Friday, October 30, 2020

Happy Halloween and Goulash Madness!

Want to go mad? Try finding an "authentic" recipe for Goulash! Goulash, which is considered to be a national dish of Hungary, can take many forms, depending on which region of Europe it is made. Goulash is not the hamburger helper-like ground beef/macaroni/tomato bastardization peddled by cafeteria ladies across the US. From what I can tell, Hungarian goulash is a beef (or veal or pork) soup, made with equal parts onions and meat, seasoned with garlic, paprika, caraway, and sometimes additional vegetables, like turnips, parsnips, potatoes, and peppers. Goulash is traditionally served with steamed dumplings or tiny egg noodles called csipetke (like German spaetzle), which are pinched off (csip means pinch) and added to the simmering soup. Traditionalists consider tomatoes a faux pas, as well as using flour to thicken the soup.

Goulash, or "guylas" meaning "herdsman," originated with the cowboys of the region. Comparable to what chili is to Texas cowboys. It's also important to note that paprika was not an original ingredient in the dish, as paprika was not introduced to the region until the 16th century. Let's add a little bit more confusion, enter "porkolt." Porkolt is a meat stew that also has it's origins in Hungary. Porkolt is a stew, not soup, made with meat, vegetables but not potatoes, and seasoned with the ever important paprika. In fact, most goulash recipes that I have tried (which is a lot!) are actually the rich porkolt stew. In addition, I've also read that goulash is soup made with leftover porkolt!?! Oh, and then there are "paprikas" (aka., Paprikash) which are made with meat, paprika, and thickened with sour cream. Feeling a little mad, yet?

Anyway, with Halloween almost here, I can't think of a better meal to ward off the sugar comas my kids are soon to induce, than a nice rich bowl of hearty goulash! This recipe is adapted from Wolfgang Puck's recipe for Beef Goulash. I found his version to produce a more complex and appealing flavor, from caramelized onions to the addition of a couple tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Changes I made were to brown the meat first, reduce the amount of caraway as it is quite strong (note: caraway and cumin are not the same thing, nor do they taste similar), upped the amount of paprika, added a dash of cayenne pepper, and opted to serve it with buttered egg noodles rather than spaetzle, to make it a little more streamlined. Although this delicious recipe is more accurately a cross between goulash and porkolt, the name "goul-ash" is just more fun to say and perfect for All Hallows' Eve!

Beef Goulash

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 pounds beef chuck, cut into approximately 2" cubes, seasoned with salt and pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cups onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sugar
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon caraway seeds, toasted and ground (don't leave them whole!), optional
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (can also use red wine vinegar instead)
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced (if you don't have fresh, use 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)
1 bay leaf
4 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
Sour cream, for serving
1/2 pound cooked and butter egg noodles, to serve

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When shimmery, add the beef cubes in batches, as to not overcrowd the pan, and brown on each side, adding more oil if necessary. (This step is very important to ensure a nice beefy flavor.) Set aside.


Reduce heat to medium and add the onions and sugar. Stir until the onions are caramelized, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and caraway. Cook for 1 minute. Deglaze with the vinegar and add the tomato paste, paprika, cayenne, marjoram, thyme, bay leaf, stock, reserved beef cubes, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and place in the oven until the meat is very tender, about 2-2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. If the mixture looks too soupy, remove the cover the last 30 minutes in the oven.


When tender, taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in some of the parsley, reserving some for garnish. Serve over egg noodles with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of parsley. 

Monday, October 26, 2020

"A Soul, A Soul, A Soul Cake"

I stumbled across an old English custom of "Souling", in which the poor would go around begging for money and food, specifically, "soul cakes". In return, the poor would sing souling songs and offer to pray for the family's dead on All Saints Day or All Hallows Day (November 1). This custom, apparently, has is roots in the Druid celebration of Samhain, or Summer's End, to honor the dying sun on the last night of October (October 31). Combine these two, and you get All Hallows Evening, Hallowe'en, and now, Halloween! No doubt, souling has adapted into modern trick-or-treating, but I like the idea of helping the departed. They believed that for each soul cake eaten, one soul would be released from purgatory!

