Un Hee Han’s Recipes: Japchae

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Japchae

Originally created for a king, this mixture of vegetables, glass noodles and (in this case) pork has become a mainstay of the Korean kitchen.  It can be served hot or at room temperature.

 

Ingredients

12 oz. sweet potato vermicelli glass noodles, aka “dangmyeon” (available at Korean Markets)

4 oz. dried shiitake mushrooms (approx. 20)

1 medium zucchini, washed and massaged with coarse salt, then julienned

2 medium carrots, washed, finely julienned

1 lb. onion, julienned

1 medium red pepper, julienned

1 medium green pepper, julienned

1 lb. broccoli, small florets, stems trimmed on all sides and julienned *

1 lb. pork loin, julienned

10 cloves garlic, minced

4 Tbs. dark sesame oil divided into two portions

13 Tbs. soy sauce, divided 5/5/3

4 eggs, separated

olive oil

 

Method

1. Soak dry noodles in warm water for one hour. Bring water to a boil and cook 8-10 minutes until  “soft and slippery,” not al dente. Cut into smaller lengths with a scissors, add 3 Tbs. soy sauce to coat, mix well, reserve.

2. Place dried shiitakes in a small sauce pan, cover with water, bring to boil, and let steep until soft. Strain, reserving water for another use. Trim stems and discard. Julienne mushroom caps and add 5 Tbs. soy sauce.  Mix well, reserve.

3. Combine pork, garlic, 2 Tbs. sesame oil and remaining 5 Tbs. soy sauce, mix well, reserve.

4. Whisk separated eggs well and cook each as you would an omelet. Julienne, reserve.

5. Stir-fry each vegetable individually in scant olive oil to wilt/soften, maybe 2 minutes, then season with salt and pepper, let cool, and combine in large bowl.

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Japchae mix

6. Stir-fry pork, season and let cool, then combine with vegetables.

7. Stir-fry noodles, combine with pork and vegetables.

8. Drizzle remaining 2 Tbs. dark sesame oil over mixture. Adjust seasonings to taste and garnish with the julienned yellow and white omelet.

*Spinach is traditional, but Un Hee Han doesn’t like it so she substitutes broccoli. Up to you.

Un Hee Han’s Recipes: Boo Chim Kei (Korean Seafood Pancake)

Boo Chim Kei

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This savory Korean seafood pancake is simple to make, great for parties and pairs well with alcoholic beverages like makgeolli or shoju.  For whatever reason, it’s considered food well-fit for a rainy day.

Ingredients

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2 cups Korean pancake mix, aka buchimgaru, available at Korean markets or online

2 1/4 cup water

1 cup carrot, julienned

1 cup zucchini, washed, then massaged with coarse salt and julienned

1 cup onion, julienned

1 large jalapeño, seeded and sliced (optional)

12 oz. assorted cleaned seafood such as shrimp, clams, mussels or squid, chopped

canola oil

 

Method

1. Make batter with pancake mix and water, mix well, reserve.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in an 8-inch nonstick skillet until oil shimmers. Add 1/4 of the vegetables and sauté until barely softened, about 1 minute.

3. Add 1/4 of the seafood, scatter evenly around the pan and sauté for another minute or so.

4. Pour 1/2 cup of the batter into the hot pan, tilting it to spread evenly through the mixture.

5. Cook over high heat until the bottom is brown and crisp, about 3 minutes.

6. Flip the pancake and cook until the other side is set, around 1 minute more.

7. Slide pancake out of pan and reserve.

8. Repeat. Yields 4 pancakes.

 

Serve with

Dipping Sauce – mix together:

3 Tbs. soy

1 tsp. minced garlic

1 tsp. chopped scallion

1 tsp. sesame oil

1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds

1/4 tsp. black pepper

Un Hee Han’s Recipes: Nok Doo Bindaetteok (North Korean Mung Bean Pancake)

Nok Doo Bindaetteok

bean-pancake.jpg

A working-class dish traditionally served at weddings, this mung bean, pork and kimchi pancake is an example of the North Korean style, with beans and kimchi instead of flour and seafood as in the South.  Most often it’s washed down with an unfiltered rice wine called makgeolli–a favorite of farmers and, these days, rappers.  Besides that, it’s Un Hee Han’s daughter’s favorite comfort food.

 

Ingredients

1 lb. dry yellow mung beans  (needs advance preparation)

1 lb. pork loin, minced

1/2 lb. cabbage kimchi*, drained, julienned

Garnish: sliced hot red chili or scallion

*Available at Korean markets

 

Method

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Beans soaking

1. Place mung beans in a bowl. Wash repeatedly until water runs clear and bubbles disappear, maybe 5-6 times. Cover with about 1 inch of water (Un Hee Han uses the top joint section of her index finger to measure).  Let soak 4 hours. Strain and puree in small batches until smooth, adding some of the soaking water to reach a light batter consistency.

 

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Bean batter

2. Mix all ingredients together. In well-oiled small skillet, ladle 4 oz. of batter (about 4 inches in diameter and 1/4 inch thick) and sauté in batches over medium-low heat until it solidifies and browns around the edges, 5-7 minutes. Flip and repeat. Makes 10-12 pancakes.

 

Serve warm with

Dipping sauce – mix together:

3 Tbs. soy

1 tsp. minced garlic

1 tsp. chopped scallion

1 tsp. sesame oil

1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds

1/4 tsp. blk pepper

Craig’s Recipes–Funeral Potatoes

 

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Funeral Potatoes

“Not certain how they got the name–maybe you cook ‘em when somebody dies, for a wake or something, or maybe it’s that they’ll kill you by eating them? They’re very rich. Potatoes and cheese topped with those Durkee’s canned fried onions (of green bean casserole fame) or with stuffing mix. Whichever you prefer. It’s comfort food–cheesy, crunchy and really tasty. No way they’re good for ya.” 

This is an adaptation of a couple recipes that Craig and his girlfriend Laura like, and so includes both shredded and mashed potatoes. Feel free to play around with it as well–maybe add some bacon and scallions or change the cheeses up. Or use fresh shredded potatoes and fry your own onions instead of the firemen’s favorite: frozen and canned.

Original or enhanced, here’s the tried and true:

 

Funeral Potatoes

Ingredients

1 lb. shredded hash browns (thawed if frozen)

1 lb. potatoes, peeled, quartered

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp. fresh ground pepper

1/2 cup onion, medium dice

1 pint sour cream, divided in half

4 oz cream cheese, softened

12 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 can Durkee’s fried onions

or

1 cup dry stuffing mix plus an additional 1/2 cup butter, melted*

*NOTE: If you use the stuffing mixture, melt an additional 1/2 cup butter and drizzle it over 1 cup of stuffing mixture to coat. Reserve.

(Craig originally told me he topped the casserole with a can of Durkee’s fried onions, but when I showed up to cook with him he used herb stuffing mix instead. He had some left over and didn’t want it to go to waste. It worked well, so, dealer’s choice.)

 

Method

1. In a large bowl, add hash browns, onion, salt, pepper, 1/2 (8 oz) of the sour cream, and the cheddar cheese. Mix well, reserve.

2. Boil potatoes in salted water about 20 minutes (or until tender). Drain well and mix with 1/2 cup butter and cream cheese.  Mash thoroughly.

