Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Reuben Hot Dog

Glory, glory, halleluia.

No real recipe here - just an idea that I recommend it to all who are fans of the Reuben. I was going to put a slice of pickle in each one but in my drooling excitement forgot. The thought of Thousand Island dressing did cross my mind but I wanted to at least keep some of the hot dog in hot dog. There's always next time....

Hot dogs
Swiss cheese
1 cup sauerkraut
½ yellow onion, sliced thin
Celery salt
Whole pepper corns
PBR (optional)
Cheetos (optional)

Turn on your oven broiler and set a rack to the middle position. Meanwhile....

...combine the onion, sauerkraut, and 1 TSP of celery salt and ½ TSP of whole pepper corns in a small pot. Cover and heat over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring a few times here and there.

Cook hot dogs as desired. For this recipe, and I usually do this anyways, I boiled them. I'm not much a fan of the pan seared hot dog but to each their own.

Arrange the buns on a baking sheet. Place a dog in each bun, mustard as desired, about two heaping forkfulls of kraut, and top with Swiss cheese (one slice each, halved, used here). Place the pan underneath the broiler and cook until the cheese melts and bun is toasty. Serve immediately with your favorite lunchtime beverage and side.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Berrymisu

"Paul loves berries...and chocolate," said his wife, Angela. It was Paul's upcoming 50th and Angela was writing for support in the mighty task of satisfying a group coming to celebrate. I volunteered myself for dessert:

> Dessert! ME ME ME!!! OOO! OOOO! I want dessert!!

Before I go on, a shout-out to Angela for providing these great pictures!

I came up with "berrymisu" because berries, especially blueberries, are plentiful in the DC region and I've found a new love for them (which means I'll be sick of them in about two weeks).

This recipe is a pain - there's a lot of work here. You could shorten things (such as buying ladyfingers instead of making Pan di Spagna) and leaving out the sides (raspberry coated chocolates and chocolate stuffed strawberries). In fact, if you left out these things the recipe is quite easy and quick. I've broken this down into subrecipes: pan di spagna, strawberry juice, ganache, and the 'misu' itself. Below is a list of everything you'll at least need:

16 large eggs
16 oz mascarpone
4 cups all purpose flour
4 cups sugar
1 lemon
1 pound blueberries
1½ pounds strawberries
4 oz raspberries
6 oz 60% semi-sweet chocolate
Raspberry liquor
Unsalted butter
9 x 13 glass pan
Two 9" cake rounds
Canned air
Fine mesh strainer

Pan di Spagna
10 room temperature eggs, separated
3 cups sifted all purpose flour
3 cups sugar
2 TSP grated lemon peel
1 TBS vanilla extract
Two 9" cake rounds

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter and flour your cake rounds.

Add the sugar to the egg yolks and beat until thickened, having the consistency of frosting. Set aside.

Beat the egg whites until stiff and gently fold into the egg yolk mixture (about six foldings required), then fold the flour into this (again, about six foldings). Gently fold in the lemon peel and vanilla.

Spread evenly between the two pans and cook for about 20 minutes. Do the toothpick test; they will likely not be done so check again every three minutes. When done, flip upside down onto a wire rack and cool for two minutes. Remove the cake from the pans and continue to cool to room temperature (about an hour).

Straberry Juice
1½ pounds strawberries, hulled
1 TSP fresh lemon juice
2 - 3 TBS sugar

Quarter the strawberries and add to a blender. Add a ½ cup of cold water and the lemon juice to this and blend on the lowest speed until the berries are well ground up. Taste the juice - if not sweet enough add sugar as desired. Continue blending on low speed for about two minutes.

Line a fine mesh strainer with two folds of cheesecloth. Pour the berry mixture into the strainer (set over a large bowl to capture the juice) and let sit unoccupied for about 10 minutes. Lift the cloth from the strainer and gently squeeze the mixture into the strainer. Discard the cloth.

While the juice is straining using a spoon or spatula mix the juice in the strainer to alleviate potential clogs. When finished, clean the strainer and then restrain. I know this sounds ridiculous but just do it.

Store in the fridge until ready.


