bison" or "Szarlotka" (meaning "apple pie"). 

Simple you say. Now try to make one. Read on . . .

It all started when we came back from Europe recently with a bottle of Bison Grass Vodka from the Duty Free shop in Amsterdam. Our bottle is distinctive in that it has a furry “bison hair” wrapper. How cool it that! You've heard the expression, "The Hair of the Dog"? This dog got some hair!



Also known as Żubrówka (ʐuˈbrufka), it is a rye based vodka flavored with bison grass which can only be produced in Poland at the Bialystok distillery. It has a distinctive aroma of new-mown hay.


Żubrówka goes back before the Middle Ages and Bison Grass is said to give vitality and stamina. The power of the bison! It's considered an aphrodisiac. The kind of stuff that makes you want to gallop in the dark of night bareback and buck naked. Blindfolded racing through a dense birch forest with only the light of the moon and your trusty steed's instincts as a guide. And, yelling at the top of your lungs, throwing gold doubloons at the fairies and elves you pass along the way. Look it up, dude. This is legend.

You should know that the traditional Żubrówka made with real Bison Grass is not imported into the United States. Bison Grass contains coumarin, a moderately toxic substance banned by the FDA based on clinical tests with animals. There are some brands imported into the United States which do not contain coumarin but reportedly have a similar taste to the real deal Żubrówka.

We are not in any way recommending use of any banned substances, for legal and health reasons.


For our own part we make homemade Żubrówka at home with a few straws of Bison Grass in good rye or potato Vodka. If after your own due diligence on the subject you want to make your own, there is an importer who can supply the dried grass produced in Poland.

11/1/13

Traditional Soba Noodles

 
A brilliant demonstration of the values of human intention and human touch.



 

10/19/13

Our Cured/Smoked Meat Adventure
 
 
Recently we travelled from our casa in New Jersey to Hamtramck, Michigan. Looking back on all the sights and experiences, the title "Cured/Smoked Meats" would be a good choice for a theme to the culinary side of that adventure.

Mind you we were not looking for this "cured meat" thing, it just unfolded that way.

When we travel we always prefer to stay at Bed and Breakfast overnights. At the halfway point on our trip we lodged at the Candleford Inn in Volant, Pennsylvania nestled in the quiet verdant countryside of Mercer County.



Amish country. In fact, our first sight when entering Volant was an Amish horse drawn covered carriage. Then, after a most satisfying dinner at the nearby Neshannock Creek Inn, we had to pause as an open wagon with two young men dressed in camouflage quietly but briskly rolled by, pulled by a perky spirited muscular horse. We were told the boys were probably doing some "spotting" on a hunt. Clickity clack. What a great honest sound. We all waved hello. Simple country pleasures.

And speaking of things Neshannock, props to the Neshannock Creek Inn. While there we shared a cod fish dinner. The fish was battered style and brought to our table piping hot from the fryer. This place says it's the "Home of the Giant Cod". You betcha. Looked like a fillet of half of a fish. No complaints from this Kitty. Potatoes with your main course? The choices were vast. Regular or sweets. Either variety could be served up baked, mashed, pan fried in wedges or as French fries. Scalloped potatoes seems to be a local fave; we stopped our server there, but we're not sure that if we waited a bit there might have been a few more choices rattled off. The potatoes were perfectly done with lots of their own flavor and covered with a simple cream sauce. Perfect with the fried fish. We were told the next day was the Oktoberfest in town and the Amish would be selling their donuts which are famous for being as big as 45 RPM records. If you don't know what that is, look it up.

So how does this relate to cured meats? It's just a side board on the way. Admit it. That was a nice little story.

The next morning our gracious hosts Carolyn Moss and husband Howard served a gourmet farm style breakfast with world class coffee, a choice of fruit juices, homemade banana walnut muffins, sliced fresh pears in orange juice, thick bacon and a frittata with a generous portion of large cubes of locally cured ham. Ham is big in those parts, and the folks in those parts know from tasty ham and how to cure it that way.