3. Add remaining sour cream and whip until smooth and creamy. Salt and pepper to taste.

4. Add to reserved potato and cheese. Mix well.

5. Place in 9” x 13” casserole and spread until even.

6. Top with fried onions or the stuffing mixture.

7. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

 

 

Craig’s Recipes–Frankie T’s Sunday Gravy & Meatballs

 

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Franie T’s Sunday Gravy with Meatballs, plated

“Guys love my red sauce, my Sunday Gravy. It gets cooked in the oven all day with neck bones, meatballs and Italian sausage. Some garlic bread and a salad and you’re good to go. The recipe comes from Frankie Traficanti, this old guy that owned a nursery I bought my trees from when I was landscaping. If you call central casting and ask for an 80-year-old Italian dude, they send Frankie. We became friends and would cook and drink Chianti together at his place.”

Frankie T’s Sunday Gravy

(Yields about a gallon and a half)

Ingredients

1-1/2 lbs. neck bones

1 lb. Italian sausage

Meatballs – Frankie T’s recipe to follow

Five 28-oz. cans crushed tomatoes

Three 6-oz. cans tomato paste

1/2 cup good olive oil

1 large bulb (not cloves) of garlic, chopped (approximately 6 oz.)

2 Tbs. dry basil, or 1 bunch fresh basil, roughly torn

1 Tbs. dry oregano, or 1/2 bunch fresh oregano, chopped

1 Tbs. salt

1 Tbs. black pepper

2 Tbs. sugar

1 cup Chianti*

Fresh grated parmesan for garnish

*This step is omitted at the firehouse, as wine is frowned upon, but at home . . . salute!

 

Method

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

2. Brown neck bones in large skillet with enough olive oil to coat pan. Reserve and repeat with Italian sausage and then, the meatballs.

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Browning the neck bones

 

3. Deglaze pan with Chianti, reduce by 1/2 and pour over reserved meats.

4. Sauté garlic in remaining oil over medium-high flame until golden brown, stirring throughout. Do not burn.

5. Add the tomato paste, basil and oregano and mix well. Reserve.

6. In a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot, combine crushed tomatoes with reserved meats and their juices, mixing well. Bring to boil, remove from stovetop and place in oven for 3 hours, stirring often to prevent burning on the bottom of the stockpot.

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7. Adjust seasonings as you see fit.

 

Frankie T’s Meatballs

(Recipe yields 20 golfball-size meatballs.)

 

Ingredients

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Meatball prep

1 lb. ground pork

1 lb. ground beef

2 tsp. garlic, minced

2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. black pepper

2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

2/3 cup seasoned breadcrumbs

2 Tbs. flat leaf parsley, chopped, washed

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

1 1/2 Tbs. olive oil

Method

1. Combine garlic, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Reserve.

2. Mix beef, pork, parsley, eggs and milk lightly by hand and combine with the above. Form into balls.

3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown meatballs on all sides and add to Sunday Gravy stockpot.

 Mangia!

Ava’s Recipes: Ambrosia and Miss Boston’s Pound Cake, a.k.a. Mr. Good Cake

Note from Alan Lake: The ambrosia recipe is from Ava’s mother, and the pound cake recipe is from Miss Mildred Boston. When asked if Ava’s mom would mind me combining the two desserts, Ava said, “She’d think you were gilding the lily, but go right ahead.”

Ambrosia

Ingredients
avaambrosia
4 navel oranges, peeled
1 pineapple
3 ripe bananas
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
5 oz. of maraschino cherries

Method

1. Cut oranges into 8 sections; make sure the membrane is removed.

2. Slice bananas thinly.

3. Dice pineapple.

4. Start by placing oranges at the bottom of a glass. Alternate by adding a layer of bananas and then a layer of pineapple.

5. Mix in maraschino cherries and top with coconut.

Miss Boston’s Pound Cake, a.k.a. Mr. Good Cake

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A recipe in Ava’s mother’s handwriting

Ingredients

6 eggs
½ lb. butter
¼ cup Crisco shortening
2 cups  flour
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup buttermilk
3 cups sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
1 t. lemon extract

Method

1. Preheat oven to 325° Fahrenheit.

2. Mix all ingredients together for 10-15 minutes. Pour batter into a greased and floured tube pan. Bake for 75 minutes.

Ava’s Recipes: Shrimp and Gravy

avashrimp4Ingredients

2 lbs. of medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

¼ cup flour, plus a tablespoon or two

3 T. oil

½ small onion, diced

2-3 cloves of garlic

 Method

1. Pat shrimp dry. Then season them with salt and pepper. Place flour in a bag. Add shrimp and shake to coat.

2. Heat a skillet with oil. Once the oil shimmers, add the shrimp. Cook over medium heat until lightly browned, but still translucent.

3. Remove shrimp from pan. Add onion and sauté until softened.

4. Add flour and garlic to the skillet. Then add 1 cup of hot water. Place the shrimp back into the skillet and cook until done.

4. Serve over rice.

Ava’s Recipes: Hoppin’ John Vegetable Curry

avajohnIngredients

2 T. curry powder

1 ½ t. garam masala

1 large onion, diced

1 lb. sweet potato, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 T. fresh ginger root, grated

2 rooster spur peppers (or other hot pepper)

1 T. tomato paste

1 bunch of collards, washed, chopped, stemmed, and blanched

1 can diced tomatoes, chopped

12 oz. fresh black-eyed peas

¼ cup coconut milk

 Method

1. Boil 2 quarts of water in a large pot. Add salt and collards. Cook for seven minutes. Drain. Squeeze all of the excess water out. Rough chop. Set aside.

2. Heat small skillet over medium heat. Add dry spices to hot skillet. Shake pan to make sure spices don’t burn. Adjust heat, if necessary. Spices should darken and your kitchen should smell like a marketplace (about 2 minutes). Remove skillet from heat.

3. In large pot (use the same one you used for the collards) heat 3 T. of oil until glistening. Add sweet potatoes and onions; stir to keep them from sticking to the pan. Cook until everything is golden and there are crunchy bits on the sweet potato (approximately 8 minutes).

4. Reduce heat to medium. Make a well in the center of the pan and add the rest of the oil, garlic, ginger, rooster spur peppers, and tomato paste. Stir the ingredients. Add curry powder and garam masala and cook an additional minute (you want the flavors to bind). Add collards and stir until all items in the pot are incorporated with spice.

5. Finally, add diced tomatoes, 1 cup of water, black eyed peas, and salt to taste. Raise heat to a boil, stir the bottom of the pan and loosen all of the browned spices and seasonings from the bottom (this takes a bit of elbow grease). Cook an additional 10 minutes. Add coconut cream and heat through. Serve with rice, or – if you are lucky enough to have some on hand – homemade lime pickle.

Chef Julia Pham’s Crunchy Garlic Chili Oil

Chef Julie Pham at her underground dining venture, Relish
Chef Julie Pham at her underground dining venture, Relish

Ingredients
1 cup oil (Julia likes peanut, but grapeseed oil also works for those with peanut allergies)
1/2 cup red chili flakes
1 T. sugar
1 bulb garlic, minced
1/2 t. salt

Method
1. In a pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil on medium-high heat. Throw in the minced garlic and fry until golden brown. Remove from heat.

2. Heat the rest of the oil for 5 minutes. Take off heat, add chili flakes. It will bubble!

3. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Add sugar, garlic, and salt.

4. Store in a jar and refrigerate for up to 3 months, or serve fresh with soups and noodle dishes.

Yiayia Tita’s Robethia tou Fourno (Lenten Chick Peas)

hc5garbanzoswonionsNote from Alan Lake: A Lenten staple that Yiayia calls her island’s best meal (besides whole roasted lamb), these baked garbanzos Kalymnia style were traditionally prepared by each family and then brought to the bakery to be cooked in their oven overnight (for a small fee). After church the next morning, the families would return to pick them up. Same for the lambs.

