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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Food Holidays/History/Facts

RECIPE: Cookies & Cream Cheesecake

Some might think that we publish too many cheesecake recipes. But when cheesecake is one’s favorite comfort food, how many is too many?

Plus, we need to get our last licks: “Cheesecake season” concludes at the end of spring. The dense cream cheese cheesecake we favor is too heavy for summer. So this may be our last recipe until fall.

The recipe is from Lauryn Cohen, a.k.a. Bella Baker. Says Lauryn:

“This is easily the best cheesecake I’ve ever made: a chocolate wafer cookie crust, a rich and creamy cheesecake layer, crushed Oreo cookies mixed into the silky batter and topped with a drizzle of chocolate ganache, chocolate whipped cream and more Oreo cookies.”

We made it for National Oreo Day, March 6th.

RECIPE: COOKIES & CREAM CHEESECAKE

Ingredients

For The Crust

  • 1-1/2 cups finely crushed chocolate wafer cookies (reserve one cookie for garnish)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  •  

    Cookies & Cream cheesecake: a fusion of two favorites. Photo courtesy Bella Baker.

     

    For The Filling

  • 3 eight-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature (Lauryn used two packaged of reduced fat and one package of regular; we used three packages of full fat organic cream cheese)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup 2% milk
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 15 mini Oreo cookies, coarsely chopped for the batter
  •  

    Save a chocolate wafer cookie to decorate
    the center. Photo courtesy Bella Baker.

     

    TOPPINGS

    For The Chocolate Ganache

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter at room temperature, cut into 4 pieces
  •  
    For The Chocolate Whipped Cream

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • Approximately 25 mini Oreo cookies
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 325°F. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan.

    2. MIX melted butter with Oreo crumbs and sugar and press into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 5 minutes and set aside.

    3. BEAT cream cheese with a mixer on medium-high until fluffy, making sure that there are no clumps. Slowly add sugar and continue beating cream cheese until mixed well. Add eggs one at a time and continue to beat until blended. Add the vanilla, salt and milk; beat until smooth and creamy. Add the flour and beat until batter is satiny smooth. Stir in the coarsely chopped Oreo cookies with a spoon.

    4. POUR cream cheese mixture into the pan and bake for one hour and 15 minutes. After that time, turn oven off and keep oven door slightly open. Let the cheesecake stay in the oven for one hour. Remove from the oven and let cool enough to place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

    5. MAKE the ganache: Place heavy cream in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Place chopped chocolate in a medium sized bowl. Once heavy cream has reached boiling pour half the heavy cream over the chopped chocolate. Let sit for 30 seconds, then gently stir chocolate and cream together with a rubber spatula in a figure eight motion. Pour remaining heavy cream over chocolate and continue to gently stir. Add butter, one piece at a time, until ingredients are fully incorporated and the ganache is smooth and glossy.

    6. MAKE the chocolate whipped cream: Beat heavy cream on high speed for about 2-3 minutes. Once mixture has started to thicken, add add cocoa powder and sugar and continue beaten until whipped cream mixture has formed.

    7. GARNISH the chilled cake. Drizzle chocolate ganache over the top of the cake, in the grid pattern shown in the photo or in your own artistic interpretation. Pipe the chocolate whipped cream in mounds around the rim of the cake and in the center. Place one mini Oreo in each mound of whipped cream, and a chocolate wafer cookie in the center.

    While this recipe may seem over the top to some, you’ll note that it’s a relatively flat cake—torte-like, not like the often-found three-inch-high/four-inch-high New York cheesecake.

    So a slice is an indulgence, but not a jumbo indulgence.

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: A Caramel Popcorn Pie For National Pi Day

    caramel-corn-pie-kaminsky-230

    Caramel custard popcorn pie with a caramel
    corn topping. Who can resist? Photo ©
    Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.

     

    March 14 is National Pi Day: 3.14 (get it?). And this is a very special National Pie Day: It’s 3.14. (actually, 3.14159265359, so next year will be the full-on Pi Day, 3.14.15). The next “double pi day” won’t be until March 14, 2114. So celebrate double pi day while you can.

    Food enthusiasts have co-opted the day as “pie” day—any excuse for a piece of pie! (And for this special year, two pieces of pie.)

    One of our favorite bakers, Hannah Kaminsky of Bittersweet Blog, developed this terrific fusion: caramel corn atop caramel custard pie.

    “For all the love that popcorn wins as a standalone snack,” says Hannah, “it strikes me as a huge failure of creativity that there aren’t more attempts at popcorn cupcakes, popcorn cookies or popcorn pies.

    “Luckily, with a bit of custard and caramel, this is a problem we can fix. In this pie, notes of burnt sugar compliment a buttery undertone, accented with a good pinch of salt. If you’re craving popcorn, it might be a wise idea to think inside the crust.”