Traditionally, soul cakes contained saffron to make them yellow like the dying sun, and topped with currants in the shape of a cross. They evolved into more of a tea-time treat, omitting the saffron, adding yeast, and served with butter and jam. I chose the traditional route. I doubted that in a land of candy bars, my kids would find these to be a "treat"; however, to my surprise, they liked them! Try it, and maybe you and your family can help a poor soul!


Soul Cakes

Makes about 17-20, 2-inch cakes, palm-sized cuteness!

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
8 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup currants (optional)
A pinch of saffron, or a few drops of yellow food coloring (optional)
1 beaten egg yolk, for the glaze

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside. Warm the milk over low heat, until just hot to the touch. Add the saffron or food coloring. Remove from the heat.

Using a stand mixer with paddle attachment, or a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the 2 egg yolks and blend thoroughly. Add the dry ingredients and continue to mix. (The mixture will be dry and crumbly.) One tablespoon at a time, begin adding the warm milk, until blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. When you have a soft dough, stop adding the milk. You probably won't need the entire 1/2 cup. I only needed 4 tablespoons.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Knead gently, until the dough is uniform. Roll out to a thickness of 1/2-inch. Using a floured, 2-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out as many rounds as you can and set on an ungreased baking sheet. You can space them closely, they do not spread.

Brush liberally with the beaten egg yolk, and decorate with currants. If you don't want to use the currants, use the back (widest part) of a table knife, and place an "X" across the top. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until just golden and shiny. Cool on a wire rack.

Recipe adapted from T. Susan Chang.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Devilishly Good Chicken!

Foods that are highly seasoned (e.g., mustard, chilies, etc.) or sinfully rich (e.g., chocolate cake) have been referred to as "deviled" since the 18th century. In 1868, The William Underwood Company began selling a mixture of ground ham with seasonings which they named "deviled ham." In fact, their devil logo is one of the oldest trademarked logo still in use today. While I love highly seasoned food, canned ham is not my kind of thing. Trust me. I used to audit food processing plants (like Ballpark Franks), haven't eaten one since!
Image result for deviled ham
The original Underwood Deviled Ham logo.
With Halloween almost here, I want to share this wickedly addictive recipe from Williams-Sonoma for "Chicken Thighs Diavolo." Diavolo means devil in Italian, but only dishes invented by Italian-Americans use the term. In Italy, they would refer to a spicy dish as all-arrabiata meaning "angry-style." I digress. Anyway, these chicken thighs are marinated in a wonderful blend of cider vinegar and five different chili spices, then grilled to juicy perfection. Delicious! I love this marinade so much! In addition, you could use it on practically any cut of chicken or even pork. I don't know who created this spice blend, but they must have sold their soul to the devil to create it!


Chicken Thighs Diavolo

Serves 6

Ingredients:
For the marinade
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon Thai chili paste or red pepper flakes (I use Chili Garlic Sauce by Huy Fung Foods, Inc.)
1 teaspoon hot-pepper sauce (I use Cholula.)
1/2 cup water

For the Chicken Thighs
3 pounds bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed of any excess skin and fat
1 or 2 handfuls wood chips, soaked in water for 30 minutes. (I use mesquite.)
1 large disposable aluminum roasting pan

Directions:
In a bowl, combine marinade ingredients and whisk until the salt and granulated garlic dissolve. Taste and adjust the seasonings; the sauce should be bright red and very spicy. Pour half the sauce into a small serving bowl and set aside.

Rinse the chicken under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Using a sharp knife, score the chicken to the bone in several places to expose the flesh. Place the chicken in a large disposable aluminum roasting pan, pour the remaining sauce over the top and turn to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours. Remove from the refrigerator 10 minutes before grilling.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect grilling over medium heat.

For a charcoal grill: Sprinkle the wood chips over the coals. Place the pan with the thighs on the cooler side of the grill, cover and cook until cooked through, about 30 minutes. Transfer the thighs to the grate directly over the coals, brush with the marinade from the pan and grill, turning often, until nicely charred on all sides, 3 to 5 minutes more.