Leaving early the next day, and missing Octoberfest and those giant donuts, we gassed up down the road and, low and behold, our second cured meat sighting. Slim Jims. In all their permutations. With a supporting cast of other spicy meat sticks and beef jerkies.

 
I you don't know Slim Jims, get your butt over to any convenience store in this good old US of A and grab a few. Best with ice cold beer. A Slim Jim is a spicy meat stick snack treat. When in the US Army for Basic Training a friend of ours, one David D. Wronski, reports that after a miserable day of being put through the paces it was Slim Jims and 3.2 beer that lifted his spirits at the canteen after the daily grind. Also, non filter Kool cigarettes. No filter. Staight up. Multo macho.
 
 

 
That David was a Kool Kat back in the day. Also, like most things, Slim Jims don't seem to be what they used to. Nevertheless, a singular taste experience not to be missed if only once in a lifetime.
 
And, speaking of the US Army, we also met one Mr. Frank Smith at that filling station. He is a good soul and a US Army Viet Nam veteran, serving in 1967. Salute!



The next stop for an extended stay was The Sitting Room. Another excellent Bed and Breakfast in an impeccably renovated 1885 farm house just off old Mound Road in Warren, Michigan. If you travel to Detroit or thereabouts consider staying there. It is located within easy and quick reach of everything Detroit and environs has to offer via city roads and highways.




The Sitting Room is owned and graciously hosted by Julijana Khunhenn. She renovated, remodelled, and decorated the place herself.  The remodelling kept faith with the original architectural details, but modernized for comfortable modern living. The decoration and furnishings are a very tasteful eclectic mix of period and contemporary. A good eye.

The quaint farmhouse adjacent she also renovated, even doing the heavy lifting (literally) of resetting the sagging house back to level on its foundation. She's also just purchased another property down the road next to the cemetery. (The neighbors there are very quiet we are told.) She also lends a hand at her family's Kuhnhenn Brewery across the road. But, that's a whole other story. Read on. Julie plays forward on a winning women's rugby team, the Detroit Tradesmen Womens's Rugby Football Club. That's her in the photo.
 

They call it "play rugby" but our Hostess with the Mostest showed up one morning after an away game in Chicago sporting a souvenir of her team's victory.

 
 
 
And, in her spare time, she's the mother of four darling girls. Oh, and she's not only smart, capable and good looking, she can cook too. A really good cook. Please notice that stack of crepes on that square plate. It takes a tough mother rucker to make a tender crepe.  
First breakfast at The Sitting Room was farm fresh, carefully scrambled eggs with thick cut bacon, smoked sausage, accompanied by fresh blueberries, strawberries, and sliced bananas. Good deep strong coffee. Another time we had waffles, bacon on the side with an assortment of fruits, berry compotes and fruit syrups. Whipped cream!

Because of our schedule we didn't breakfast at the inn every day. For Sunday breakfast we had crepes. Thin and rich tasting with Marscapone and Feta cheese. Fresh berries and fruit syrups. Smoked sausage on the side.

For our farewell breakfast Julijana went all out. She's comes from Macedonian ancestry. Don't ask for "Greek" coffee. We were served breakfast Mezze style. It's to food what Gangnam Style is to tap dancing. We had stuffed phillo burek custom ordered from a family friend; one with spinach and Feta cheese, the other with pumpkin. That latter, a nice seasonal touch. Smoked dry sausage, a delicious fatty cured pork neck meat, Feta and a soft plain cheese. Macedonian deviled eggs. Accompanied by a homemade thin yogurt. It's thin because as it is with all daughters, and mothers and grandmothers hers is not as thick and good as mother's. (We were lucky enough to take some of her epic yogurt back home with us. The starter is who knows how old. You had me at "who knows how old". It is so clean, sour, and deeply complex flavored. Multi gratzi's. First batch turned out . . . you guessed it . . . not as good as hers. That yogurt may be good, but there's a Macedonian twist somewhere in there: The culture strain known as "notsogoodasmommaslactobacillismacedonicus")

Oh, almost forgot. We have to back up a bit. On the way into Detroit on the Ohio side we stopped and stocked up at Beef Jerky Unlimited. Gangnam Style best describes this joint. If you can think of a type of meat jerky, they got it for you.