    A tip from Hannah: The caramel corn topping takes a bit longer to bake than the pie itself, so your best bet is to prepare it in advance. Preheat the oven to 225°F and line a jellyroll pan with a piece of parchment paper or a Silpat.

     
    Note that you will be making two four-cup batches of caramel corn: one for the custard pie filling and one for the topping (and extra snacking).
     
    RECIPE: HANNAH KAMINSKY’S CARAMEL CORN PIE

    Ingredients For 8 To 12 Servings

    For The Crunchy Caramel Corn Topping

  • 4 cups freshly popped popcorn (from about 1/4 cup kernels—popping instructions below)
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon light agave nectar (or 1-1/3 tablespoons sugar)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  •  
    For The Caramel Corn Pie Filling

  • 4 cups freshly popped popcorn (from about 1/4 cup kernels—popping instructions below)
  • 2-1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon whole flaxseeds, ground
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  •  
    Plus

  • 1 unbaked pie crust
  •  

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the caramel corn (see popping tips below.) Then place the first four cups of popped corn in a large bowl near the stove.

    2. COMBINE the brown sugar, butter, agave and salt in a medium saucepan over moderate heat. Stir well and bring to a boil. Cook at a vigorous bubble while stirring continuously for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and quickly stir in the baking soda. It will foam and bubble angrily, but don’t just stand around and watch it: Make haste and pour the mixture all over the popcorn. Toss to coat each and every kernel, and spread the syrupy corn out in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet.

    3. BAKE for about 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. It will become perfectly crisp once cool, so despite the tempting aroma, resist the urge to take a bite until it reaches room temperature.

    4. REMOVE the popcorn from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 325°F.

    5. MAKE the custard filling by combining the second measure of popped corn with the milk in a medium saucepan over moderate heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover and turn off the heat. Let sit for 1 hour for the corn to soften and infuse into the liquid.

     

    popcorn-kernels-trio-230

    Sure, you could use pre-popped caramel corn. But for the freshest flavor, pop your own. Photo of heirloom popcorn kernels by Katharine Pollak | THE NIBBLE.

     
    6. TRANSFER the popcorn milk to a blender or food processor and thoroughly purée. Process at least 5 full minutes at high speed to break down the kernels as much as possible, longer if necessary. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, pressing to get all the liquid out. Discard the solids.

    7. POUR the popcorn milk back into the medium saucepan and vigorously whisk in all the remaining ingredients for the filling. When perfectly smooth, turn on the heat to medium and bring to a boil while stirring continuously, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan to prevent the mixture from burning. Once the mixture has thickened to the point that the bottom of the pan remains visible when you stir—without the filling immediately flowing back over the surface—turn off the heat and quickly transfer the filling to the unbaked pie shell.

    8. BAKE until the custard is set and browned on top, about 45-50 minutes. The center should still be a bit jiggly when tapped, much like a cheesecake. Let cool completely and top with a generous mound of the crunchy caramel corn topping before serving at room temperature.
     
    CORN POPPING INSTRUCTIONS

    1. PLACE the popcorn kernels in a medium-size brown paper bag. If you’re not sure if the bag is big enough, err on the side of caution and pop the corn in two separate batches. Use cellophane or masking tape to seal the bag shut, and put it in the microwave.

    2. SELECT the “popcorn” setting if available, or set the timer for 3½ minutes at full power.

    3. LISTEN carefully: When the popping slows to about once every 3 seconds, remove the bag. Open it very carefully, making sure your hands and face are out of the way—the steam can be quite hot. Sift out any unpopped kernels.

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Popover Day

    popover-pan-chefs-catalog-230

    You can use a regular muffin pan to make
    popovers. Special popover pans, like the one
    above, have deeper wells and make a taller,
    more dramatic looking popover. Photo
    courtesy Chefs Catalog.

     

    March 10th is National Popover Day.

    Popovers are delicate, almost hollow “rolls” that majestically rise up over the tops of the pans they’re baked in, somewhat like a soufflé. Like a soufflé, they also collapse as they cool.They have outsides are crisp and brown, the interior soft and airy.

    In the U.K. they’re called Yorkshire pudding and are often served as a side with a slice of prime rib or other beef. In the U.S., they’re enjoyed as a substitute for a roll or biscuit and are often served at brunch with butter or jam (although neither is required).

    Popovers are not difficult to make. The only challenge is to serve them quickly, since as they cool they deflate. You can reheat them in the microwave. They won’t return to their original puffiness, but they’ll still be yummy.

