Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hot Dog!

Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggety dog! If you've ever had a hot dog, you probably also have a place and particular memory about it, too. A lot of times these simple little "hand meals" include stories of where we were and why we were there.

My North Carolina Hot Dog
w/ mustard, chili and coleslaw

When my husband and I were dating, our first argument was over a hot dog. A Chicago Hot Dog to be exact. I was visiting his home town for the first time. It began with a simple statement (more like a question, really):
Me - "What does a Chicago Hot Dog have on it?"
Him - "Just regular stuff."
Me - "What's the regular stuff?"
Him - "Hot dog stuff, that's it."
Me - "But, what makes it different?"
Him - "It's not different, it's just a hot dog."
Me - "But it's a Chicago Hot Dog, so what makes it a Chicago Hot Dog?"
Him (laughing just a little too hard in my opinion ) "There's no such thing"
Me - "OF course there is, where I grew up in North Carolina the hot dogs have mustard, chili, and coleslaw, so what does--
Him - (interrupting me) "That's crazy, we just have real hot dogs"

You can imagine how that went over with me, right? After 17 years, we still laugh at our "hot dog argument". Now, even he agrees that hot dogs are very region specific and he takes great pride in his Chicago Vienna on a poppy seed bun with a tomato, pickle and pepper stacked on top.

Of course, living in a city as culturally mixed as Los Angeles, there are a number of famous and infamous hot dog stands that try to cover all the variances: Pinks being one of the best known.

However, if you want to really feed your hot dog hunger and include some of the best sweet potato fries along with it, I'd try The Slaw Dogs in Pasadena.

When I was there recently I overheard a mom talking to her two pre-teens about food choices and being open to new tastes. Shockingly, they were listening, too. On the table were hot dogs that included vegetables and when we spoke she told me this was their second time at The Slaw Dogs within it's first weeks of opening.

At this window front cafe you could get hypnotized by the choices on their menu board: Vienna All Beefs, Veggie, Sausages, Thai inspired, BBQ Picnic inspired, Classic with cheese, and a long list of customized toppings. You wouldn't think so many ingredients could be piled on a bun and balanced on top of a wiener, but it works. And the fresh, sometimes toasty bread holds up fairly well as long as you don't wait too long to eat it, which wasn't a problem with me or my husband.

The owner, and happily busy cook behind the kitchen window is Ray Byrne. You can tell this is his baby and he's loving it. The Slaw Dogs is the kind of casual, neighborly place that on your first visit feels like you've been hanging out there already.

Expanding even further into the hot dog world of sausages, you can't do better than Wurstkuche in downtown Los Angeles.

On weekends, this urban beer garden has hipsters and un-hipsters lined up outside its door to choose from an impressive lineup of sausages that range from the stalwart Bratwurst to Rattlesnake and Rabbit with Jalapeno peppers. Served on a soft, but hardy bun with Belgian Fries that include exquisite dipping sauces;

You can chase it all down with one of their "list as long as my arm" beers and ales. The wall is lined with draft spouts and the counter lined with non-alcoholic drinks in every flavor combo ever bottled.

Once you have your order placed and your number in hand, just walk back to a vast roofed Bavarian garden with community tables and a bar. While eating with my daughter's German-born fiance, I was assured that this place does a fine job of representing the flavors of his home town of Munich.

Then there's the good ol' hot dog you make at home - grilled, boiled, broiled or sauteed. I introduced my kids and hubby and his Chicago family to the hot dog of my youth in North Carolina; the mustard, chili, coleslaw goodness I spoke of in my argument.
Sometimes we have themed nights of "NC Hot Dogs", especially when we want to keep it fast, but delicious or want an easy "pick it up and take it outside" kinda meal. Our Hot Dog Nights became tradition on Halloween because it gave us something easy to fix before taking the kids out trick-or-treating and some of the neighbors would stop by for one before we all went out together. The chili recipe is one that my Grandfather used to make for family nights at the YMCA. The coleslaw recipe is like the ones made by Mom, aunts, Grandma and church folks. It always varied a little based on how much time they wanted to spend on chopping the cabbage. Sometimes it was chunky, sometimes very fine.