Then, back in Detroit we visited that traditional precinct of Polish culture, Hamtramck. It is a city almost entirely surrounded by Detroit, with Polish immigrants going there originally to mostly work at the nearby auto plants. It had been so Polish that Pope John Paul II was ordained by Heaven to make a beeline for Hamtramck on his one and only visit to America. Right there in a small park located on the main street, Joseph Campau, is a larger than life sized statue of our favorite Polish Pope, arms jubilantly outstretched. His gesture was so welcoming and universal in fact that now there is a sizable Muslim population thriving in Hamtramck. If it be Allah's will. Indeed, it is. Good family people, and neighbors.



Also on Joseph Campau there are many Polish stores specializing in Polish style cured and smoked meats. Kielbasa. Not just Kielbasa, though. There's coarse grind and fine grind. All pork, pork and veal. Regular and double smoked. And every shop has its own spin on flavor and seasonings. Our friend David Wronski's parents were forever searching the city for the best Kielbasa maker. He continues that tradition. If there is ever a spot on the Wall Street Journal as Kielbasa Editor, our David has the proper resume. Maybe with a sidebar specialty in Pączki, that other iconic Polish staple. For the uninitiated, pączki are yeast raised donuts filled with all types of jellies, also Bavarian Cream. It's another story though, so if you want, this will get you to a post covering the topic as much as you would care to read. There are still a few Polish bakeries around those parts. Pączki central. One in fact, the New Martha Washington Bakery, only makes them to order or for that day of pączki days, Pączki Day. Traditionally it is held on the Thursday before the beginning of Lent. Go nuts on pączki. Some folks hold it to be Fat Tuesday. Whatever. Pączki are great. Best early in the morning from the bakery. At the New Martha Washington Bakery they had what looked like pączki. No, we were told, those were jelly donuts. So be on notice, there's a difference. You don't have to be Polish to love pączki; you do have to be Polish, however, to make them. Witness . . .

Photo: Metro Times 

At Srodek's Market we bought Kielbasa, coarse pork and veal style, and thin dry sausage sticks, called Hunter's Sausage. They were righteously spicy and rich, making those aforementioned Slim Jims slim pickins by comparison. Those sausage sticks were to meat snacks what Gangnam Style is to pussy footin'. At Bozek's on Caniff Street we bagged some more of those dry sausage sticks. Entirely different flavor profile, less spicy hot, but darn good. Beer optional, but recommended.

Needing to mention at Srodek's we were served by a lovely young woman, the classic Polish blond. Think Claire Danes in the 1998 movie Polish Wedding, filmed mainly in Hamtramck.

 
Very sweet and friendly service. There were heirloom tomatoes on the counter. We asked, what the price? Free to take. We took two, the young lady added another. How's that for service!

I know this is a rambling piece, David Wronski (of Wronski's Wramblings infamy) is our editor and he don't give a dern about digressions, diversions, disvertisments, and diverticulations. In fact, he's a proponent of the form.

So, speaking of beer. We mentioned that Julijana's family is in the brewing business. The Kuhnhenn Brewery in Warren, Michigan is a must stop when in the Metro Detroit area. In fact the joint is so popular people travel from all over the country, even the world, to sample its libateous ferments. Talk about synergy. You drink your fill at the brewery and then walk across the road to stay at The Sitting Room. A one stop family, the Kuhnhenn's are.

The back story is that Kuhnhenn et fils were originally in the hardware biz. But at some point in that store's recent history the big box stores began to erode their hardware sales. They had been selling brewing and wine making supplies already, and there was an interest in those crafts anyhow. So, the next step was to start making and selling beers, wines, and meads. They are currently gearing up to bottle their beers. Once that is in operation, look out Samuel Adams. That's to say we wish them every success. But, they are true craftsmen there, and the quality comes first. So, look for it soon near you.