6 egg yolks, room temperature
¼ cup sugar
16 oz mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1 TBS grated lemon peel
1 pint heavy cream
2 TBS strawberry juice
2 TSP raspberry liquor

Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until pale yellow and slightly thickened. Add in the mascarpone and beat at low speed until mixed, then add the heavy cream and beat until thickened and creamy at medium speed. Add in the lemon peel, strawberry juice and raspberry liquor and mix until incorporated.


Cut the cake rounds in half, and then slice each one down its length to make a total of eight, half moon shaped cakes. Cut each shape into a rectangle by lobbing off at the round edges, saving the edges.

In a 9x9 dish, add 1 cup of the strawberry juice and 1 TBS of the raspberry liquor and stir to mix.

Line a 13x9 dish with two pieces of plastic wrap, with about 8 - 10" of wrap hanging off the longer edges. Press the wrap against the inside of the pan and into the corners so the inside is completely covered. Pour about ½ cup of blueberries into the bottom.

Quickly dip sections of the cake into the strawberry/liquor juice and press along the bottom of the pan, forcing the berries into it. This does not have to look pretty so no worries. If the cake breaks, no worries on that either. Repeat this until the bottom is covered.

Pour ½ of the mascarpone mixture over the cake and top with another 1 cup of blueberries. Repeat the cake lining procedure as before, cover with the other ½ of the mascarpone mixture with another cup of blueberries, and additional cake (not dipped). Cover the cake tightly with the overlapping plastic wrap; the cake will likely be taller than the pan - this is OK. If you have one, place another empty glass 13x9 pan on top of this and set in the fridge for at least 4 hours. [If you don't have another pan, put a cutting board on top of the cake weighted down with a 3 quart pot.]

Raspberry Covered Chocolates

6 oz 60% semi-sweet chocolate
2 TBS butter
1 TBS cognac

Gently rinse the raspberries under cool water and roll on paper towels to dry. Using the canned air, carefully blow out any remaining water inside the raspberries.

In a small pan over low heat, melt the chocolate and butter undisturbed until the ganache appears milky. Mix with the butter and then mix in the cognac. Set aside for 1 hour.

Arrange the raspberries, hole side up, in between the rails of a cooling rack.

Fill a small tipped pastry bag (or a small Ziploc, cutting of the corner prior to use) with the ganache. Fill each raspberry with ganache. Cool in the fridge for at least 1 hour and let come to room temperature prior to serving.

Chocolate Filled Strawberries

Strawberries (as many as you think you need)
Ganache from above

Using a sharp knife carefully hull the strawberry as you would the top of a pumpkin prior to carving. If you have a bird-beak knife this is much easier. Remove the green leaves of the strawberry and cut off/discard the hull; set aside the top.

Hollow out the strawberry as best you can with a small knife. Set each berry upside down on paper towels to let drain a bit. Fill each with ganache and replace the top of the berry, pressing into the ganache. Fridge for at least 2 hours, not longer than 6 as the berries will begin to discolor. Let the berries come to room temperature prior to serving.

Final Steps

Whip up 2 cups of whipping cream sweetened with 1 TBS sugar and 1 TSP vanilla.

Unlayer the overlapping plastic wrap from the berrymisu. Place a large cutting board on top of the cake and flip over; remove the glass pan and carefully peel back the plastic wrap.

Cut slices of cake and top with the whipped cream; pour about 3 TBS of strawberry juice on the plate and garnish with the berries. Dust with confectioners sugar, if desired.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Food Facts: Black Pepper

Black pepper is considered the world’s oldest spice and has been traded for centuries, used as currency, and probably was responsible for a few fights here and then.

Numerous health benefits have been attributed to black pepper, such as digestive aids and it being a carminative, which makes you fart. I’m not sure any of these have been clinically validated. What has been validated is that it is carcinogenic, as it contains small amounts of safrole, but you’d probably wind up dying from overconsumption of too much pepper rather than any cancer from it. Safrole is also an active ingredient in MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methamphetamin), commonly known as ecstasy.

Some evidence points to black pepper being used to mask the taste of spoiled meat.

“Pepper" derives from the Sanskrit pippali, which refers to the pepper plant Piper longum. Ironically, P. longum does not produce black pepper corns used for eating.