{Here is a picture of a hot dog from the Dog House in Durham, NC. Who knows what is inside that
extremely pink link, or how much grease is holding that chili together and yet you'll have to trust me on how good it taste. I just wouldn't eat it very often. It's one of those "home for a visit, so why not" stops.}

At the house with my mom, or in Los Angeles with our family - we've tweaked the product to include organic, no-sulfite wieners, turkey dogs, sausages from our local butcher, lean ground sirloin for the chili and Farmer's Market cabbage and carrots for the slaw. I make the rolls with whole wheat flour dough prepped in the bread machine. A healthier version without sacrificing the "style", oh yeah.

North Carolina Hot Dog Chili

1 onion chopped small
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 lb. lean ground sirloin beef (grass fed, even better)
1 Tbls. Chipotle Chili Powder
1 Tbls. Paprika
dash of salt & pepper
1 Tbls. Tomato Paste
1/2 cup Tomato Ketchup
Water as needed

*In a large skillet, caramelize the onions in the olive oil on low/med heat for about 10 minutes. Stir often.
* Add the Ground Sirloin and brown, stirring to break up the meat and keep it crumbly
* When there is no more pink to the meat, add the Chili Powder, Paprika, salt and pepper to taste.
* When all mixed in, add the Tomato Paste and stir to combine. Cook this down for about 5 minutes to create a deep dark and flavorful base.
* Add the ketchup and just a bit of water, stir and cover with a lid.
* Reduce heat to low and keep to a bare simmer for about 30 minutes to 1 hour. Add water as needed to keep it from burning or getting too dry. Stir once in a while.
* Serve warm for hot dogs or it's also good with eggs.

North Carolina Hot Dog Cole Slaw

1/2 Head of cabbage cored and chopped small
1 carrot peeled, shredded or chopped fine
1/4 cup sour cream or yogurt
2 Tbls. minced onion (optional)
2 Tbls. Apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp. celery seed
1/4 tsp. sugar (optional)
salt/pepper to taste

* Mix all ingredients in a bowl, cover and let marinate in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Hot Dogs can evoke so many reactions, from the Shake Shack in NYC to Dodger Dogs in L.A., to the Red Hots in Chi-town.

Where is your favorite hot dog, and what makes it yours (and don't say it's just a regular hot dog) ?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

I Cara Cara for You - Miniature Orange Tians for Daring Bakers 3/10

Orange you glad you stopped by? Ok, no more puns...for now. Spring citrus makes me giddy. It makes me think of sunshine and kid's soccer games. It reminds me of how my mom would cut a hole through each orange and hand them out to me, my brother and my cousins to squeeze and suck dry, then tear open to eat the left over fruit. It was a snack that kept us busy for a long time, and left us with sticky arms from the juice running down them, which meant another giggling run through the sprinklers. The only thing that could make citrus even better, would be to add whipped cream and a cookie!
Cara Cara Orange Tian Tinies

The 2010 March Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School in Paris.
Because I'm always looking for ideas to add to my Artisanal Catering services, I decided to make these in small 3inch servings. I used a wonderful pan from Chicago Metalics that is made for individual cheese cakes and has removable bottoms. It worked out fantastic, plus I can keep these frozen and just pop one out as needed for my family (okay, who am I kidding - mostly for me!)

Here's the process, then the recipe from the Daring Bakers will follow (along with red highlights of my tweaks.)First I cut the orange peels off, then into circles and soaked them in the simple syrup. I made the cookies and the marmalade a day ahead. Our challenge including making our own marmalade, not a hard thing and I hope you'll try it. It was just an easy refrigerator version and made enough to use on morning scones later. Mmmm.
I placed an orange slice in the bottom of the pan. Filled with the whipped cream that had been chilled (recipe below), spread some marmalade on the small Pate Sable cookies and turned it upside down on the whipped cream. After chilling for about 20 minutes, I could push each one out and set it up straight so the golden orange was on top. Then, using some of the juice and syrup that was left over, heated it into a caramel. I topped a few with the caramel sauce, dropped some zest into some of it, and then made some of it into pulled sugar disks. Experiment with it, you'll find your favorite.


For the Pate Sablee:

2 medium-sized egg yolks at room temperature
granulated sugar 6 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon
vanilla extract ½ teaspoon
Unsalted butter ¼ cup + 3 tablespoons ice cold, cubed
Salt 1/3 teaspoon
All-purpose flour 1.5 cup + 2 tablespoons
baking powder 1 teaspoon

Put the flour, baking powder, ice cold cubed butter and salt in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.