With her caveat “If I forgot something, it’s not because I don’t want you to know… I forget,” I watched and documented Yiayia’s recipes to the best of my abilities.



Ingredients

4 lbs. canned garbanzo beans/chick peas
1 large onion, peeled, small dice
2 oz. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
12 oz. tomato sauce
½ can tomato paste
3 vegetable bouillon cubes, crumbled
3 stems parsley, chopped
1 t. pepper
1 sprig fresh rosemary, smashed, chopped

For the onions that top the dish:
3 lbs onions, peeled and julienned
1.5 cup olive oil

Method
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1. Rinse and drain garbanzos in a colander until liquid runs clear.

2. In a 6-quart pot, combine 2 oz. oil, chopped onion and chopped garlic. Stir over high heat until onions start to brown.

3. Add garbanzos, tomato sauce, tomato paste, parsley, garlic, rosemary, crumbled bouillon cubes and pepper.

4. Mix well. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for 1 hour.

4. Remove from pot and place in thick metal roasting pan. Preheat oven 375 degrees.

5. Cook the onions that top the dish. Heat olive oil in a heavy bottomed sauce pan. Brown the 3 lbs. of sliced onions in the oil and distribute on top of the garbanzos. Do not mix. Yiayia used most of the oil as well – about a cup’s worth. Place on top.

hc5onions4garbanzos6. Bake for 1 hour covered.

7. Remove cover and turn oven onto broiler setting. Place under broiler to allow onions to crisp up a bit (a couple of minutes maybe). You need to watch this carefully; do not walk away.

8. This makes a great side dish or main course. Serve with a salad of cucumber, onion, feta, and olives drizzled with some red vinegar, good olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Warm pita bread is nice as well.

Opa!

Yiayia Tita’s Kalymnian Fela (Dolmades)

hc5felawgreeksaladNote from Alan Lake: We may know stuffed grape leaves by their more formal name, dolmades, but Greek peasants/commoners call them fela – a word that means simply “leaves.” There’s a short window of time in May and June when fresh leaves are at their best. Too small, and you can’t stuff them. Too large, and they get tough.

To explain how she knows when grape leaves are the right size, Yiayia makes a fist and then extends her fingers. “Somewhere in between, that’s the best size,” she says. They grow in sandy soil, and once picked can be dried or frozen. Yiayia freezes hers.  
People are protective of the spots where they find them, keeping them secret, as with truffles. We’re in luck. Yiayia picked hers a couple days before we made the dish, and they’re as fresh as can be. A different animal from the bottled, to be sure.

Fela can be vegetarian or contain meat or lamb or pine nuts, depending on your taste. Fela/dolmades are most often eaten on Sundays, but here, any time will do.  



hc5meatmixforstuffingIngredients

1 large soup bone w/some meat still on it, browned and reserved (besides imparting flavor, this helps in preventing sticking or scorching)
3 lbs. ground beef (80/20 works best, you don’t want it too lean)
2 large onions, diced
3 stems flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1 cup long grain rice, washed, drained
2 t. tomato paste
12 oz. tomato sauce
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper

For the avgolemono sauce
2 egg whites
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup pot juices from fela



Method

hcfelapostblanche1. Mix all ingredients together, including whatever meat you can cut from the soup bone. This adds a different texture to the ground beef mixture. Chill. Moisten meat mixture with a bit of chicken stock or water.  It should be a bit glossy.

2. Prepare fela/dolmades. Ideally, the fela should have been picked fresh in May–June and frozen for year-round use – or, it’s available in ethnic grocery stores by the jar. First, rinse well. Bring water to a boil with the juice of 1 lemon. Add fela to water and blanch for 5 minutes. If they’re still tough, blanch for an additional 5 minutes. Strain and set aside to cool.
 Remove 1/4 inch of the stem, as they can be tough.

hc5felawstuffingc3. Assemble fela. Use a heavy-bottomed pot – 6 quarts at least. Place beef soup bone on bottom of the pot. Open leaves and place stem side on the bottom. Add approximately 1 T. meat mixture to the lower 1/3 of the leaf.  Fold leaf over the filling and then fold in the edges of both sides in, as as you would a burrito or egg roll.

4. Cook fela. Place in pot seam side down, layering tightly around and over the soup bone. Dilute 2 cups water with 4 chicken bouillon cubes, crumbled, and pour over fela in the pot.

 Add 1/2 stick of unsalted butter, cubed. Place a dish over the top to weigh down and cook for 1 hour over medium heat, covered.

hc5felacook5. Before serving, make the the avgolemono sauce.

 In a chilled mixing bowl, beat egg whites until fluffy. Add yolks one at a time and continue to beat.  Slowly drizzle lemon juice in.

6. Add pan juices slowly and adjust seasoning as needed with salt and pepper. Pour avgolemono over the top of the fela and swish the pot around to combine the juices. Reserve some sauce for garnishing once plated. Eat hot or cold. It’s even better the next day.

Recipe: Xi’an Persimmon Cakes – Shi Zi Bing

By Josephine Hyde (Josephine)

persimmon13fruitPersimmons abound in Midwestern farmers’ markets during the fall. One need not travel to Xi’an, nor set aside the practice of locavorism to eat shi zi bing. According to Purdue’s horticulture website, “Mature, hard, astringent persimmons can be stored in the refrigerator for at least a month. They can also be frozen for 6 to 8 months.” Alternatively, one can process the ripe fruit and freeze the purée for up to a year.

To be palatable, most persimmons should be dead-ripe. To hasten the process, wrap the fruit in paper or enclose along with apples or pears to encourage the development of ethylene, the natural ripening agent.

Allow the Hachiya variety to soften and become wrinkly. This mitigates the astringent quality of its flesh. The Fuyu persimmon is sweeter than the Hachiya, and has a complex floral aroma. The Fuyu does not need to be mushy to be eaten. A fresh persimmon weighs about 168 grams.

For an authentic taste of Xi’an, snack on some dried persimmons while you make the cakes. I found dried persimmons in my local Korean grocery, where I asked for gotgam and was directed to the freezer section. The fresh and dried fruits can be found in Japanese groceries as hoshigaki and Vietnamese groceries as hồng khô. Allow the frozen persimmons to stand at room temperature for 20 minutes, and you will find them to be softer than most dried fruit.

persimmon4dishesI adapted both amounts of ingredients and directions from this recipe on the website of Australia’s multi-cultural Special Broadcasting Service.

Ingredients

For the walnut filling:
1/3 c. superfine sugar (I used C&H Baker’s Sugar)
1½ – 3 t.  rosewater (I used Ziyad brand)
1½ t. water
¼ cup finely chopped walnuts

For the persimmon cakes:
1¼ cups (286 g approx.) skinless persimmon purée (see note below for directions)
1½ cups all-purpose flour
Canola Oil

Method

1. Make the walnut filling. Combine rosewater and sugar, adding enough water to form a dryish paste. Toast walnuts over low heat in a small skillet just until you begin to smell them, before they begin to color. Combine walnuts and sugar mixture and set aside.

persimmon2cooking2. Make the dough. Combine persimmon purée and flour in a bowl to achieve a wet, sticky dough such as one for drop biscuits. The dough will look glossy. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for at least ½ hour in refrigerator.