    RECIPE: POPOVERS

    Ingredients For 12 Popovers

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt (not coarse salt)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F. Place one rack in the lower third position, topped with an empty baking sheet

    2. PLACE 1/2 teaspoon of butter into each well of a 12-well muffin pan; set aside.

    3. PLACE the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, eggs, milk, sugar and salt in a blender and blend until smooth, about 30 seconds. Turn off the blender, add the flour, replace the lid and blend until just smooth, about 30 seconds. Set the mixture aside in the blender. If you don’t have a blender, whisk thoroughly in a bowl.

    4. PLACE the muffin pan on the heated baking sheet in the oven, and bake until the butter sizzles, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the muffin pan and the baking sheet from the oven (you can place them on the stove top). Fill the wells of the muffin pan halfway with batter.

    5. RETURN the muffin pan and baking sheet to the oven. Note: After you do this, do not open the oven door at any time during the baking period! Bake until the popovers have puffed up and the tops are starting to brown, about 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake until the popovers are golden brown all over, about 15 minutes more.

    6. REMOVE the muffin pan and baking sheet from the oven and place them on a wire rack. Remove the popovers from the pan and serve immediately.
     
    MAKE POPOVERS WITH ALTON BROWN

    Here’s a second popover recipe, from Alton Brown. Watch him make it in the video.

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Oreo Day

    Today is National Oreo Day, honoring the world’s most popular cookie. We almost feel like ditching work to celebrate—with Oreo cheesecake, cookies and cream ice cream and an Oreo milkshake—and then running a marathon to work off the calories.

    However, we’re limiting ourselves to one Oreo-packed chocolate bar from Chocomize, a chocolate e-heaven where you can take your favorite type of chocolate bar (dark, milk, white) and top it with your favorite candies, nuts, spices and special luxuries (gold leaf, anyone?).

    You pay a base price for the bar ($4.50, or $6.50 for a heart shape), and then for each add-on topping—up to 5 selections from a menu of 90 options.

    If you don’t like to make choices, there are plenty of ready-made choices, like the Cookie Bar in the photo.

    In honor of National Oreo Day, Chocomize has two special offers running through March 10th:

  • FREE Oreo pieces. You can add Oreo cookie pieces for FREE to any chocolate bar you make.
  •  

    oreo-white-chocolate-230

    The popular Cookie Bar: Belgian white chocolate bar with Oreos and malted milk balls. Photo courtesy Chocomize.

     

  • FREE chocolate bar with $40 order. Any order of $40+ gets a FREE Cookie Bar with the code OREO. The Cookie Bar, one of Chocomize’s most popular, is Belgian white chocolate, cookie dough bits and Oreo cookie pieces.
  •  

    oreos-stack-froyo-230

    Imagine if lemon meringue had been the
    favorite flavor of Oreos! Photo courtesy
    Froyo.

     

    OREO HISTORY

    Oreos are 102 years old. According to Time magazine, the National Biscuit Company (later shortened to Nabisco) sold its first Oreo sandwich cookies to a Hoboken grocer on On March 6, 1912. They weren’t an original concept: Sunshine’s Hydrox cookies* (among others) preceded them in 1908.

    There were two original Oreo flavors: original (chocolate) and lemon meringue. The original was far more popular, and Nabisco discontinued lemon meringue in the 1920s.

    Today Oreo is the world’s most popular cookie, sold in more than 100 countries†. More than 450 billion Oreos have been sold to date.

    Yes, there were other chocolate sandwich cookies. But what made Oreos stand out was the thick, creamy filling invented by Sam J. Porcello, the principal food scientist at Nabisco. (He also created the “stuf” in Double Stuf Oreos and the chocolate-covered and white chocolate-covered Oreos. Now that’s bragging rights for generations of kids, grandkids and great-grands to come.)

     

    WHAT ABOUT THE DESIGN ON THE COOKIES?

    Nabisco says that an unnamed “design engineer” created the current Oreo design, which was updated in 1952‡. Other sources name him as William A. Turnier, who worked in the engineering department creating the dies that stamped designs onto cookies.

    Here’s the story of the design and its meaning.
     
    THE NAME IS A MYSTERY

    No one knows for certain the origin of the name “Oreo.” Some believe it was derived from the French word for gold, “or,” because the original packaging was mostly gold.

    The bigger curiosity to us is, in The Wizard Of Oz film, why did the guards at the castle of the Wicked Witch Of The West sing a chorus of “Oreo?”

     
    *The Oreo became kosher in 1998, when the lard in the original recipe was replaced with vegetable shortening. Prior to then, Sunshine Bakeries’ Hydrox cookies had long been the kosher alternative. But most people preferred the taste of Oreos, and Hydrox cookies were discontinued by Keebler in 2003.

    †In terms of sales, the top five Oreo-nibbling countries are the U.S., China, Venezuela, Canada and Indonesia. In some countries, like China, Nabisco’s parent company, Kraft, reformulated the recipe to appeal to local tastes, including green tea Oreos.