In a separate bowl, add the eggs yolks, vanilla extract and sugar and beat with a whisk until the mixture is pale. Pour the egg mixture in the food processor.

Process until the dough just comes together. If you find that the dough is still a little too crumbly to come together, add a couple drops of water and process again to form a rough ball of dough. Form into a disc, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit.

Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface until you obtain a ¼ inch thick circle.

Using your cookie cutter, cut out circles of dough and place on a parchment (or silicone) lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until the circles of dough are just golden.

For the Marmalade:

Freshly pressed orange juice ¼ cup + 3 tablespoons
1 large orange used to make orange slices
cold water to cook the orange slices
pectin 5 grams
granulated sugar: use the same weight as the weight of orange slices once they are cooked

Finely slice the orange. Place the orange slices in a medium-sized pot filled with cold water. Simmer for about 10 minutes, discard the water, re-fill with cold water and blanch the oranges for another 10 minutes.

Blanch the orange slices 3 times. This process removes the bitterness from the orange peel, so it is essential to use a new batch of cold water every time when you blanch the slices.

Once blanched 3 times, drain the slices and let them cool.

Once they are cool enough to handle, finely mince them (using a knife or a food processor).

Weigh the slices and use the same amount of granulated sugar . If you don’t have a scale, you can place the slices in a cup measurer and use the same amount of sugar.

In a pot over medium heat, add the minced orange slices, the sugar you just weighed, the orange juice and the pectin. Cook until the mixture reaches a jam consistency (10-15 minutes).

** add 2Tbls of brandy and reheat to boiling, stirring for 5 minutes.

Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge.

For the Orange Segments:

For this step you will need 8 oranges.

Cut the oranges into segments over a shallow bowl and make sure to keep the juice. Add the segments to the bowl with the juice.

**Cut the rind off oranges and slice into rounds

For the Caramel:
granulated sugar 1 cup
orange juice 1.5 cups + 2 tablespoons

Place the sugar in a pan on medium heat and begin heating it.

Once the sugar starts to bubble and foam, slowly add the orange juice. As soon as the mixture starts boiling, remove from the heat and pour half of the mixture over the orange segments.

Reserve the other half of the caramel mixture in a small bowl — you will use this later to spoon over the finished dessert. When the dessert is assembled and setting in the freezer, heat the kept caramel sauce in a small saucepan over low heat until it thickens and just coats the back of a spoon (about 10 minutes). You can then spoon it over the orange tians.

[Tip: Be very careful when making the caramel — if you have never made caramel before, I would suggest making this step while you don’t have to worry about anything else. Bubbling sugar is extremely, extremely hot, so make sure you have a bowl of ice cold water in the kitchen in case anyone gets burnt!]

For the Whipped Cream:
heavy whipping cream 1 cup
3 tablespoons of hot water
1 tsp Gelatine
1 tablespoon of confectioner's sugar
orange marmalade (see recipe above) 1 tablespoon

In a small bowl, add the gelatine and hot water, stirring well until the gelatine dissolves. Let the gelatine cool to room temperature while you make the whipped cream. Combine the cream in a chilled mixing bowl. Whip the cream using a hand mixer on low speed until the cream starts to thicken for about one minute. Add the confectioner sugar. Increase the speed to medium-high. Whip the cream until the beaters leave visible (but not lasting) trails in the cream, then add the cooled gelatine slowly while beating continuously. Continue whipping until the cream is light and fluffy and forms soft peaks. Transfer the whipped cream to a bowl and fold in the orange marmalade.
[Tip: Use an ice cold bowl to make the whipped cream in. You can do this by putting your mixing bowl, cream and beater in the fridge for 20 minutes prior to whipping the cream.]

Assembling the Dessert:

**I used a mini-cheese cake pan by Chicago Metalica, with removable bottoms.

Make sure you have some room in your freezer. Ideally, you should be able to fit a small baking sheet or tray of desserts to set in the freezer.

Line a small tray or baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone sheet. Lay out 6 cookie cutters onto the parchment paper/silicone.