3. Form the cakes. Very generously flour a board or other work surface. Gather dough from bowl, and drop in one piece onto floured surface. The dough will be very soft, but the additional flour will allow it to be manipulated and fashioned into a log the thickness of a rolling pin, about 2″ in diameter.

4.  With a sharp knife, cut the log into 10 pieces.

5. Form the cakes by gently rolling each piece out into a circle 3 inches in diameter, as you would a dumpling skin. Sprinkle a bit more flour on the piece of dough if necessary to prevent sticking (use the side of a glass as I did, a small rolling pin, or dowel, if you have one.) Press the edges of each round with your fingers to make it slightly thinner at the edges. Depending on how much flour adheres to each round of dough, you may need to wet the edges as you would a dumpling wrapper, in order to close them properly around the filling.

6. Place into the center of each round of dough about ½ t. of the walnut mixture.

7. Enclose walnut filling by bringing edges of dough together in center as you would for a soup dumpling, but without the fancy folds. Press to seal. The cakes will be shaped like little domes at this point. They will flatten as they cook in the oil.

8. Set prepared cakes on floured board. Repeat process with remaining dough and filling.

9.  Fry the cakes, First, pour canola oil into a large skillet over medium-low heat. The level of the oil will rise when you have filled the skillet with the cakes, so start off with about 5/8″ of oil. Heat oil over medium heat.

10. Load a spatula with a single cake. Carefully slide and push cakes off end of a dry spatula with a wooden spoon into hot oil, taking care not to splash. Add more cakes to fill pan. The cakes should not be submerged in the oil; the surface of each cake should be above the oil.

persimmon111. As cakes begin to cook, press them down gently with your spatula. They will slowly turn a beautiful golden orange color.  If they begin to brown, the oil is too hot.  Regulate the heat so that the cakes cook thoroughly but slowly. After about 5-7 minutes, turn each cake with tongs, to cook on the flip side.

12. In another 5-7 minutes, test one cake to see if the center remains light yellow in color, or whether it has darkened slightly to the dark golden shade of the cooked exterior of the cake. This indicates doneness. DO NOT TEST DONENESS BY TASTING NOW! The molten sugar-walnut center will be palate-scalding hot.

13. As cakes begin to look uniformly done, but before they brown, remove to drain on paper towels.  Wait at least 5 minutes, and test for temperature before you eat them.

14. Consume when warm.

Note on Persimmon Purée:

persimmon3bowlTo make 1¼ cups of persimmon purée, purchase 3 Hachiya or 5 Fuyu persimmons. Depending on the size of the fruit, you may have some left over. A medium-size ripe Hachiya persimmon weighs about 168 grams; a Fuyu weighs somewhat less, around 138 g.

Stem and peel the ripe, fresh persimmons. Halve them, and scrape flesh into a bowl, making sure to remove any stubborn bits of skin. Put flesh into processor or blender, and process a few seconds until any lumps are removed. Although there will be some visible fibers, these should not be bothersome in the finished cakes if you have processed the purée in a food processor or blender. However, if you like, strain the purée to eliminate the fibers. You will need 1 ¼ cups (280 grams) of fruit (about 3-5 ripe persimmons, depending on type and size.)

The purée may successfully be frozen without a loss of flavor for up to a year. Though it may darken in color, this will not affect the taste or color of the finished cake.

Josephine Hyde (Josephine) is a longtime contributor to LTHForum.com. She believes that food is a portal to insight, connection, and joy.

Sonja’s Cocktail Recipes

The following are recipes for cocktail creations by Sonja Kassebaum of North Shore Distillery.

Violet Fizz. Photo Credit: Cory Dewald Photography
Violet Fizz. Photo Credit: Cory Dewald Photography

Violet Fizz

Sonja created this custom cocktail for the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Orchid & Spirits event in March 2014.

Ingredients

1 1/2 oz. Sol Chamomile Citrus Vodka
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz. Creme de Violette
1/4 oz. simple syrup
Club soda

Method

Shake first four ingredients with ice, strain into a Collins glass filled with fresh ice. Top with club soda and stir briefly. Garnish with a fresh violet, if available, or a lemon curl.

Sol 76

One old-style gin drink is the French 75. Swap the gin for vodka, and you get the French 76. Here’s the North Shore variation.

Ingredients

1 1/2 oz. Sol Chamomile Citrus
3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup or ginger syrup (1:1)
2 oz. dry sparkling wine

Method

Shake first three ingredients with ice, strain into chilled champagne flute. Top with sparkling wine, garnish with a lemon curl.

BebboBebbo Cocktail

“One of my favorites from Ted’s book,” Sonya noted. She’s talking about “Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails: From the Alamagoozlum to the Zombie – 100 Rediscovered Recipes and the Stories Behind Them” by Ted Haigh (aka Dr. Cocktail).

Ingredients

1 1/2 oz. Distiller’s Gin No. 6
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz. honey syrup (2:1)
1/2 oz. fresh orange juice
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Method

Shake ingredients with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.

Nordic Mule

Ingredients

2 oz. Aquavit
1/2 lime
Ginger beer

Method

Squeeze half lime into tall glass; drop remains into glass. Add aquavit, fill with ice, top with ginger beer. Garnish with lime wedge.

Recipe: Cold-Smoked Salmon Cure

By Ronnie Suburban

Ingredients

lox2 fileted sides of wild salmon, skin-on (total 12-15 pounds net)
500 g. kosher salt
200 g. light brown sugar
400 g. granulated sugar
12 g. white pepper (freshly ground)
6 g. bay leaf (freshly ground)
4 g. mace (freshly ground)
1 oz. rum or vodka
Fresh dill to cover

Method

1. Mix sugars and salt together. Using a coffee or spice grinder, grind the remaining seasonings into a fine powder and incorporate that powder into the sugar/salt mixture. In the bottom of a large, non-reactive container (glass or plastic is best), spread about 25 percent of the cure down to create an even layer.

2. Next, lay the fish down (skin side down) evenly on top of that. Then, sprinkle the rum or vodka evenly over the surface of the fish. Lay the sprigs of fresh dill over the fish evenly, covering its entire surface. After that, use all the remaining cure to cover the fish entirely, patting it gently to make sure no part of the surface of the fish is not covered. Some dill will poke through, which is no big deal.

3. Cover all the fish with plastic wrap, then place a cutting board or other flat surface on top of that to create a press. Place a couple of #10 cans (3-4 pounds of total weight) on top of the press.

4. Place the entire container in the refrigerator and let the fish cure for 24-72 hours. The thicker the fish, the longer it must cure. Small pieces usually take no more than 24 hours. Large pieces can take up to 72 hours. Check after 24 hours and then every 12 hours after that until the fish is cured though. It should still be supple and moist but not raw-feeling.

5. Once the cure is completed, rinse the fish off thoroughly with cold water and dry it off. Place the cured fish on a rack, so it can dry further from above and below, and refrigerate it for 24 hours to create a pellicle, which will help the fish take on the smoke.

6. Once the pellicle has developed, cold-smoke the fish indirectly with apple wood (or other wood of your choice). The smoke should not be above 100 degrees F. as it comes in contact with the fish. If the smoke gets hotter than that, it’ll cook the fish, instead of cold-smoking it. The fish must be kept cold during this process to prevent spoilage. This can be accomplished by smoking only during cold weather, or putting the fish on a rack above a tub of ice.

7. Fish can be smoked for any duration of time, depending on your preference for smokiness. I generally try for about six hours but even two will produce a good, smoky result.