And, for the hat-trick, there's talk of producing distilled spirits. It must be that Detroit "shot-and-beer" ethic creeping in. Best wishes, there too.

There's a lot to tell, just to say a few things for now. The service at the Kuhnhenn Brewery is top notch. Friendly, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic about the product line. The products, one example: DRIPA. Double Rice India Pale Ale. Served in a round tulip goblet with slight chimney top; a perfect beer glass.

Photo Source: Two Beer Dudes Blog

The nose on that brew: Wow! The taste . . . Wow! Every quaff a Wow! Clean, fresh, herbal, citrus, floral, with a friendly hops bitterness. It's in the balance though that their DRIPA stands out. Refined and complex. In fact, it has been judged the Worlds Best India Pale Ale in 2012. Cooky Cat certifiably agrees.

Then there's the Crème Brûlée Java Stout and the Sunflower Mead. The latter made with honey collected from sunflowers. You also can do a sampler "Panel" of five of their house selected varieties, or choose your own from a multi-page menu of drinks.

The Kuhnhenn Brewery has a small but well selected snack menu; and free popcorn. A food truck sometimes cruises up, or you can bring your own. Hint/suggestion: some of those Polish dried stick Hunter sausages. But careful though, you want to focus on the flavor of the drinks first. After you become a regular, then branch out with foods. A great idea for something to bring with you to Kuhnhenn Brewery would be a takeout of Buddy's Pizza.

If you don't know from Buddy's Rendezvous, well you should. Since 1946. It serves one of the 5 best pizzas in America as voted by Food Network. It's a square pan pizza, and the one to order is the pepperoni and cheese. Double cheese, please.

 
The cheese is a Wisconsin brick white cheddar cheese that caramelizes to perfection on the edges of the crust. No mozzarella? Heck no! This is Motown. "By day we make the cars, at night we make the bars." You want your mozzarella, go to New Jersey. Which is nothing to sneeze at either. Some of our best friends are Italian.

With this pizza there is no ambiguity about eating that crust. Every bite without exception is a winner. As with those aforementioned beers, the word for Buddies Pizza is balance. Just the right proportion of crispy bread, rich sauce, melty cheese and pepperoni. (See! So we're back to the cured meat theme.)

But, now . . . back to beer. Speaking of beer, at Buddy's Rendezvous they serve what is called a Boomba. If you ask. It's a generous heavy glass goblet. We like it with a good dose of tomato juice. With your pizza, Wow!
 
 
And, last but not least there's the venerable Kowalski Sausage Company. Since 1920. Back in the day in our David Wronski's youth Kowalski operated several retail stores specializing in all kinds of prepared specialty meats. Ladies in crisp white uniforms and white lace hairnets served their loyal customers. Kowalski has closed its own retail operations, but sells its meat and other prepared food products through other retail outlets and online. Here is a photo of the Kowalski hot dog sign at their factory in Hamtramck. Just outside the front entrance where this picture was taken you could smell the delicious aroma of meaty hardwood smoke.
 
Photo Credit: MicheleDesigns 

Since we're treating the subject of Hot Dogs, pray not to omit Detroit original "Coney Island" Hot Dogs. When our friend David was a lad, Downtown on Lafayette street there were a bunch of Coney Islands. Today, in that location there are only two, American Coney Island, and Lafayette Coney Island. We dig the latter. More old school. We don't know (or care much) where the moniker came from. Detroit Coney's are classically a snappy grilled wiener/frankfurter/hot dog in a steamed soft white bread bun topped with chili con carne (no beans), raw chopped sweet onion, and yellow mustard. Period. In Detroit now Coney Island Hot Dog joints are as numerous as Taco shacks are in Phoenix, or Pizza parlors in New Jersey. But, there's only one place to go, and that's Lafayette Street Downtown. If you go to Coney Island in Brooklyn New York, they have hot dogs, but no Coney Islands. That is a Detroit original. And, if you try to imitate, we'll send some Teamsters over to your place to talk things over.