Black pepper corns are the berries from the plant Piper nigrum. The corns are picked and dried in a manner similar to coffee and predominantly come from South Asian countries. White pepper corns are the same as black ones except their outer sheath has been removed. The taste difference is that white corns tend to be a little milder. Pink pepper corns come from a completely different species unrelated to P. nigrum plants (Schinus molle). In the wild vines from P. nigrum can grow to nearly 30 feet but those for commercial production only reach 15.

The P. nigrum plant only bears fruit for about 3 years, typically starting on the 4th year of growth through the 7th.

28.3 grams (1 ounce) of black pepper has 72 calories, 18 grams of carbs, 1 gram of fat, 3.1 grams of protein, and 7.5 grams of fiber. Ounce per ounce, black pepper is more caloric than red meat, which is around 60 calories per ounce.

Chavicine, not piperine, is the active taste ingredient in pepper. When chavicine degrades it turns into piperine. This degradation is caused by…grinding. The I-got-a-C-in-organic-chemistry-here’s-why name for piperine is 1-[5-(1,3-benzodioxol-5-yl)-1-oxo-2,4-pentadienyl] piperidine.

Tellicherry is a popular pepper from the southwest coast of India. The pepper garners its name from the municipality of Thalassery, population 100,000. The British built a huge fort in Thalassery in 1708 to protect their interests in pepper and cardamom trading. It still stands today and is protected by the Indian Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act as a historic monument. The fort is also smack-dab in the middle of town which makes protecting it from tourists and developers more challenging than invading ships.

The mummy of Ramesses II (1304-1237 BC) had his nostrils stuffed with black pepper corns. Yes, folks, it was that prized back then considering they chose to use pepper rather than gold.

The sneezing effect from getting black pepper in your nose is due more to the shape of the pepper particle irritating the inner nose lining rather than the presence of piperine.

The “heat” of pepper comes from piperine binding to the cellular nociceptor TRPV1 (transient receptor potential cation channel, subfamily V, member 1), which responds to pain associated acidic conditions and temperatures exceeding 108 F (42 C). The chemical pathway for black pepper heat perception is similar to that of capsaicin, which is the “heat” from Jalapeno’s and other spicy vegetable-based peppers. The gene for encoding for the TRPV1 receptor is also over expressed in cells lining vestibule of the vulva, which triggers the burning feeling associated with, well…this is a food article….

20% of the worlds spice trade is in black pepper. The US is 100% dependent on foreign black pepper, importing nearly 52,000 metric tons annually. India is the largest exporter to the US, followed by Brazil and then Vietnam. New York, Rotterdam, and Singapore are major international centers for pepper trading. The US cannot become black pepper independent but with a little more global warming…perhaps.

Most “black pepper sprays” actually contain no black pepper since it’s not that irritating.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Kabob Tagliatelle

What started out as an idea for grilled spaghetti turned into this. "This" turned out to be quite good but I'm still going to work on the grilled spaghetti concept too.

On Sunday I made some killer kabobs at my folks' place. Tenderloin, shrimp, scallop, onion, bell pepper, mushroom, and squash. For four people - with an Italian sausage and calamari starter - it was way too much but that's how we do it. Fittingly, mom gave me a bunch of the left overs.

Reheating kabobs is flat-out lousy. The veggies get mushy, the meat over cooks, and it's never as satisfying as them coming right off the grill. Who in their right mind really likes reheated kabobs? Thus: do not look at left over kabobs as left over kabobs but rather the base ingredients for something else.

After four days of not having pasta, I wanted pasta. Friends' comments regarding grilling spaghetti revealed that this wasn't going to work on my grill. My grill basket was pretty rusted out and I was guessing a non-stick surface was more than somewhat necessary. Too much oil would have caused a lot of flare-ups so I decided to just pan fry.

1 pound tagliatelle pasta
Kabob leftovers
Other additions in your fridge (I used salt cured olives and grilled asparagus)
Extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper

Boil the pasta as per directions on the package, minus two minutes. Drain, run under cool water, and then set aside in cool water.

Separate the meat from the veggies in the kabobs. Cut each piece in half, if not quarters, so that each piece is now about the size of a quarter.

Drain the pasta in a colander and set aside.

Heat a very large skillet to medium-high heat. Add about 3 TBS of olive oil and the garlic all at once, sizzle for about 15 seconds, then dumb the veggies and other add-ins in. Continually toss for about 3 minutes, move to one side of the skillet, and then add the meats to the other side. Saute for about 3 - 5 more minutes to warm up the meats. Combine all and then remove to a clean plate.