Recipe: Pastrami

By Ronnie Suburban

This one’s based on a recipe from “Charcuterie” by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn.

zf2012.pastramiIngredients

A 10-13 pound whole brisket, trimmed*

For the Cure:
1 ½ gallons cold water
½ gallon ice water
700 grams kosher salt
14 grams pink salt (this is the amount to use for up to 25 pounds of meat**)
2 T. pickling spice
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
½ cup honey
10 garlic cloves, crushed

Before smoking:
16 grams coriander seeds, lightly toasted
20 grams black peppercorns, lightly toasted

Method

1. Completely dissolve the salts, sugar, honey and pickling spice in 1 ½ gallons of water. Do this over low heat if you have to, but these items will normally dissolve in cold water after some stirring (obviously, some elements of the pickling spice will not dissolve at all). Add the garlic. Stir until combined thoroughly. Add the ½ gallon of ice water to bring the temperature of the cure down. The cure must be cold (38° Fahrenheit or lower) in order for this to work properly and be safe.

zf2012.smokingmeats2. Fully submerge the brisket in the cure. If it floats, you can keep it submerged by placing a non-reactive plate on top of it. Depending on the thickness of the brisket, leave it in the cure for 7-10 days, so that the cure penetrates to the deepest part of the brisket. Or, you can inject the cure into the center of those thick portions of the brisket and reduce the cure time to 3-4 days.

IMPORTANT:  If you used heat to make the cure, refrigerate it until it reaches temperature before adding the brisket.

3. After the brisket has cured fully, rinse it off completely. Pat the brisket dry.  If you have time, place the cured brisket, uncovered – or wrapped in a single layer of cheesecloth – in refrigeration for 24 hours at (or around) 38° F. but do not freeze it. This extra step produces a pellicle, which allows the smoke to adhere to the brisket better. My experience is that it is not really necessary.

4. After the brisket is dry, lightly toast the black pepper and coriander seeds in a dry sauté pan. After they are toasted, grind them coarsely, mix them together thoroughly and rub the entire brisket with the mixture.

5. Hot-smoke the cured, rubbed brisket fat-side down at 200-250° F. for up to six hours over a wood of your choice:  apple, hickory or oak are good ones. If you like it smokier, smoke it long but do not let the internal temperature of the brisket rise above 150° F. If it hits 150° F., remove it from the smoker. The key here is that if the pastrami gets to 150° F too soon, it will not have a lot of smokiness. There really is no downside to smoking it longer (or at a lower temperature) because the final step is a braise, which will cook the pastrami fully if smoking did not get it to that point. Just make sure you do not exceed 150° F. during the smoking process or the exterior of the meat will become dry and desiccated. For restaurant applications, there may be other food-safety regulations that must be followed.

6. After the pastrami has received the desired amount of smoke or reached 150° F., it should be braised before serving. Braising will not only make it extremely tender but will also rid the meat of excess saltiness. I generally braise it for four hours at 275° F. Your mileage may vary.

7. After placing the pastrami in the braising vessel, I fill the vessel about halfway up the brisket with cold water. After about two hours of covered braising, I dump out 90 percent of the water, flip the brisket over, re-fill the vessel again to halfway up the brisket with fresh water, and continue to braise for another two hours. I find that it’s best to braise fat-side-down first and fat-side-up second. The pepper and coriander mix, if applied before smoking, will adhere to the brisket during braising. You’ll lose some of it but not enough to be a problem.

8. After the braise all you have to do is slice (against the grain) and serve.

————–

*Pastrami has an important, defining rub on the outside, so how you trim the brisket before you prepare it is important. You need some fat on the outside to protect it during the smoking process. However, because the fat – which carries the black pepper and coriander – will ultimately be eaten, leaving too much on will result in a fairly unpalatable final product. If you trim the fat after the smoking, you’ll lose the spicy crust that is key to a good pastrami. So, trim the brisket well before curing. I generally try to separate the point from the flat, leaving it attached. I also try to leave about ¼” of fat on the exterior of the brisket.

**This recipe is scalable, depending on how much meat you use. However, the pink salt, which can be dangerous if used in excess, is not as adjustable. Use 1 teaspoon for up to 25 pounds of meat. If you use less than 10 pounds of meat, you might want to consider using even less pink salt.

Recipe: Vegetable Spinach Kugel

By Steve Zaransky (stevez)

stevekugelNote from Alan Lake: The word kugel comes from the German word for ball or sphere. Traditionally it was a round (this is not the case so much any more), baked, sweet or savory casserole made of noodles or potatoes, served as a side dish. In America, traditional kugel was updated to include many variations on a theme. One variation, farfel, consists of small, pellet-shaped pasta and is most prevalent in Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine. Savory kugels may include potatoes, matzah meal, carrots, zucchini, cabbage, spinach or cheese.

Ingredients

10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, cooked and drained
4 T.  canola oil
½ cup matzo meal
5 eggs, beaten
1 cup chopped onion
1 ½ cups grated raw carrots
½ cup chopped celery
½ lb. sliced mushrooms
2 zucchini, grated
1 ½ t. salt
¼ t. pepper

steveveggies

Method

1. Saute onions and all other vegetables in oil (you may need more oil).

2. Add spinach to sauté.

3. Mix everything. Put mixture in a 13″x 9″ pan that has had oil heated in the bottom for five minutes. Bake for 50 minutes or until it looks done.

Braised Short Ribs

By Steve Zaransky

kugelandribsIngredients

6 beef short ribs cut flanken-style
3 T. vegetable oil
2 sprigs rosemary
6 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
1 celery stalk, halved
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1” pieces (for the braise)
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ¾” pieces (to serve – optional)
1 large onion, roughly chopped
4 shallots, sliced ¼” thick
6 clove sof garlic, peeled and cut in half
3 T. tomato paste
3 T. flour
1 bottle of full-bodied red wine
6 cups of veal stock or chicken stock (enriched with demi-glace, if possible)
6 red potatoes, peeled
6 prunes (optional)
salt and pepper

Method

1. Preheat oven to 325° F.

2. Season the short ribs generously with salt & pepper.

3. Put the thyme, rosemary and bay leaves between the two halves of the celery stalk and tie into a bundle with twine.

steveribs4. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat until the oil starts to smoke, then brown the short ribs well. You will probably have to do that in two batches. Be sure to pour off most of the fat between batches. Remove the short ribs and set aside on a plate. Optionally, you can brown the short ribs over a charcoal fire instead of the Dutch oven to add a smoky note to the dish. That’s what I usually do.

5. Lower the flame to medium and add the tomato paste, cooking for a few minutes until it mellows out and mixes with the oil. Add the onion, the 1” carrot pieces, shallots and garlic to the Dutch oven and sauté until the onion softens and starts to brown slightly.

6. Add the flour and stir well to combine. Cook the flour for two minutes, constantly stirring; add the wine and the celery herb bundle. Raise the heat back to high and cook until the liquid is reduced by a third (20 – 25 minutes).

7. Return the short ribs to the pot, stacking in two layers, if necessary. Add the stock, optional prunes and a little salt (about a teaspoon). Be sure short ribs are completely covered by the stock. If not, add enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer, cover the Dutch oven and transfer to the oven for three hours.

8. At the one hour mark, add the potatoes to the Dutch oven and continue to cook. The short ribs are done when the meat is fork tender and falling off the bone.

9. Transfer the ribs and potatoes to a platter, and then strain the braising liquid through a sieve or fine mesh strainer. Discard the solids. Skim the fat from the braising liquid and return it to the cleaned Dutch oven or a medium saucepan.