For a gas grill: Increase a burner to high. Heat a smoker box half full of chips until smoking, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Place the pan with the thighs over unlit burners, cover and cook until cooked through, about 30 minutes. Transfer the thighs to the grate directly over the heat, brush with the marinade from the pan and grill, turning often, until nicely charred on all sides, 3 to 5 minutes more.

Transfer the chicken to a platter. Serve immediately and pass the reserved sauce alongside.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Lost Your Mojo?

"Mojo" is an interesting word. It can mean different things to different people. It can mean a magic spell, hex, or charm. It can refer to a magical charm bag used in hoodoo (not be be confused with voodoo) which originated in the Mississippi Delta area by African-Americans. It can also refer to someone's sex appeal, or lack thereof. However, mojo is a sauce consisting primarily of olive oil, salt, garlic, and other spices that originated in the Canary Islands. (For more on Canary Island cuisine, see Singing Canaries and Beastly Dogs?) But in Cuba and other islands of the Caribbean, where large Canarian emigration occurred, it is a sauce made with garlic, olive oil, and a citrus juice. It is typically used as a marinade or dip.

What do I do when I lose my mojo? I make Rick Bayless's "Garlicky Linguine with Seared Shrimp, Chipotle, and Queso Anejo!" It's like a Mexican shrimp scampi or Spaghetti Aglio e Olio and it is fabulous! You will need to make a batch of Rick's "Slow-Cooked Garlic Mojo," which will require approximately an hour of baking, but once you have that you can store it in the refrigerator for up to three months. (Just make sure the garlic is always covered with some olive oil.) As long as you have your mojo, this recipe takes mere minutes to complete! You've got to try it! I like to serve it with a simple salad, plenty of crusty bread, and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.


Garlicky Linguine with Seared Shrimp, Chipotle, and Queso Anejo

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
For the Slow-Cooked Garlic Mojo (FYI: You can make half a batch, if you prefer, and still have plenty for this recipe!)
4 large heads of garlic
2 cups fruity olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (Not the junk in a bottle!)

For the Shrimp and Pasta
2/3 cup Slow-Cooked Garlic Mojo (stir before measuring)
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt
1-3 canned chipotle chiles en adobo, seeded and finely chopped (I use 3!)
1 pound dried linguine
2-3 tablespoons coarsely chopped watercress, parsley, or cilantro (I use parsley.)
3/4 cup grated Mexican queso anejo, Parmesan, or Romano (I use cotija cheese, which is like Mexican Parmesan and is easier for me to locate.)

Directions:
For the Mojo
Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Break the heads of garlic apart, then mash each clove with the side of a knife to release the clove from the papery skin. Stir together the garlic, oil, and salt in an 8x8-inch pan (make sure all the garlic is submerged), slide it into the oven and bake until the garlic is soft and lightly brown, about 45-55 minutes. Add the lime juice and return to the oven for 20 minutes for the garlic to absorb the lime and turn golden brown.

Using an old-fashioned potato masher or fork, mash the garlic into a coarse puree. Pour the mixture into a wide-mouth storage container and refrigerate it until you're ready to enjoy some deliciousness. It will keep in the refrigerator for up the three months as long as there's enough oil to keep the garlic covered.


For the Shrimp and Pasta
Fill a large (6-8 quart) pot about 2/3 full of water. Add 2 tablespoons salt, cover and bring to a boil over high heat.

Meanwhile, spoon 2 tablespoons of the oil from the mojo into a very large (12-inch) skillet. (I use my non-stick one, see Gadgets.) Set over medium-high heat. Pat the shrimp dry, sprinkle with salt and, when the oil is hot and looks shimmery, lay them in the skillet. Cook until the shrimp just lose their transclucency in the center, about 1 minute per side. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the chopped chiles and the rest of the mojo.

Slide the pasta into the boiling water, stir, then let boil until al dente according to package directions.


Remove 1/2 cup of the pasta water, then pour the pasta into a colander set in a sink. Return the pasta and the 1/2 cup water to the pot. Scrape in the shrimp mixture, sprinkle with the chopped watercress, parsley, or cilantro, toss together and divide among warm plates. Sprinkle with the grated cheese and serve without hesitation.