    ‡The current design replaced a design of a ring of laurels, two turtledoves and a thicker, more mechanical “Oreo” font.

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Cold Cuts Day

    cold-cuts-230sq

    Cold cuts, an American favorite (but not a
    nutritionist’s). Photo courtesy iGourmet.

     

    Sliced beef and turkey are not cold cuts.

    The term refers specifically to precooked or cured meat, often in loaf or sausage form, that are sliced and served cold on sandwiches or on party trays.

    Today they are ubiquitous, pre-sliced in vacuum packs at the supermarket. Or, they can be sliced to order at a delicatessen or the market’s deli counter.

    The good news: Most people like cold cuts, and they’re easy lunch and party fare.

    The bad news: Most cold cuts are higher in fat, nitrates and sodium. In fact, the prepackaged kind have even more of these bad ingredients, as the larger exposed surface requires stronger preservatives.

     
    A COLD CUT BY ANY OTHER NAME

    Cold cuts are also known as deli meats, lunch meats, luncheon meats, sandwich meats and in the U.K., cold meats, cooked meats and sliced meats.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Beignets For Mardi Gras

    Celebrating the Carnival season, Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) has been a state holiday in Louisiana since the 19th century. So evoke Mardi Gras and New Orleans with a batch of homemade beignets.

    WHAT’S MARDI GRAS?

    The Carnival season begins on or after the Epiphany or Kings Day (January 6th) and culminates on the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday refers to the practice of eating richer, fatty foods the last night before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday.

    Mardi Gras is sometimes referred to as Shrove Tuesday, from the word shrive, meaning “confess.” But the idea of rich foods is far more appealing.

    Why “Carnival?” Centuries of years ago, Catholics in Italy started the tradition of holding a wild costume festival right before the first day of Lent. It stuck, engendering huge Carnival events elsewhere, including New Orleans and Rio de Janiero.

     

    pineapple-beignets-orsay-230

    Beignets should be enjoyed warm, with a cup of strong coffee. Photo courtesy Orsay | New York City.

     
    WHAT’S A BEIGNET?

    A beignet (pronounced bayn-YAY, the french word for bump) is deep-fried choux pastry dough.

    It’s a fritter similar to the German Spritzkuchen, the Italian zeppole and the Spanish churro. It can take on different shapes and flavorings depending on local preferences.

  • In New Orleans, beignets are like doughnut holes, typically sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar. They’ve caught on at stylish restaurants nationwide, which serve them as dessert with a dipping sauce.
  • In France, the term refers to a variety of fried-dough pastry shapes with fruit fillings.
  • Beignets made with yeast pastry are called Berliners Pfannkuchen in Germany (the equivalent of an American jelly doughnut) and boules de Berlin in French.
  •  
    Beignets were brought to Louisiana by the Acadians, immigrants from Canada,* whose fritters were sometimes filled with fruit. Today’s beignets are a square or round piece of dough, fried and covered with powdered sugar. The fruit (in the form of jam) is now served, optionally, on the side.

    The beignets at Café du Monde in New Orleans are worth going out of your way for (they taste best at the main location). After buying their mix and making them at home, we were unable to match the glory of the original, although we admit, we did not use cottonseed oil as they do.

    In New Orleans, the beignet is also known as the French Market doughnut, and it is the Louisiana State doughnut. (How many states have an official state doughnut?)

    At Café du Monde, beignets are served in orders of three. The cafe is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except for Christmas Day.
     
    HOW TO EAT A BEIGNET

    In New Orleans, beignets are served with the local favorite, chicory-laced coffee.

    You can enjoy them plain, with fruit curd or jam or with chocolate sauce.
     
    *The Acadians are the descendants of the 17th-century French colonists who settled in Acadia. That colony was located in what is now Eastern Canada’s Maritime provinces—New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island—as well as part of Quebec and present-day Maine to the Kennebec River. Acadia was a distinctly separate colony of New France (which became Canada); the Acadians and Québécois developed two distinct histories and cultures. (Source: Wikipedia)

     

    beignets-duplexonthird-230

    Without the confectioners’ sugar. Photo
    courtesy Duplex On Third | Los Angeles.

     

    The recipe below is from Nielsen-Massey, manufacturer of some of the finest extracts in the world, including the vanilla extract used in the recipe.

    RECIPE: VANILLA BEIGNET BITES

    Ingredients For 6 Dozen Beignets

  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE warm water, yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar n a small bowl; set aside to activate yeast. In a medium bowl, add butter, half-and-half and vanilla extract; stir and set aside. In a small bowl whisk eggs; set aside.