10. Bring the liquid to a strong simmer and reduce by a little more than half (approx. 1 hour). Add the optional ¾” carrots at the 20 minute mark. Return the short ribs and potatoes to the pot and simmer for 10 minutes to reheat for service.

Recipe: Roast Goose with Chestnut-Sausage Stuffing, Roasted Potatoes, and Gravy

By Robert Smyth

Alan Lake’s note: 

This dish was reproduced by Robert later in his life; the goose, stuffing, and gravy are inspired by Julia Child, but he gave it his own spin. 



PART ONE: Chestnut and Sausage Stuffing



Ingredients
1/2 cup of very finely-minced shallots
2 T. butter
1/2 cup real madeira (not sh*tty cooking madeira – Alan’s note: Robert’s wife, Manuela, is Portuguese, which I’m pretty certain is the reason for this comment)
3/4 lb. lean veal
3/4 lb. filet mignon
1/2 lb. pork fat
2 lightly-beaten eggs
1 1/2 t. salt
1/8 t. fresh-ground black pepper
1 large pinch of allspice
1/2 t. chopped fresh thyme
1 clove of garlic, chopped and smashed with the side of a knife
1 1/2 lbs. drained, peeled, French unsweetened chestnuts
1 liver from the goose



Method
1. Finely ground veal, filet and pork fat together.

2. Sweat shallots in butter, using a skillet on low heat, until translucent.

3. Add the madeira, reduce by half and scrape the mixture into a large mixing bowl.

4. Add the eggs, salt, pepper, allspice, thyme and garlic, and mix well until the mixture is light and smooth.

5. Sauté a small amount and taste. Add whatever else you feel it needs to suit your palate. Adjust seasoning as needed (I add cayenne pepper and more salt). Reserve.

6. Take the liver from your goose, chop it fine, and sauté it in butter. The mix of pork fat, veal, and beef becomes your sausage.

7. Add the goose liver and the chestnuts to four cups of the stuffing, and mix thoroughly.

PART TWO: Cooking the goose

hc3cookedgooseIngredients
12-14 lb. fresh goose
1/2 t. salt
boiling water
1 uncoated sheet pans with 1/2-inch rim

Method
1. Clean the cavity of the goose, reserving the giblets and neck for the sauce, and the liver for the stuffing. (Please note, this can be done the day before if you wish to make the sauce in advance; see Part Three for instructions).

2. Season the goose cavity with salt.

3. Starting with the meat stuffing, loosely pack alternate layers of stuffing and chestnuts into the goose. Leave about an inch gap at the rear of the goose.

4. Sew the openings up at both ends. Truss the legs and wings of the goose securely.

5. Prick the skin of the goose all over so that its fat can exit during cooking.

6. Preheat the oven to 450° F. Set one tray close to the bottom of the oven. Leave enough room on the top for a similar-sized dish, which will hold the roasted potatoes (see Part Four).

7. Dry the goose thoroughly and place it breast up in the tray.

8. Have a basting bulb and a serving spoon handy. Make sure to also boil a pot of water on the stove top.

9. Cook the goose in the oven for 15 minutes at 450°.

10. Turn the oven down to 350°. Turn the goose onto its side. If it tends to topple over, jam a wooden spoon underneath the goose to hold it firm.

11. Total cooking time will be about three hours and 15 minutes, plus or minus 15 minutes.

11. Every 15 minutes during cooking, drain the fat from the tray and save it for another use. Note: You may get up to two quarts of fat during cooking.

12. Baste the top of the goose with 3 T. of the boiling water.

13. After 45 minutes, turn the tray 180 degrees to take account of any oven temperature variations.

14. After 1 1/2 hours, turn the goose onto its other side.

15. At 2 hours 15 minutes, rotate the tray 180 degrees again. Also, you should start the water for the roasted potatoes now.

16. At three hours of cook time, start testing the temperature of the goose. It is ready when the goose registers at 180°. Do not overcook; the goose will dry out.

17. Let goose rest for 15 minutes before carving.

PART THREE: Sauce for the Goose

Ingredients
1 1/2 cup of sliced shallots
1/2 cup sliced carrots
4 T. pork fat
6 T. flour
4 cups beef stock, boiling
2 cups dry white vermouth
salt and pepper to taste
reserved goose parts (giblets and neck), except the liver



Method
1. The sauce can easily be prepared the day before. This is recommended for ease.

2. Chop up the goose parts into small pieces, not bigger than an inch.

3. In a skillet, brown the goose parts in the fat.

4. Stir in the flour and brown slowly for five minutes.

5. Take your mixture off the heat. Blend in the beef stock and the vermouth. Simmer for three hours.

6. Strain sauce through fine strainer.

7. Salt and pepper to taste.

8. If you make the sauce the day before, warm it up prior to serving, and drizzle the sauce over the goose and potatoes at the table.

PART FOUR: The Family Smyth’s Roasted Potatoes

hc3potatoes

Ingredients
4 large Idaho baking potatoes
1 large sweet onion
1/4 lb. Kerrygold salted Irish butter
2 T. olive oil
salt (kosher or sea)
pepper


Method
1. Fill a 3- or 4-quart saucepan about halfway with water. Put on maximum heat to boil and add 2 t. salt.

2. Preheat oven at 400° F.

3. Peel potatoes. Cut tips off. Cut potatoes into slices about 7/8-inch wide so they are all of a uniform thickness.

4. Put olive oil and butter into a 10”x14”x2” glass (not metal) baking dish.

5. Peel the onion and cut into four slices. Place one slice in each corner of the baking dish.

6. When water is boiling, put potatoes into the pot. Meanwhile, put the baking dish in the oven to melt the butter. Do not let it burn.

7. Let potatoes boil for 10 minutes. Then, quickly drain them in a colander.

8. Take the baking dish out of the oven. Place potatoes with the flat side down into the dish.

9. Immediately turn them over so they are buttered on top. Spoon butter over each side to ensure they are well-coated.

10. Sprinkle salt and pepper on potatoes and cook in oven for 25 minutes.

11. Once 25 minutes have passed, turn the potatoes over, spoon melted butter over the potatoes again, and add more salt and pepper.

12. Put the dish back in. I recommend rotating it 180 degrees to account for uneven temperatures inside the oven. Bake for another 25 minutes. They are ready to serve when they are crispy, but not burnt.

13. This dish serves four.

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Recipe: Tunisian Couscous with Boulettes

By Kristina Meyer (trixie-pea)

cous cous w-boulletes

Ingredients

For the broth/stew
olive oil
kosher salt
2-3 beef short ribs
1-2 beef shanks with a large marrow bone
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 T. tumeric
1 T. cayenne pepper
1 cinnamon stick
2 T. coriander seed
1 T. cumin seed
2 T. ras el hanout *
10 black peppercorns
1 head of garlic, peeled and chopped finely
parsley stems from one bunch of parsely, chopped finely
1 poblano, chopped
1 quart chicken stock
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
3 celery stalks, cut into large chunks
2 whole chicken legs (leg-thigh quarter)

* a traditional Arabic spice blend common to Muslim and Sephardic cuisines.  Available at The Spice House or most Middle Eastern markets.

