Monday, December 28, 2009

Nun Fail, Part Deux.

If you remember my post "Nun Cake, Sweet Tasty Nun Cake," then you will remember how I discovered that there is no love in Mr. Dave's heart for the eponymous cheesecake of New Skete. As much as I hate to bag on the cake making skills of the, undoubtedly lovely, nuns of New Skete. I found the stuff to be kind of funky. Clicky the linky if you are interested in a deeper review of the plain, stock cheesecake.

I make no secret of my maniacal nog-lust. I am an eggnog maniac from way back. I make nog, I drink nog, I love nog. So when I saw eggnog flavored Nuns of New Skete cheese cake at the Delmar Market, it was as if the nuns were telling me, "Gird your loins Mr. Dave. Can you handle eggnog cheesecake? Can you live at that speed?" Well, consider these loins girded yon nuns! I purchased your pricey nog-cake, I ate your pricey nog-cake and blechh. Nog fail, cheesecake fail, nun fail. Now I like nutmeg, but there be enough nutmeg flavor in here to make me vomitous. I am convinced that, knowing of nutmegs psychoactive/hallucinogenic properties , the nuns were intent on making me trip balls. There was a definite nog-i-ness to the slice, but inexplicably, this wasn't pleasant.

Anyhow, someone needs to bake me a worthy nog-cake. I demand it. Curses on you nuns for wetting my unholy appetite for nog (I am joking, bless all of your nunnish little hearts).

Saturday, December 26, 2009

X-Mas Log Cake

This year I briefly tossed around the notion of baking up an old fashioned Buche De Noel (Yule Log Cake). As I am shockingly lazy, this idea fell by the wayside. Lucky for me I was strolling through me local mega-grocer's market when I spotted the above gem. I rarely if ever buy an Entemann's of any sort, us Capital Region folk know the brand as a sort of poor man's Freihofer's (this is despite the fact that, unfortunately, both these traditionally NY companies have been bought out by Bimbo). I will never understand the strange and morbid curiosity streak that forces me to buy horrible, industrial, unhealthy products such as this, but it kicked in here. I bought the Entemann's "Holiday Log Cake", Mrs. Dave actually encouraged me in this case. I could tell she secretly fancied the little, cakey bastard. Here we have it un-boxed.

Note the cunning little plastic ax. I hacked a couple thin slices off.

What we have here is basically a decoratively frosted Swiss roll. Digging in, I was shocked by how dry the whole deal was. Even the frosting was somehow a little parched. This is weird as Entemann's products are usually unsettlingly moist (read transfats). Thoroughly disappointing, not even guilty pleasures to be had. Now I have to find a willing party to schluff 90% of this bad boy onto. Luckily, I have a pecan Lardy cake working in the oven. This will wash the saccharin mediocrity of the "Holiday Log" off my tongue with its unctuous beauty.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sometimes a Wrong Turn is a Right Turn

I was down at Rolf's Pork Store in a quest for a whole pork belly and a tenderloin for a delicious concept I came across (I shall leave you in suspense on that one). Anyhow, no luck on the belly, they weren't getting any until the next day. I bought a pound of bacon and the tenderloin to console myself.

I recently moved, so I am always looking for the shorthacks from downtown. My Garmin GPS put up a somewhat unorthodox route, but I said what the heck and decided to follow it. Long story short, the spiderweb-esque complexity of the various loop de loops of 787 were too much for my humble device and I ended up on the other side of the mighty Hudson. Looking for nice parking lot to bang a u-turn I stumbled upon the Rensselaer location of Hot Dog Charlie's.

Feeling as if the Hot Dog Gods were guiding my fate this frosty day, I parked the truck and went in for a half dozen to go. By the by, there is an Aldi kitty corner to the restaurant. I arrived home some time later with my prize.

I am of the mind that any food which comes in a brown paper bag through which grease eventually soaks, is a very good food. Me da' used to get get me a bag of Jack's Diner's (corner of Central and N Manning)crinkle cut French fries when I was a wee 'un, always with a warning not to put them on my pants. I purchased 6 small dogs with everything for a pittance, I think the total was 4.81$ give or take some red pennies.

I know that I tend to go on and on about these little hot dogs all of the time, and perhaps it is boring to some. But I never cease to be amazed by how much I enjoy the little guys. To my mind the flavor is surprisingly complex. The overriding flavor of the combination of onion, mustard, chili, and garlicky dog is bitterness. Pleasingly bitter flavors are fairly uncommon in American cuisine, and most "chili" type dogs end up somehow being very sweet. Anyhow, I had a nice, greasy hot dog lunch. I trust everyone will have a wonderful holiday!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Utica Greens

The regional dishes of New York have always fascinated me. Many times they are delightfully weird bastardizations of ethnic cuisine, hybrids that meld the products of our American industrial food machine with concepts from the old country. Utica, NY is known for several unique Italian dishes. I have already shared with you my take on Chicken Riggies, now we shall move on to Utica Greens. My interest in Utica food was reignited by a friend who came to a recent get together bearing said greens as well as a twelver of Utica Club (in bottles!). My recipe is a loose take on the one that he uses.

The typical Utica Greens are a spicy amalgam of escarole, long or cherry peppers, bread crumbs, prosciutto, pecorino and some other good stuff, broiled to form a golden brown crust on top. These are served as a side dish, with some bread, or in my favorite way, on top of a chicken cutlet sandwich.