    2. COMBINE flour, sugar, salt and cardamom in a bowl of a free standing electric mixer. Place bowl on mixer stand which has been fitted with a dough hook. Turn mixer on low speed and combine dry ingredients. Turn mixer to medium speed then add activated yeast mixture. Add half-and-half mixture, then add the whisked eggs. Mix until well combined, scraping the sides of the bowl when necessary. Dough will be slightly sticky.

    3. PLACE dough on a lightly floured surface and knead, about 2-3 minutes; add additional flour if needed. Lightly coat a large bowl with cooking spray and place dough into the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and keep warm until dough has doubled in size, about 2 hours. After dough has risen, place on a lightly floured surface and gently knead. Roll dough into a rectangle, about ¼-inch thick. With a pizza cutter, cut dough into small rectangles, about 1 x ½-inch pieces.

    4. HEAT oil to 375°F. Carefully place dough in hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 45-60 seconds. Turn beignets so that both sides are golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Dust with Vanilla Powdered Sugar (recipe below) while bites are still warm. Serve with plain, with chocolate sauce, lemon curd or raspberry jam.
     
    VANILLA POWDERED SUGAR

    Ingredients For 1/2 Cup

  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla powder
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE ingredients in a small bowl.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Surf & Turf Sushi & More

    While meat and seafood have been served at the same meal since since the dawn of plenty, and Diamond Jim Brady (1856-1917) consumed platters heaped with steaks and lobsters, the pairing known as surf and turf originated in 1960s America.

    It became the darling of American steakhouse menus, combining the two most expensive items on the menu: lobster (surf) and filet mignon (turf). It has its own food holiday, February 29th, National Surf & Turf Day.

    But we can’t wait until the next leap year, 2016, to share this treat: surf and turf sushi.

    SURF & TURF HISTORY

    The earliest earliest print reference found by FoodTimeline.org, our favorite reference source on the history of all things food, was published in the Eureka [California] Humboldt Standard of August 14, 1964: “An entrée in restaurants in Portland [Oregon] is called surf and turf—a combination of lobster and steak.”

     

    sushi-tenderloin-lobster-maki-tenprimesteakandsushi-230

    Luxury sushi: a lobster-avocado maki topped
    with torched tenderloin, sweet eel sauce and
    a garnish of togarishi and rice crisps. Photo
    courtesy Ten Prime Steak And Sushi |
    Providence.

     

    Some sources claim that the concept originated on the East Coast, based on a 1966 print citation newspaper article in the Miami News. The columnist says that the restaurant La Hasta has created the best thing since lox and bagels—surf and turf; and that on some weekends the management had to take the dish off the menu, since demand exceeded supply.

    Sorry, East Coasters: 1964 beats 1966.

    Yet a third claim from a food writer couple, without printed proof, that the same dish by the same name was served at the Sky City restaurant in the Seattle Space Needle, at the 1962 World’s Fair. That may be, but documentation is required. If anybody remembers it from the World’s Fair: Please raise your hand. There’s a bonus if you have the menu.

    Fun fact: The beef-seafood combo is called “Reef and Beef” in Australia.

    THE NEW SURF & TURF

    The original may have been lobster and filet mignon; but as long as there’s something from the surf and something from the turf, you’ve got surf and turf! We “invent” a different combination for our monthly surf and turf dinner. The past year’s pairings have included:

  • Clam roll and a hot dog
  • Crab cake and lamb chops
  • Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon and Canadian bacon
  • Fish and chips with sliced sausage “chips” (heavy, but fun)
  • Fried oysters with a burger (make it edgier with a fish stick and tartar sauce)
  • Fried oysters with steak (or, garnish the steak with a raw oyster on the half shell)
  •  

    sushi-surf-and-turf-10primesteakandsushiprovidence-230sq

    Two rows of raw tenderloin-topped sushi,
    plated with yellowtail, eel and other seafood
    sushi we had to crop out. Photo courtesy Ten
    Prime Steak And Sushi | Providence.

     
  • Lobster roll and a chicken sausage, both in brioche buns
  • Oysters wrapped in bacon (an oldie, but still “surf and turf”)
  • Panko fried shrimp with chicken-fried steak (too much fried food for us)
  • Salmon or tuna grilled rare with rare filet mignon
  • Salmon tartare and steak tartare
  • Scallops with grilled lamb chop or pork chop
  • Shrimp and beef stir-fry (good but not as festive as the other variations)
  • Shrimp and poached chicken cocktail
  • Shrimp kabobs with grilled skirt steak
  • Shrimp tempura and pork tenderloin
  • Sliced grilled tuna and sliced breast of chicken
  •  
    And now, we’ve discovered surf and turf sushi from Ten Prime Steak And Sushi in Providence.