For the boulettes
1.5 lbs. ground chuck
about 1 T. kosher salt
1 T. ras el hanout *
1 T. ground coriander
½ T. ground cumin
2 t. ground black pepper
1 T. cayenne pepper
¼ cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 medium onion, grated into a bowl
8-10 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 egg yolk
2 large russet potatoes, peeled
2 cups all-purpose flour
large bowl of salty water to soak the potatoes
olive oil

For the chickpeas
1 can of chickpeas
juice of 1 lemon
1 T. harissa
salt to taste

For the parsley sauce
1 bunch of parsley
1 clove of garlic
4-5 T. olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup water
salt to taste

For the harissa
4-5 dried ancho chiles
4-5 dried chile de arbol
5 cloves garlic
2 roasted red peppers (pimentos)
1 T. tomato paste
1 T. ground coriander
1 T. ground cumin
2 T. wine vinegar
4 T. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

For the couscous
4 cups whole wheat couscous
4 T. butter, melted
1 cup hot, salted water (using 1 t. salt)

For the vegetables
5 small carrots, peeled
4 stalks celery, cut into 3-inch pieces
2 large kohlrabi, peeled and cut into 1 ½ inch cubes (may substitute daikon radish)
2 zucchini, cut into 1½ inch rounds
1 head savoy cabbage, cut into 6 wedges
1 large or 2 small butternut squash, cut into quarters
Olive oil
Salt to taste

Method

Allow yourself an entire day to make this dish. Start in the late morning and you can be eating by 7 p.m. This recipe will serve 4-6 people and is easy to scale up for a crowd. Technically you could halve the recipe, but I’m not sure why anyone would – just invite more friends over for dinner!

PART ONE: The broth


short ribsSeason the short ribs and shanks generously with salt. Meanwhile, heat a large dutch oven over medium heat. Brown the beef short ribs and beef shanks in olive oil, working in batches so as to not crowd your pan and to achieve a deep brown color on all sides of each cut. Set aside on a platter while you create the flavor base for the stew.

Traditionally, just the shank and maybe some neck bones would be used to flavor the stew. I like to add the short ribs to the recipe for the rich flavor and gelatin they add to the broth, as well as the succulent meat that results. It’s a luxurious addition to the final plate, but with or without them the dish will still be wonderful. If you don’t use ribs, just double up on the shanks.

saute2. In the same Dutch oven, sauté the onions in the beef fat, working to scrape up any brown bits from the surface of the pot. Add a pinch of salt to the onions to help them release their liquid. Add all the spices into the pot and stir to incorporate the spices into the oil. If the pot seems dry, add 1 T. of olive oil to moisten. Once the spices are fragrant, add the tomato paste and fry the paste until it has caramelized and turned a dark reddish-brown. Then add the rest of the aromatics: parsley stems, garlic, green pepper plus 1 T. salt, and sauté until softened.

3. Add 1 quart of chicken stock; scrape up all the bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the two chicken legs, carrots, celery, browned beef shank, short ribs and any juices and fat that have dripped from the beef cuts back to the broth. Return to a simmer.

PART TWO: The boulettes

boulletesWhile the stew is simmering you can make the boulettes – a sort of vegetable-wrapped oblong meatball that is breaded, fried and braised.

1. Traditionally, the boulettes are made with very coarsely ground or hand-chopped meat. I make them with high-quality ground chuck from the butcher. Keep two key things in mind when you are making the boulettes: first, make sure the meat is properly seasoned; second, do not overwork the meat. In order to accomplish this, take a large bowl and lightly press the ground beef into about a 1-inch layer all around the bowl. This way, as you add the seasonings, you have a better feel for what the correct amount should be.

2. Add seasonings one at a time, evenly distributing the ingredients in layers over the meat. Start with salt, spices, garlic and parsley. Squeeze all of the moisture out of the soaked bread before adding to the meat. You’ll also want to remove all of the “water” from the shredded onion, too. Don’t waste that onion water, though – squeeze all of the onion juice directly into the simmering stew for extra flavor.

3. Add an egg yolk and combine the meat mixture thoroughly with your hands. Be careful to just combine the meat spices without over-mixing – otherwise, your final boulette will have an undesirably smooth texture. Take a small piece of the seasoned meat, microwave it for 10-15 seconds and taste it. Adjust seasonings as needed. As you’ll be braising in a flavorful and reduced broth, which will add additional salt, the meat should taste slightly under-salted. Cover and chill while you prepare the potato wraps.

boulette24. This recipe should yield 12-14 boulettes. These football-shaped meatballs are traditionally wrapped in some sort of thinly-sliced vegetable – like eggplant, onion, zucchini, or even celery. 

The preferred wrap in the the Lopata household was potato. The potato browns well, maintains structural integrity and is a great carrier of flavor. Meme and Coco would painstakingly carve each strip of potato by hand with a paring knife. The curvature of their cuts would dictate the shape of their boulette. I figured out a simpler method that yields a more consistent wrap and saves literally hours of work. I use a mandoline to slice the potato into thin sheets, about 1/8-inch thick. The potato sheets need to be soaked in salt water for about five minutes to both season them and make them more pliable. Cut the potato sheets into strips that are approximately 3” long x 1” wide. This doesn’t have to be perfect, but trimming up the strips makes for easier assembly. The chunk trimmings from the potatoes can get thrown into the simmering broth. Do not waste!

5. Before assembling the boulettes, prepare breading and frying “stations” so you are ready to go after the meatballs have been formed. In one bowl, beat three eggs, ¼ cup of water and a pinch of salt. Put about 2 cups of all-purpose flour in another wide, shallow bowl somewhere close to your stove.

6. Remove the meat mixture from the refrigerator and lay it out with your potato strips next to your workstation. To form the boulette, take about 2 ounces of meat (slightly smaller than a billiard ball’s worth) and form it into a torpedo shape, about 3 inches long. Then take a strip of damp potato, lay it on the meatball lengthwise and press it in slightly so that it adheres to the meat. Apply two more potato strips, leaving about a ¼-inch of meat ball exposed between strips.

boulletes37. Prepare a large, shallow pan with a lid. It needs to be about 16-18 inches wide in order to hold all of the boulettes at once for the braise. Heat ½ cup of olive oil over medium-high heat. Since pan size will vary, make sure there is a generous amount of olive oil. Working in 2-3 batches so the boulettes have room to brown (not steam) in the pan, coat each in flour (do not shake off too much of the excess flour), then dip it into the egg mixture and place it directly into the sauté pan. Pan should sizzle but not smoke when you add each one. Adjust heat as necessary. Continue to brown on all sides until golden brown. Remove, reserve.

8. When finished, add them all back to the pan so they are packed in fairly snugly – touching, but all in a single layer. Add all residual juices as well. Turn heat to medium-high and as soon as they start sizzling, add about 1½ cups of the stew broth directly into the pan. The liquid should come about ¼-inch up the side. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer partially covered, until the liquid has reduced to a deep mahogany “gravy” – about one hour, maybe slightly longer.

This is the part of the process where you need to have faith, or temporarily adopt it if you don’t already have some. The first time you do this, you will not believe that the the meatballs are going to stay together, and you definitely won’t believe that the potato wrapper will remain attached through the braise, but boulettes are small miracles both in engineering and flavor. Do not fret!

At this point most of the hard work is done.  Your broth is starting to taste really good. This is also a good time to take a break. Clean up your kitchen, have a glass of wine or a smoke. When you come back, you’ll start the final phases of couscous – vegetables, legumes and condiments!

PART THREE: The chickpeas


Take a can of chickpeas and ladle most of the beef fat that has surfaced on the stew over the chickpeas. Simmer for about an hour. The chickpeas will absorb the flavor of from the spiced fat. Before serving add the juice of one lemon, a tablespoon of harissa and salt to taste.