Last item. Ms. Kuhnhenn steered us to the Ethnic Bakery, on Van Dyke Road just north of the Detroit city limits. It's a store with all foods Macedonian, specializing in baked goods and cured/smoked meats. A double smoked ready to eat sausage made its way with us back to home turf. Also, smoked pork ribs, the kind you braise with some good old Kapusta. (Look it up. We don't spoon feed on this foodly blog.) What a find. Really great quality. Home made pickled sweet peppers $1.29 per pound. A generous apple strudel, $2.99. Made with house-made phyllo dough and just picked local apples. On Saturdays they have roast whole pig and lamb for sale by the pound.

So, that's the story. Every cured/smoked meat known to man. Every one that we care to mention, anyway.

Not so fast you say, what about ribs and such. BarBQ. Didn't see a lot of BarBQ's in Motown in passing. They are there; but BarBQ, it's a whole quest in itself. Meantime, here's a good review on Michigan BarBQ. 

Yet, just as we missed the platter sized donuts in Amish country, we missed the Oktoberfest doings at Kuhnhenn Brewery where a reported 4 boxes of lamb shanks were slow wood smoked for the delectation of all the revelers. We hear the Winter Solstice there will be BIG. Whole roast ox? Why not.

PS    All this talk about fermented things. Not only have we made several jars of homemade yogurt from that starter we mentioned we brought back with us, now even as this is being typed there are several items under fermentation using the whey from the freshly made yogurt: 


Sources:

The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. Look it up, it's definitive.

Recipe links from Online search; not tested. Just to get your going.




10/18/13

GROW A PEAR!
  Photo Credit: Michele Fillion / MicheleDesigns
 
 Photo Credit: Michele Fillion / MicheleDesigns
We got a nice surprise at The Sitting Room in Warren, Michigan. At this most excellent Bed and Breakfast establishment, there was a pear tree with an abundance of fruit. Help yourself! So we did.

If you know this Cat you know that pickles rank high on the menu. Those pears were very hard even when ripe. How hard? "That's what she said," kind of hard. And, if you don't know the reference, never mind.

The first cut was to treat our found fruit as if it were a regular cucumber pickle. Cooky Cat's certified 1 vinegar to 2 waters. A little salt and a bit more sugar. No spice. This resulted in a pretty unimpressive pickle. The pears are flavorful, but they don't sing on the palate.

Next attempt: We transported our first batch back to New Jersey and at the Cooky Cat Test Katchen we found success. That, by the way "Katchen"is not a typo. It's just the way this Kitty rolls. "Kitchen" is just much too kittenish for this fussy culinary cat.

Anyhow, try this with some firm pears. Bosc or from your tree that stay hard for a long time.

2-3 pounds of trimmed pear pieces. Let to stand in some acidulated water to keep from browning. Prepare a brine with cider vinegar and clean water (1:2, please). Stew in a package (12 oz.) of fresh cranberries. Press the juice from the cooked cranberries, discarding skins. Add a cup of light brown sugar, 6 or so whole cloves, 6 allspice berries, a cinnamon stick, a pinch of salt. Heat to dissolve sugar. Then add the cut pear pieces and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Or, until slightly soften, but still crunchy. Leave to cool, jar and refrigerate.

HINTS: Careful, this is not for your regular near ripe or ripe pears. Those will turn to mush. A good mush, but here we're after a little tooth in our taste. Also, you can adjust the tart sweet factors to your taste. A recipe we've adapted from the Joy of Cooking called for 3 Cups of light brown sugar. Egads!

10/1/13


KIMCHI


Round Eyed Dave’s Special Recipe Extraordinaire and Delicious Too

Kimchi is good for you! So make some soon and stop being so sour yourself. It is sour enough!

This recipe has been pared down to the essentials. There are some optional items plus room for you to do your own thing. There's also a traditional preparation video at the bottom. 