    Our maki-rolling skills are rusty, but we’ll try it right after we master our March recipe, surf and turf meat loaf. (So far, ground chicken and whole baby scallops are the mix of choice.)

    MIX & MATCH

    You could fill every day of the year with a different option and not run out (and if anyone decides to start a restaurant based on that concept, send a hefty ideation fee here).

    Pick your favorite seafood and meats: crab cake, crab legs, scallops or shrimp with lamb chops or pork chops, for example.

  • Surf: any fish or shellfish. Think outside the lobster box to caviar/roe, clams, crab, crawfish, eel, escargot, grilled tuna, mussels, octopus, oysters, shrimp, squid, sushi/sashimi, uni (sea urchin). Grilled cod or halibut stand up well to beef and pork.
  • Turf: bacon (and the bacon group: Canadian bacon, prosciutto, serrano ham, etc.), beef, bison, exotics (boar, elk, ostrich), lamb, ham, poultry, pork in their many forms: grilled, roasted, ground, ribs, sausage, etc.
  •  
    And props to Allen Brothers, purveyor of prime meats to restaurants and the public, for the idea of creating the surf-topped filet mignon. The company topped filet mignon with a crown of lobster “stuffing” (chopped lobster, fresh herbs (try tarragon or thyme), scallions, cream, butter, sweet onions, bread crumbs and a touch of garlic), as well as a lump crab meat version with mozzarella, chopped spinach, garlic and rosemary. (You’ll have to make your own, though; the company has updated the product with new, non-surf, toppings.)

    Try your own hand at the new surf and turf and let us know your favorites.
      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Margarita Day

    What’s your idea of the perfect Margarita? In anticipation of National Margarita Day, February 22nd, Milagro Tequila asked 100 Margarita drinkers, 51 men and 49 women, to share their preferences.

  • Ninety-one percent of them prefer Margaritas made with fresh ingredients over those made with a pre-packaged mix.
  • One third of respondents prefer drinking their Margarita in a rocks glass rather than a big Margarita glass (which actually was invented for frozen Margaritas—see more below).
  • Nearly 2/3 of the survey participants prefer salt on the rim.
  • Seventy percent of respondents prefer drinking from the salted rim rather than through a straw.
  • More than half of respondents take their Margaritas blended, which is the industry term for a frozen Margarita.
  • The majority of people prefer a classic Margarita to a fruit-flavored one (guava, passionfruit, peach, strawberry, etc.).
  • Forty percent like having an extra tequila shot mixed into their Margaritas.
  • Two-thirds of respondents prefer a Margarita made with blanco/silver tequila rather than the lightly aged reposado.
  •  
    Here’s more 411 on Margaritas:

     

    chili-rim-richardsandovalrestaurants

    Something different: a chili powder rim instead of salt. Or, mix the two. Photo courtesy Richard Sandoval Restaurants.

     

    WHAT’S A MARGARITA GLASS?

    A Margarita glass (see photo below) is style of cocktail glass used to serve Margaritas and other mixed drinks. It is also repurposed as tableware, to serve dishes from ceviche, guacamole and shrimp cocktail to sundaes and other desserts.

    The Margarita glass is a variation of the classic Champagne coupe, and was developed specifically for for blended fruit and frozen Margaritas. The capacity is larger than the rocks glass used for classic Margaritas, and the wide rim accommodates plenty of salt.

    There is no need to own Margarita glasses: rocks glasses are just fine for classic Margaritas, and the larger Collins glasses—or whatever you have—do well for frozen Margaritas.

    Why was a different glass created?

    From the Victorian Age until the Second World War, people of means dined very fashionably. Elaborately prepared foods were served on fine tableware with many different utensils—different fork and knife shapes for meat, fish, seafood, and so on.

  • Even in middle class homes, the “good silver” could include a dinner fork, salad fork, fish fork, oyster fork; dinner knife, fish knife, salad knife, butter knife; soup spoon, tea spoon, iced tea spoon, espresso spoon, grapefruit spoon; and so on.
  • Some were truly useful—a serrated grapefruit spoon spared the time of cutting each half with a grapefruit knife prior to serving; a lobster pick is an important aid to removing the leg meat.
  • Others were merely rationalizations, as those of us who eat meat, fish and salad with the same fork can testify.
  •  
    Along similar lines, cocktail, glassware was created for specific drinks.

  • In the tumbler category alone (not stemware) there are Collins glasses for a tall mixed drink; highball glass, taller but not as tall as the Collins; Old Fashioned glass for an “on the rocks” drink; the dizzy cocktail glass, a wide, shallow bowl like a champagne coupe but without the stem; the shot glass and the whiskey tumbler.
  • Then there are the stemmed cocktail glasses: absinthe, cordial/liqueur, Hurricane, Martini (a.k.a. cocktail glass), sherry, snifter and single malt scotch whiskey glasses.
  • Not to mention a dozen different wine glasses, three different shapes for Champagne and other sparkling wines; and ten or so different beer glass shapes.
  • How about non-alcohol glassware: water glass, iced tea glass, juice glass and fountain glass—oversized for ice cream sodas, malts, shakes and now, smoothies.
  • Whew!