Add about 3 TBS of olive oil to the pan and wait for the oil to "shimmer." Once this happens, add the drained pasta all at once, quickly toss, and let sit undisturbed for about 2 minutes. Toss quickly and sit another 2 minutes. Repeat this for 5 cycles; the pasta should start to brown.

Add in the veggies and toss to mix, cook an additional 3 - 4 minutes. Plate immediately and garnish with shaved Parmesan. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Grilled Steak Sandwich Tips

I should be arrested for animal cruelty for this one. My poor dog, Bailey, sat patiently in the kitchen the entire time I was making this. While repeatedly telling him "You ain't gettin' any," he didn't seem to notice. There was that slim chance that maybe, just maybe, he'd swipe the thing off the counter and I wouldn't notice.


The other day I cooked up some beautiful prime Delmonico's from Wagshal's Market that Pam The Butcher beautifully chose for me, as per directions from LME Steak Tips. We (fortunately for me) didn't finish them all and now I had some beautiful left overs.

I love steak and I love bread so how can I go wrong here? From the crappiest-but-greatest cheesesteaks in Philly at Jim's and Pat's to the gourmand creations with Wagyu beef at Wolfgang Puck's The Source, the combination of meat, bread, and cheese can't be beat.

I'm shooting for the middle here.

Leftover, besides the steaks, were my Steak Mushrooms. Here you go:

15 button mushrooms, stems removed, sliced thin (about ¼ inch)
1 medium yellow onion, halved and sliced thin (about 1/8 inch)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chicken broth
1 TSP minced parsley
Salt & pepper

Melt about 2 TBS of butter over medium heat. Add the onion and sweat for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and mushrooms. When mushrooms have sweated most of their liquid - about 8 - 10 minutes pending the size of the pan - add a ½ cup of chicken broth. Simmer until the broth has been reduced, then add the other ½ cup with the parsley and do the same. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let the mix rest while you prepare the steak.

Slice the steak - as much as you want - against the grain before cooking it for the sandwich in ¼ inch strips, about 1½ inches long. In a hot pan, add a little olive oil and sear quickly. Like the LME Grilled Chicken Sandwich , you don't want to "cook" the meat but just get it warm again.

Cheese? It's your choosing. I used provolone in the pics here but whatever floats your boat go right ahead with. I'm a big fan of American cheese for steak sandwiches (I know, I know...) because it melts so well. But I had some nice aged Italian provolone in the fridge so I went with that.

Toast your roll. You want a good toasting on the inner crumb to a) give support and b) soak up all the greasy goodness that will otherwise leak out. Mmmmmm....

When the steak is near cooked put your cheese on it and then top with the mushroom/onion mix. Slide the steak onto your toasted bun and top with whatever you want. I just used mayo and a drizzle of Pam's "steak dressing," from what I can gather is olive oil, parsley, thyme, and a few other herbs.

And if you've got a dog...don't you dare share.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Grilled Chicken Sandwich Tips

A grilled chicken sandwich - done right - is a marvel unto itself. And that's the key: it has to be done right.

Brined chicken is the way to go, period. This way you don't dry it out.

Thin the breasts by filleting them, don't pound. Pounding destroys the tissue and gives it a weird texture. Sure, it tenderizes it but at the expense of making it mushy.

Keep the breast plain - no need to marinate, especially if you're brining.

If using left over chicken, such as what I did in the above picture, reheat it very slowly. On the stove over medium heat is enough. If in the oven do it at ~200F for 30 minutes. You just want to warm it - not recook it.

Lettuce, tomato, mayo. Cheese? I like provolone or Swiss. Bacon? Use it if you've got it. Avocado is grand.

But how to assemble? First, the bread should be toasted since this help maintain its integrity while you're eating it. Then place the chicken, cheese, lettuce, tomato (plus a pinch of salt) and a heavily mayo'ed bun on top. You want the mayo in contact with the tomato to enhance the flavor of both. Secure with big picks (I used porcupine quills above) and cut in half.

Eat it quickly as it has a half-life of 2 minutes. A cold grilled chicken sandwich just doesn't do it.

Suggestions welcomed!