Ingredients 

-1 Napa cabbage medium sized / 2-3 lbs

          Cut lengthwise into 6-8 sections, depending on the size of the cabbage.

Remove root core, then cut into 2" pieces. Traditionally the cabbage is only cut lengthwise; but, what's traditional about a cat who makes kimchi?

-1 Daikon radish, large enough to make you nervous (better, Korean radish if you can find this variety).

          Peeled and cut into 1/4" thick half or quarter rounds (depending on diameter of the whole radish).

-2" piece of ginger slivered into fine julienne or made into a paste.

-1 T fresh garlic slivered or made into a paste (optional, but traditionally a must). This cat leaves the garlic out, only a little: per taste.

- 6 Tablespoons Kosher*** salt (for salting the vegetables)

- 6  scallions sliced thin on the bias. Or, in 1" lengths.

- Half bunch Korean/Chinese garlic chives cut into 1" lengths.

-1/4 Cup sugar

-1/4 Cup Korean dried chili flakes, or to taste

-1/4 Cup Korean dried chili powder, or to taste

***Use Kosher or other non-iodized salt. Iodized salt will inhibit fermentation.

ATTENTION: Regarding water . . . Use non-chlorinated (not tap) water. Chlorinated water inhibits fermentation.

The dried chili flakes / powder amounts are to taste. Very Important: the Korean dried chilis are medium to hot, hot. Use cayenne powder or red pepper flakes, only if you must (and, if so, go easy.). Paprika might be good to add some color. If you go into a Korean market you will see mass quantities of various chili flakes/powders, some in industrial size packages. Some hotter than others. (I have heard that kimchi is becoming very popular with the Koreans.) Do what I did and ask someone from the store for a recommendation. Or ask some friendly Korean shopper. But don't stop thinking for yourself. Just because folks are Oriental doesn't mean that they are all imbued with the wisdom of the East. Let alone that all Koreans know how to make a good kimchi.

Also, do not confuse with store brand "chili powders". Them's for Chili Con Carne type dishes. And, if that's your bag, dig Chuckwagon Dave's most wonderful recipe.

Preparation

- Place the cut cabbage and radish pieces in a large bowl and toss with the salt. 

- Let stand to wilt 2-4 hours, or overnight.

- Rinse thoroughly.

- Combine chili flakes/powder, ginger, garlic, sugar, scallions, chives, then add to cabbage and radish pieces.

- Add salted brine water to cover. Brine is 2 Tbls. Kosher or other non-iodized salt per 1 Quart clean Water (not chlorinated/tap). If using tap water, boil to remove Chlorine.

- Let stand for 2-3 days in quiet cool place.

- Check progress. Bubbles will appear to indicate fermentation.

- Place in sterile jars and refrigerate when Kimchi is to your taste: i.e., sourness/sharpness.

- Kimchi will continue to sour with time.


9/19/13

Oh! Oreo!
 
 
Recently at the grocery store we went to the cookie section and there I beheld a wondrous sight. The Oreo cookie display was top to bottom and both arms stretched wide length wide, filled with a dizzying array of varieties. Flavors of fillings, traditional chocolate wafer, vanilla wafer, enrobed with chocolate, extra filling(s), dietetic, and more. We had real trouble finding the original variety.

The ground has already been covered and click this for an excellent coverage of the 25(!) varieties currently available. At last count, anyway.

It used to axiomatic in the marketing world that you didn't mess with success. And, you most certainly didn't line extend your biggest, most profitable product. The reasoning being that any variations from the tried and true original would only cannibalize the market share of the original. In other words, same market share, less profit. So we're way past that simplistic approach. Listerine, for example, now has how many versions? In my time the word at Warner Lambert was "You didn't mess with Big Yellow." Same in my time working with the makers of Twinkies. No variations! Times have changed.

Anyhow, here is my fantasy of an extreme version of Oreo's that might be coming to a shelf near you only too soon.