     

    dual-margarita_1321375-230

    The Margarita glass, actually developed for
    blended fruit and frozen Margaritas. Photo by
    Eugene Bochkarev | BSP.

     

    WHO INVENTED THE FROZEN MARGARITA?

    The original Margarita began appearing in bars and restaurants along the U.S.-Mexico border in the late 1930s. The first elecric blender had appeared in 1922, and improved upon in 1935 with the invention of the Waring Blender. That device, which could efficiently chop ice, enabled the creation of “frozen” drinks”—a conventional cocktail made in a blender with chopped ice.

    By the 1960s, slushy soft drinks became the craze among kids and adults alike. The machine to make them was invented by Omar Knedlik in the late 1950s. The World War II veteran from Kansas bought his first ice cream shop after the war. In the late 1950s he bought a Dairy Queen that did not have a soda fountain, so he served semi-frozen bottled soft drinks, which became slushy and were immensely popular.

    This gave him the idea to create a machine that made slushy sodas, resulting in the ICEE Company. Yet no one made the leap to using the machine for frozen cocktails.

    At that time, frozen Daiquiris and Margaritas were made by bartenders in a blender with ice cubes. But it wasn’t a great solution.

     

    A young Dallas restaurant manager, Mariano Martinez, couldn’t master the consistency of frozen Margaritas to the satisfaction of his customers—who no doubt were comparing them to the Slushies from 7-Eleven. His bartenders complained that the blender drinks were too time-consuming to make.

    One day in 1971, Martinez stopped for a cup of coffee at a 7-Eleven and saw the Slurpee machine. The light bulb flashed on, and Martinez bought and retrofitted an old soft-serve machine, porting the technology to make frozen Margaritas. The rest is history.

    The frozen Margarita was responsible for the growth of tequila in America, as well as the growth of Tex-Mex cuisine to go with all those frozen Margaritas.

    According to Brown-Forman, in 2006 the Margarita surpassed the Martini as the most ordered alcoholic beverage, representing 17% of all mixed-drink sales. Martinez’ historically significant, original machine was acquired by The National Museum of American History in 2005.
     
    MORE ABOUT MARGARITAS

  • The History Of The Margarita
  • Margarita recipes: original, classic, frozen, non-alcoholic and more
  •  
    Finally, there’s no need to buy “Margarita salt”: It’s just coarse sea salt or kosher salt.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Crab Stuffed Flounder

    Print

    Crab-stuffed flounder is actually easy to
    make. Photo and recipe courtesy Westside
    Market | New York City.

     

    February 18th is National Crab-Stuffed Flounder Day. The recipe is easy to make, and gives the appearance of a “fancy” preparation. You can stuff any white fish filet with crab meat.

    Before buying crab, note that there are four grades of meat. In order of expense, they are:

  • Jumbo lump crab meat, the largest, snow-white lumps.
  • Lump/backfin crab meat, the same color, flavor and texture of jumbo lump, but is in slightly smaller pieces
  • White crab meat, smaller white pieces ideal for recipes where the size and shape of the crab flake becomes indistinguishable, such as crab cakes.
  • Claw crab meat, the reddish-brown claw and leg meat which is actually more flavorful and is preferred by many (who also and appreciate the lower price) and is the best to use in spicy dishes, where the flavor best holds up to the spices,
  •  
    So the best crab meat to use is this recipe is claw or white, depending on preference and availability.

    Here’s more on the different types of crab meat.

    Thanks to the Westside Market in New York City for this easy recipe.

    RECIPE: CRABMEAT STUFFED FLOUNDER

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, minced
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley or dill plus more for garnish
  • ½ cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 8 ounces crab meat, picked over
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/8 tablespoon cayenne
  • 4 8-ounce flounder or tilapia fillets
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 4-8 toothpicks
  • Optional garnish: lemon slice or wedge, parsley or dill sprigs
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 400°F. Lightly oil 9 x13-inch ovenproof dish.

    2. MELT butter in skillet. Add onion and celery and sauté until soft. Stir in parsley or dill. Remove skillet from heat and stir in breadcrumbs, crab meat, lemon juice and cayenne.

    3. DIVIDE crab meat mixture among fillets and roll up. Hold together with toothpicks. Place fish seam side down in baking dish. Sprinkle paprika over fish.