Drain the orange segments on a kitchen towel.

Have the marmalade, whipped cream and baked circles of dough ready to use.

Arrange the orange segments at the bottom of each cookie cutter. Make sure the segments all touch either and that there are no gaps. Make sure they fit snuggly and look pretty as they will end up being the top of the dessert. Arrange them as you would sliced apples when making an apple tart.

Once you have neatly arranged one layer of orange segments at the bottom of each cookie cutter, add a couple spoonfuls of whipped cream and gently spread it so that it fills the cookie cutter in an even layer. Leave about 1/4 inch at the top so there is room for dough circle.

Using a butter knife or small spoon, spread a small even layer of orange marmalade on each circle of dough.

Carefully place a circle of dough over each ring (the side of dough covered in marmalade should be the side touching the whipping cream). Gently press on the circle of dough to make sure the dessert is compact.

Place the desserts to set in the freezer to set for 10 minutes.

Using a small knife, gently go around the edges of the cookie cutter to make sure the dessert will be easy to unmold. Gently place your serving plate on top of a dessert (on top of the circle of dough) and turn the plate over. Gently remove the cookie cutter, add a spoonful of caramel sauce and serve immediately.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Blueberry Macarons w/Lemon Curd + Part Two- Tartlette Comes To Town (The Photo Daze)

When I first walked in to the Tartlette Macaron/Photography Workshop, I was almost dizzy with excitement and with dread. I was excited to finally meet Helene Dujardin, someone whom I had been inspired by long before I joined the ranks of "food bloggers". Besides her "never-fail" recipes, there were always those photos...ahh, those photos. I've taught art classes for several years (one of my 100 careers) and I've talked about photography being the art form that paints with light, and Tartelette is one of those artists.
So, the dread part was about the Photography portion of the day. I was confident enough about my baking skills that even if I failed with the macarons, I knew I'd pick it up with practice. However, my photography skills fall into that area of "desire for excellence being far far greater than ability". I can see it in my head, but more often than not - can't technically capture the feeling - the artistry...of painting...with light. My lack of skills were exposed immediately. I politely asked Helene if it was fine to take photos during the class. She very earnestly nodded, "of course, yes - all you want." I pulled out my "new to me" Canon camera and in what I thought was a completely anonymous moment, clicked a quick photo of Helene speaking directly to another student. As I just as quickly brought my lens down, hoping to not be noticed, Helene calmly and sweetly said, "that picture will be very blurry, I could hear your shutter speed is too slow". My hair stood on end...please don't ask to see what I know full well is a perfectly blurry example of my photography ignorance. Helen held her hand out, "let's take a look". YIKES! Busted! With great embarrassment I fiddled with the gadgets I'd been trying to learn and finally brought up my latest shot; a beautiful piece of moving swirls in muted colors without even a tiny hint of clarity. I thought to myself, "she HEARD my shutter speed and KNEW I didn't have a great shot?!?" It's going to be a long day.

I'll spare you the rest of my moment-by-moment thoughts and cut to the highlights of what turned out to be an awesome, fun-filled, confidence building class.
Helene had me reset my camera's aperture to 5.6, leaving my shutter speed to automatic. Once I did that, I could get a fairly decent shot without using flash (which was the exercise I wanted to practice.)
It was a common sense move for anyone who knew photography, and one that I could have figured out if I'd had...oh, a hundred tries, and a lot of time to experiment. But, I would not have understood the "why", so Helene explained. (I will not try to teach in this post, because you deserve to hear it correctly.)

I do suggest any of these:

1) Reading Helene's site, and doing her workshop at your earliest chance,
2) Taking a Food Styling/Photography workshop with the extremely talented
Food Fanatics, Matt Armendariz and Adam C Pearson.
3) Reading/Watching the photo tutorials of these wonderfully talented people who explain it very well, even online: Diane and Todd of White On Rice.

After a very well put together DVD of Helene's work with her narrating and explaining how she got these shots, where the light source came from, how she reflected it back when she back-lit subjects, and the importance of asking yourself, "what do you want to say with this shot?", I was feeling taken care of. I had that feeling you get only when the teacher's spirit lets you know you are in a safe place to fail, to ask questions and to grow.