 

 
And, if it doesn't, here is my idea for a competing brand that will fill the niche for that ultra-stuffed sandwich cookie.
 
 


 

9/1/13

Chilaquiles
 
 
If you are anything like this Cat, you probably go in cycles with types of foods. Every year in the fall kimchi seems to be the only thing to do. In the summer, brine cured dill pickles. In the fall there's always a plentiful supply of local orchard apple cider. Jersey vine ripe tomatoes, YES.

Then there's the on again and off again rounds with the various culture cuisines. Chinese, Indian, Mexican, Mid-Eastern, Italian (of course, Italian). And to a lesser extent every other distinct cuisine in the world.

Currently we're going through our Mexican period. And, speaking of Mexican dishes (Salma Hayek does come to mind, one plentiful dish for sure) . . . after homemade tortillas, tacos, tortilla soup, and quesadilla's, naturally you would expect that Chilaquiles would come over the horizon. That's kind of funny, because Chilaquiles is often a breakfast item; over the horizon, sunrise . . . get it?

Chilaquiles is a conflation of some sort of cooked spicy salsa type sauce with fried tortilla pieces mixed in, along with eggs, maybe some boneless chicken bits, all garnished with a cheese or two (one crumbly, the other melty) sliced scallion/fine chopped white onion, chopped cilantro. Drizzle with some Crema/Crème fraîche and put some refried pinto beans on the side and you are good to do some serious chores today.

And, that's just our take. Look at the photo montage at the head of this article. Chicken? Why not chorizo with chicken, or any other flavorful meat bits you happen to have on hand. Bacon? Not so much. But, it's for your taste, so whatever you want. Experiment.

The question is over how crunchy you be likin' your tortilla bits. Now, in a pinch you could just do this with store bought tortilla chips in a bag. But, hey, don't put a price on love. Go all the way and make your own from scratch. We do (sometimes). Or, get yourself a bag of fresh small thin corn tortillas; it'll set you back all of a coupla bucks. In a proper Mexican grocery there will be several brands to choose from. They preferably should be refrigerated in the store for freshness. Be sure to select the ones that feel right to you. We like them soft and fluffy (we're thinking Salma Hayek again).



Now what. We don't do the usual, which is to cut the tortillas in quarters before frying to a crisp in vegetable oil. We cut them in half and make one stack which is then cut in to fine strips, like noodles (think fetuccine style) 2-3 long. Then to the oil to a golden brown crisp.

Now is the moment of truth. If you like them crunchy put them on a plate or shallow bowl and serve the Chilaquiles on top just before bringing the dish to table. If you like them soft, then cook them into the sauce a bit. If you like it Goldilocks, a little soft/a little crunchy, then make sure your sauce is liquid enough to soften tortillas bits after you pour on the goodies.

Another place where the road diverges. Do you put this dish all together in the pot, or do you layer? A lot of cooks seem to need a recipe to follow. Fair enough. But, why not do what top chefs (who are kindred with the Master Cooky Cat) do, think ahead to what you would like it to look like and taste like, then proceed from there, both in terms of ingredients and assembly. It's what you like and what your guests will like, after all.

Also, just because it's a Mexican dish, you don't have to have everything with a Mexican name or label. What you got right now in your very own refrigerator should be sufficient for this dish. But, you do need the tortillas. Pita chips? In a very serious pinch only if stranded out in a desert.

This morning for Sunday breakfast we made a sauce with fresh tomatillos, red tomatoes, garlic and onions. Chopped all fine and cooked into a sauce. In a large skillet we first poured in the sauce, topped it with beaten eggs, on top of which went a crumbly farmer type cheese and some creamy Gouda (hey, that's what we have right now) and let the eggs cook over the sauce, covered. The eggs come out souffléed.

Here's a note to the fellas out there eager to please the lady of your heart with a breakfast you rustled up on that first morning after that first night; you know what we're talking about. Souffléed eggs will seal the deal. She'll ask for more.