    4. BAKE for 20 to 25 minutes. Garnish with dill and lemon before serving.
     
    CRAB MEAT OR CRABMEAT?

    You’ll see both uses. Which is correct?

    “Crab meat” is more correct, although the incorrect “crabmeat” has eased into acceptance over time (spell or pronounce something incorrectly enough and people accept it as right).

     

    claw-meat-phillips230

    Claw meat and leg meat are darker but more flavorful and less expensive. Use it in recipes where the crab gets fully blended with other ingredients. Photo courtesy Phillips Crab.

     

    Whenever you’re confused about how to write something, think of other uses. For example, lobster meat is the correct form; you’d never write “lobstermeat.”

      

    Comments

    PRESIDENT’S DAY: Dine & Drink With George Washington & Abraham Lincoln

    steak-and-kidney-pie-chatterboxenterprises-230

    You won’t often find steak and kidney pie in
    the U.S. these days. But if you want to eat
    one of George Washington’s favorites, here’s
    the recipe. Recipe and photo courtesy
    Chatterbox Enterprises.

     

    Some of us remember life before Presidents Day. Until 1971, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday was a state holiday, celebrated in many states on the his birthday—Lincoln was born February 12, 1809 in Kentucky in that iconic one-room cabin in Hardin County, Kentucky. It was a bank, government and school holiday, not to mention a day of retail sales specials.

    George Washington had a separate holiday on his birthday, February 22nd (he was born on February 22, 1732 in Westmoreland County, Virginia, to a wealthy planter family).

    In 1971, both presidential holidays were shifted to the third Monday in February and combined as Presidents Day, to allow federal employees a three-day weekend. The private sector followed. Adieu, Lincoln’s Birthday; and yours too, George Washington’s Birthday. You holidays are now part of a vague Presidents Day celebration.

    DINING WITH GEORGE WASHINGTON

    The planter and surveyor who would become the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Washington was known for keeping a bountiful table. He was fond of fine food and enjoyed fresh fish almost daily (often for breakfast with hoe cakes).

     
    Steak and kidney pie, mashed sweet potatoes and string beans almondine were a popular dinner, served with pickles and other condiments, particularly mushroom catsup (tomato catsup came much later—see the history of ketchup). Favorite desserts included tipsy cake (trifle), Martha Washington’s whiskey cake and yes, cherry pie.

    What did Washington drink with his meals?

    Beer was a favorite drink of George Washington, as it was for many people living in 18th century America and Europe. Before municipal water supplies, the water supply was unreliable, with the water from lakes, rivers and wells carrying harmful pathogens. Even young children drank beer.

    Washington was particularly fond of porter, a dark ale, but Madiera and wine were usually present at the table as well. Beer was brewed at Mount Vernon, and hops were grown there. In addition to grain-based beer, persimmon beer and pumpkin beer were brewed in season.

    Washington’s notebooks include a recipe for small beer, which was a weak beer (lower alcohol content) consumed by servants and children. The full-alcohol beer was called strong beer.

     

    WHAT ABOUT THE HARD STUFF?

    In the era before cocktails*, punch was the way to combine spirits, sugar, lemon juice, spices and other ingredients.

    Washington also enjoyed eggnog. His own recipe included brandy, rum and rye, the latter of which was made on the estate. A little-known fact about the Father Of Our Country: At the time of his death, he was the country’s largest producer of rye whiskey. The restored still at Mount Vernon continues to produce un-aged rye whiskey using Washington’s original recipe.
     
    So the choice is yours: Toast to our first president with beer, eggnog, punch or a glass of rye.
     
    Thanks to MountVernon.org for this information. You can read the full article here. And if you’re in the DC area, do plan a visit to this wonderful heritage site.

     

    oyster-stew-wmmb-230

    Dining with Lincoln? You might be served a bowl of oyster stew. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     

    DINING WITH ABRAHAM LINCOLN

    Given the choice of a good meal with George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, opt for Washington.

    Abraham Lincoln’s father, Thomas, was an illiterate farmer. Meals in the family’s one-room cabin comprised simple farm fare.

    Thus, Lincoln was not bred to be a connoisseur of fine food like Washington. His colleagues on the law circuit noted his indifference to the boardinghouse fare. As president, focused on work, he hardly remembered to eat; often, his sustenance was a nibble of apples, nuts, cheese and crackers. Chicken fricassee with biscuits and oyster stew were favorites when he took the time to for a formal meal.

    Lincoln’s favorite beverage was water. He didn’t drink alcohol and it was seldom served at the White House. He did enjoy coffee, perhaps for the energy as much as the flavor.

    A glass of water is fine, but we’d rather have a crisp white wine with our fruit and cheese.

     
    *Cocktails as we know them date back to the early 1800s. Here’s a brief history and some retro cocktails.

      

    Comments

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