Unfortunately, I couldn't track down any escarole. So in my tradition of bastardizing Utica recipes I used some kale and Swiss chard.

Remove veins, wash thoroughly, boil about 10 minutes in a couple inches of salted water, as per usual with greens of this type.

Chop up some long frying peppers. I like to kind of julienne them.

I saute the peppers until they are thoroughly done, even a little color is OK. Next I chop up about a 1/4 pound of prosciutto. In this application the less expensive stuff is fine.

Prosciutto likewise gets sautéed until lightly browned, towards the end I throw in a couple cloves of garlic. Into the pan goes the fried peppers, the cooked greens, good olive oil, and seasoning.

Next throw in about a cup of stock, you could use water, but I like chicken stock. When this reduces slightly add enough bread crumbs to absorb the majority of the remaining liquid and finish with about a 1/3 cup of good Pecorino. A word on the bread crumbs, to stay true to form use some cheap brand of bread crumb. You know what I mean, the kind in the paper tube. I use Cora. Resist the urge to use hand crumbled artisan bread or some other nonsense, this is a Grandma dish and uses cheesy, salt of the earth ingredients.

Finally, we top with a little more bread crumb and cheese and brown under a broiler.

There you have it, Utica Greens. I like my greens spicy so normally I would have also added a jarred cherry pepper to the mix. I thought I had them in my fridge but did not, so this mess of greens was a bit tame for my tastes. Tasty none the less. Serve as a side dish, tossed with pasta, in an omelette, with crusty bread, or in my favorite manner- as the topping for a chicken cutlet sandwich.

If you have never partaken, I recommend you give a go at making these one night. They really are a very good way (albeit not the healthiest way)to get some greens in your diet. Maybe next we will conquer Utica's third renown delicacy, Tomato Pie. We shall see.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Pork Pies

I decided to make some British style Pork Pies after being inspired by this video. I love recipes that take very simple ingredients (in this case pork, fat, salt, pepper, flour), treat them with care, and turn them into into something great.

I started by brining some pork loin in a basic brining solution for a couple days.

I cubed up the meat,

and ran it through the coarse plate on my meat grinder. Next, I chopped some partially frozen fatback into a 1/8th inch dice.

The meat and the fat went into a bowl to await the most crucial ingredient to a pork pie.

The crucial ingredient I am speaking of is pork jelly. That is right, delicious meat jelly, a crucial player in creating the delicious texture of a pork pie. I made mine out of some pork neck bones and the skin from the fatback.

Strained and chilled you are left with a wobbly bowl of pork jelly. Some people would roast the bones for a darker, more strongly flavored jelly, but I like the more mellow flavor of raw bones in this application.

Some salt, and a bunch of cracked pepper go in and that is all she wrote. A lot of recipes call for sage and allspice, but I prefer the sweetness of pork by its lonesome.

Next, we have the crust to deal with. We use a traditional hot water pastry recipe for this. For the delightful flakiness of a pork pie crust, lard is the only lipid that will do. Melt the requisite amount in some water, I think it looks pretty.

Along with some standard white flour the water and lard become a rich, shiny dough. You need to throw the mess in the fridge for about an hour so that you can shape it into wee pies

I formed the pies by patting out a rough circle of dough by hand, putting a sort of flattened pork meatball in the center, and then folding the dough up around the sides. They get topped off by a smaller circle of dough and the edges are crimped with the tines of a fork. The last step is to poke a large-ish hole in the middle to allow steam to escape. I thought my pies came out looking very much like actual pork pies.

A little egg wash on top and these go in the oven for 45-55 minutes at 350 degrees.

I was very pleased at a nibble of the golden brown crust, richness and flakiness FTW. Pork pies are traditionally eaten cold as the jelly needs to set, I prefer them slightly warm. Here is an especially pretty one.

Here we have the center, slightly ugly and grey, but delicious none the less. You can see the coarseness of the pork flecked with fatback.

A little English mustard or some Branston pickle (which I picked up at the Slingerlands Chops) and you have a little slice of porky heaven in your hand. I was thoroughly pleased with how these came out, but I will see how some of my friends like them. I think the concentrated porkiness might be a bit much for some. If anyone is interested in a more exact recipe, let me know and I will post a follow up. Cheers.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

99 Cent Snack of The Day: Stewart's Deli Dog

I started my quest for local snacks that cost under 1.00$ a couple weeks ago with the lovely steamed pork buns at the Asian Supermarket. Today we have the Stewart's Deli Dog. Technically, one of these bad boys is outside of my pricing parameters, costing 1.19$. But when you buy two, the price of each drops to an acceptable .99 1/2 cents.

Unless you are over by Gus's, or near a Hot Dog Charlie's, your options for a quick, cheap, ready made, dirty water dog are somewhat limited in this neck of the woods. Of course you have Mobil's, Hess's, etc..., but I am loathe to eat any cooked meat from these chains. I don't know why I have this aversion as Stewart's is not exactly a Michelin starred establishment, but I am more comfortable eating there.

I go for the traditional deli dog (as opposed to Cajun or Kielbasa), with a generous amount of meat sauce as per our local hot dog tradition.

Then I wait for the impending intestinal distress, as it is surely coming. It is all worth it though, I think. Hot Dogs with meat sauce are one of those foods that I crave on about a 4 month schedule, it is some sort of strange, internal, hot dog biological clock.

By the way, Gus's and Hot Dog Charlie's both have slight variations on this theme for well under a dollar. So they go on the list as well.
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