Just before serving spinkle finely sliced scallion or diced white onion and lots of chopped cilantro leaves. Add avocado cubes. Serves this saucy melange over a bed of crisped totilla strips. It will send you both over the top. And back to the bedroom for some further "consideration". Guaranteed. 

One last point, don't get some idea there is one standard version of Chilaquiles. If you do an image search on the Internet you will see a variety of versions. The common elements seem to be fried tortilla pieces, a salsa type cooked sauce, and add-ins.

We like to make a sauce out of tomatillos, fresca or sometimes roasted. And, you can try such a sauce poured simply over scrambled eggs.

Now go make some Chilaquiles.

8/27/13

Kitchen Tip
 

In our kitchen the challenge is to see how much life you can get out of a scouring pad.

If you use soapy steel wool scouring pads (i.e., Brillo, S.O.S) here is how Cooky Cat recommends using them. You don't put them in the pot and pan you want to scrub with a lot of water. That just takes away the soap from the pad. Just have what you are about to scour slightly wet and that is enough water to get the soap going. That method makes the scouring pad last longer.

8/19/13

What Tea with Dim Sum?
Did you know you had a choice? In any Dim Sum parlor worth its salt (soy sauce?) that is. Yes, you do.

Usually when you go to a Chinese restaurant for Dim Sum they will bring you a pot of house tea; usually a black Oolong, and sometimes Jasmine.

We discovered something which we now order religiously and recommend. You politely ask your server to take that pot of house tea away and specify, "Gook Po". Don't worry, you won't get a pile of some critters' nether regions. That's "Gook Po-Po" in case you're interested.

Better suggestion, order Gook Po right away when you are seated. That way you won't run the risk of antagonizing the harried waiter; and, you who's knows what goes on behind closed doors. 

"Gook Po" "Gook Pu" is a blend of earthy/woody Pu-erh tea enriched with chrysanthemum blossoms. Pure essence of Yin/Yang. At the tea station in a bustling Dim Sum joint they keep the varieties loose in bins and your server will simply toss some of this and some of that in a pot and fill with boiling hot water.

Also, ordering such an "in" brew will get you some cred with what can be a rather aloof style of service. Also, Gook Po is not just for Dim Sum. It's excellent with any Chinese meal.  

8/18/13

Pepperoni Paradigm Shift

Could we all take stock a minute and look at what we're doing? Pizza-wise.

Who in the hell says you HAVE to slice your pepperoni for your pizza into circles. PizzaTown USA in Elmwood Park, New Jersey — arguably the best pizza place in the whole wide world — slices theirs in thickish quarters. It gives a better bite and brings more flavor. In our humble opinion. 


If you are the sort that doesn't like pepperoni pizza (???), then never mind. 

8/12/13

Farmers Market

When I was a boy (some would suggest I was never anything but) my mother cooked mainly from scratch, and my parents shopped for fresh fruits and vegetables every Saturday at a nearby farmers market. You could get everything seasonally fresh, supplanted by imports such as citrus from Florida. Sometimes even, a kitten or a pup.

Alas, the Chene-Ferry Street Farmers Market in my hometown Detroit is no longer anything but an abondoned ruin.




But, word is the historic Eastern Market is a very thriving affair located in the city's main wholesale food distribution center near Downtown Detroit.




And, in New Jersey where I am currently residing, we shop the local Farmers Market most Saturdays in the growing season.

Besides fruit and produce at its freshest at good prices, I also shop for smiles. Also in abundance, as you can see. . .

Angels from Tabernacle, New Jersey
  
Jersey Tomato . . . Princess

"No squeezing the tomatoes!" (But, we're tempted.)

 
 Rockin' the Radish.

Dad's Best Helper.


Boyfriend's away at college. Life goes on.

 Undaunted by the cold weather.


 
It takes a tough guy to grow tender chive blossoms.


The "Dolly Parton" Tomato

  Chrysanthemum Queen


 He's smiling. Really.

The Great Jim Matarazzo of Matarazzo Farms