PART FOUR: The condiments


dry toastedThe two condiments involved are harissa, a Tunisian hot pepper sauce, and a totally made-up parsley sauce that I improvised a few years back. The latter adds back a little freshness and acidity to the final dish and the former provides spice and richness. If you like it a little spicier, try leaving some of the seeds in the chiles. 
Traditionally, salty preserved lemons were always served alongside the meal. If you are using a food processor, which I recommend, make the parsley sauce first, and then you don’t even have to wash out the processor bowl before you begin the harissa.

1. In a food processor or blender, combine parsley, garlic, olive oil and salt. Blend until smooth, add water until it makes a smooth and pourable sauce, about the consistency of a creamed soup – though a little chunky is fine. Cover and set aside.

2. Over medium heat, toast chile peppers in a dry skillet until fragrant and pliable, about five minutes. Also, heat the garlic cloves through, with their skins still on. in the same skillet. Meanwhile, bring about 1 cup of water to a boil.  When chiles are toasted, cut them open with kitchen shears and remove the stems and seeds. Place the de-seeded chiles in the boiling water, turn off the heat and cover. Let steep 10 minutes.

3.  In the bowl of the same food processor or blender you used to make the parsley sauce, add the chiles, peeled garlic, tomato paste, roasted red peppers, spices, salt, and vinegar. Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust for seasoning.  Add olive oil to thin to desired consistency.

PART FIVE: The couscous


cous w-waterPreheat the oven to 350° F. Place the couscous in a earthenware or ovenproof dish and pour the melted butter on top. Massage the butter into the pasta until each granule is coated with fat. Heat 1 cup of water with 1 t. salt until very hot. Sprinkle this salty water over the buttered couscous to moisten the pasta. Place it in the oven to steam-roast. Check on its progress every 15 minutes or so, mixing and adding water if necessary. The couscous is done when it is soft enough to bite through, but it should still have some fight left in it.

Using the whole-wheat couscous gives the dish a nuttier flavor, closer to the bulgur wheat that was used once upon on a time. It’s difficult to overcook. Once couscous is done (30-40 minutes), cover and keep warm in the oven.

PART SIX: The vegetables


veg for stockstockTransfer the stew to a large stockpot and bring to a boil. Remove short ribs and set aside for service. Taste the broth. It should be rich and slightly salty. Adjust seasoning. Add your vegetables and enough water to almost cover them. It’s okay if some of them are sticking out of the top of the liquid. 

Cover and boil until done, about 20-30 minutes. You do not want your vegetables to be toothsome; they should be very soft – cut-with-a-spoon soft. Let the vegetables rest in the broth until ready to serve. Re-adjust the seasoning to make sure the broth tastes like a savory soup.

PART SEVEN: Service!

I feel sorry for anyone who didn’t grow up with some sort of boiled dinner – i.e. corned beef and cabbage, crawfish boils, pot au feu, cocido. As bland as they sound on paper, these are some of the most flavorful, soul-satisfying dishes imaginable. Couscous is no exception. Once the spices permeate the vegetables, they transform into something brand new.

Remove the vegetables from the broth and lay out on a platter. Drizzle a little olive oil over the vegetables and season with a few pinches of coarse salt. The broth can be served in a terrine so diners can moisten their bowls of couscous as they like. Trim and slice the short ribs and lay out on a platter with the shank meat and boulettes.

In a wide, shallow bowl place a small mound of couscous. Moisten the couscous with ¼ cup of broth. Place a few pieces of each vegetable, chickpeas, short rib and a boulette on top. Garnish with parsley sauce and harissa and eat it in good health.

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Recipe: Lolita’s Vegetable Lasagna

By Alan Lake (Jazzfood)

lasagna1Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant, cubed
  • 2 lbs. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 red bell peppers, sliced
  • 2 yellow peppers, sliced
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 large zucchini, sliced
  • 2 yellow squash, sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • 12 oz. crushed tomatoes with juice
  • 1 bunch basil
  • 16 slices of Provolone cheese
  • 2 oz. Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb. lasagna noodles

Method:

lasagna21. In a large pot, mound all vegetables and pour in 1 cup of olive oil and salt and pepper; toss.

2. Cook down until all vegetables are soft.

3. Add crushed tomatoes and basil and simmer 10 minutes.

4. Adjust seasonings.

5. In the meantime, cook lasagna noodles in salted and oiled water to al dente, drain and shock in cold water.

6. Add 2 oz. of the pasta water to the vegetables.

7. Oil casserole dish lightly with olive oil.

8. Spread 1 1/2 cups of the vegetable mixture on bottom.

lasagna39. Layer with lasagna noodles.

10. Spread 2 cups of vegetables over noodles.

11. Place eight slices of Provolone over vegetables.

12. Repeat the layers ending with vegetables.

13. Sprinkle with Parmesan.

14. Bake in 400-degree oven for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.

Back to Home Cookin’ Part I: Alan Lake (Jazzfood)

Alan Lake a.k.a. “Jazzfood” a.k.a. “The Garlic Chef” has been a globetrotting professional chef for three decades and has won numerous awards, professional competitions and distinctions. He’s also the author of The Garlic Manifesto, a book about the history of garlic going back to 10,000-year-old Neolithic caves that contains facts, fiction, folklore, artwork, recipes, professional insights, quotes etc. – think Mark Kurlansky’s Salt or Cod, but a bit more personal. He’s been a musician since he was a child and coined the term “Jazzfood” to describe his cooking style as “solid technique based upon tasteful improvisational abilities.” He views his food as he does his music and writing and has been known to bust a pout if any of them are subpar in any way. 

Recipe: Mess-O-Greens

By Alan Lake (Jazzfood)

collards1Ingredients:

  • 5 lbs. collard greens – stem/rib removed, triple-washed by lifting greens out of water and placing in colander (not by draining dirty water and removing after the fact)
  • 4 ham hocks
  • 1 large jalapeño – chopped w/seeds
  • 4 oz. white wine vinegar
  • 3 oz. honey
  • 2 oz. olive oil
  • 2 qt. chicken stock or as needed to cover
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Sauté ham hocks and jalapeño in olive oil in a pot over medium high heat for three minutes.

collards22. Add honey and vinegar; bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, stirring to fully incorporate for three minutes.

3. Add 1 quart of chicken stock to the pot and bring to a boil.

4. Add washed greens a little at a time. Greens should wilt until fully incorporated. Add additional chicken stock as needed to cover.

5. Season with salt and pepper.

6. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer for three hours; adjust seasoning throughout. Greens should be more sour than sweet, with the spice in the background. Adjust vinegar, honey and jalapeño if needed.

7. Remove ham hocks from heat, take meat off. Chop and return the meat to the greens.

Back to Home Cookin’ Part I: Alan Lake (Jazzfood)

Alan Lake a.k.a. “Jazzfood” a.k.a. “The Garlic Chef” has been a globetrotting professional chef for three decades and has won numerous awards, professional competitions and distinctions. He’s also the author of The Garlic Manifesto, a book about the history of garlic going back to 10,000-year-old Neolithic caves that contains facts, fiction, folklore, artwork, recipes, professional insights, quotes etc. – think Mark Kurlansky’s Salt or Cod, but a bit more personal. He’s been a musician since he was a child and coined the term “Jazzfood” to describe his cooking style as “solid technique based upon tasteful improvisational abilities.” He views his food as he does his music and writing and has been known to bust a pout if any of them are subpar in any way.