Each student began setting up their space with napkins and food props (things we brought with us to practice on) and Helen would circulate, giving undivided attention to each person's ideas. Then, she would give advice without changing the concept, but giving it focus and strength.

The ideas that I came away with included: Colors pop better with the inclusion of shadows, design ideas should include the movement you want the viewers eyes to follow, don't waste space - even the negative space should be with purpose, when shooting from above - everything is on the same plane so try shooting at 22 without so much fear, think outside the over-used 1.8 aperture used in a lot of food photos if your subject needs to offer more.

For my practice shooting, I brought a small bag of limes. I wanted to learn how to shoot in shadow, when the subject matter is not just one nice piece of cake, but a series of orbs or angles.

Helen had me cut the limes into segments, showing their moisture, their inside life and action. For a few minutes I was a photography partner with Tartelette (heh heh.) I left hugging my camera and feeling proud to own it, wanting to study and practice and, as Helene recommended: Shoot, shoot, shoot, it's the only way to really learn.

Since the workshop I have been on a Macaron flavor obsession. My latest are these:
Blueberry Macarons w/Lemon Curd
(the blueberries are oven dried, then ground to a flavorful dust)
*I followed the Macaron recipe ingredients and directions found on Tartelette's site, HERE, except I added 2 heaping Tablespoons of the oven dried blueberry dust to my powdered sugar and almond flour when pulsing it together.
*I also added a dash of powdered blue coloring to accent the blueberry flecks.
*The Blueberries were dried in a 200F oven for 2 hours, cooled, and ground in a coffee grinder to a dust.

LEMON CURD recipe:
(this is an easy basic recipe I used at CSCA)

1 cups sugar
3 egg yolks
3 lemon (juice and zest)
3 oz. butter cubed

Over a double boiler, with water at a simmer, whisk together the sugar, yolks, juice, and zest until it covers the back of a spoon and has thickened.
Remove from heat and beat in butter a little at a time til creamy - if any lumps, put through a sieve or chinois.
Chill before using.
I'm still experimenting with flavors and I'd love to hear about some of yours or your ideas.
Thanks, as always, for stopping by.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Red Onion & Pineapple Relish - I can, you can, we all can!

I was never one to relish Relish. However, it's the little things that can make an ordinary dish something amazing and a little bit of this spicy/sweet/tangy relish does exactly that. Imagine a spoon of this beside your scrambled eggs, or dabbed beside a chicken breast. Saute a simple piece of fish, then add a dollop of this and now you've got layers of flavor on flavor.
Red Onion & Pineapple Relish
The ways to use this relish are unending: on a baked potato, mixed in with cooked carrots, add zing to pork tenderloin or can you even imagine how great it would taste on a hamburger? If you don't usually "can" stuff, then just make this and put it in a cute container (or just a bowl), wrap it up and keep it in the refrigerator. It's good for a couple weeks.

This month the item for the TigressCanJam event is Alliums: onions, ramps, leeks, garlic, etc.
I still have a bag of Farmer's Market onions and 2 giant stalks of fennel because I had planned on using them for my "can-can-canning" this month. Then, I came across a recipe that mixed a pungent ruby red onion with one of my favorite fruits, sweet juicy pineapple, and I was in love.
This is a fragrant couple of hours in the kitchen, folks, but when it's done you'll have a hard time not eating little spoonfuls of it all by itself (not that I did that or anything.)
Quote from ME: "This works, yeah, this definitely works. I better "can" this before there's none left."
I hope you make this, and then come back and tell me your ideas of other ways to use it, ok?
Red Onion & Pineapple Relish
(adapted from Jellies, Jams & Chutneys - Thane Prince)

1/2 Pineapple, trimmed and roughly chopped

2 Med. Red Onions, chopped

3 small red chiles, chopped fine (can be seeded, but the kick is nice)

2 garlic cloves chopped fine

1 Tbls. fresh thyme leaves

5 oz. sugar

1 cup white wine vinegar

dash of salt

Put all ingredients into a large pot (not aluminum), and bring to boil. Stir often to dissolve sugar. Simmer the relish over med. heat for about 20 minutes until it's thickened. Ladle the relish into hot sterilized jars, cover and precede to water bath canning for 10 minutes.
(Or ladle into clean bowl/containers - cover and keep in refrigerator for 2 weeks).