Archive for the ‘Sandwiches’ Category

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Asian Pork Burgers. Yum.

July 19, 2012

Yes, I know the last two posts have similar titles. It was intentional. Not that funny, but intentional. Moving on.

Ground pork is a terrific alternative to beef when you’re in the mood for a burger. They are pretty lean, though not as much as ground turkey, so the meat doesn’t need as much help as turkey to keep it seasoned and flavorful, but it does need some attention. Going for an Asian flare, we kept it simple but tasty by mixing the meat with scallions, grated ginger (yummy), garlic, salt and pepper, and sesame oil, which kept the burgers nice and moist. The savory burger topped with smoky grilled onions and capped by a Sriracha mayo created an intense and aromatic flavor combination that was fantastic. We used boring hamburger buns – the dish would be even better with a nice onion roll or Kaiser roll. We served this with a cucumber salad for a complete and healthy meal. Enjoy!

Asian Pork Burgers

(serves 4)

1 1/2 pounds ground pork
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

8 thick onion slices

4 buns, lightly toasted

2 tbsp. mayo

1/2 tbsp. Sriracha or other spicy Asian chili sauce

Heat a grill on medium. In a large bowl, mix the pork with the scallions, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Form the meat into four 3/4-inch thick patties. Lightly oil the onion slices. Grill the burgers and onions, turning once, until cooked through, about 8 minutes (the onions may take less time). Spread 1/2 tbsp. of the chili mayo on the top half of each bun. Place the burger on the bottom half, top with onions, close with top bun. Eat!

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Korean BBQ For You

July 5, 2012

Ah, the 4th of July – time for baseball, fireworks, and barbecue. How do they celebrate in Seoul, you may ask? Well they don’t – it’s an American holiday, what a silly question. However, barbecuing is not an American original, no sir. Asian countries have been doing their version of barbecue/grilling for centuries, and a couple of months ago, I got an in-depth look at Korean barbecue during a class at A Different Drummer’s Kitchen in Albany, led by locally famous chef Jaime Ortiz.

Chef Ortiz is the Corporate Chef for the Mazzone Management Company, which owns some the most acclaimed restaurants in NY’s Capital Region. To be able to have an intimate cooking demonstration and conversation with him was a foodie’s dream come true. He first addressed the issue that was on most of our minds – since none of his restaurants feature Korean food, why was he teaching the class? It turns out he has had extensive training in many cultures’ food, including that of Korea; and that was enough explanation for us.

He made 5 main dishes and two side dishes that evening, explaining the history and use of the individual ingredients and their significance in Korean cuisine. He had many dishes prepared in advance, but made one of each of the dishes from scratch so we could see the process. He knocked our culinary socks off right off the bat with his Korean pork belly sliders. Yeah, pork belly sliders. Not a bad start, eh? Pork belly strips were marinated in very typical Korean ingredients – soy sauce, sugar, garlic, sesame oil, mirin (rice wine), onions, and gochujang, a medium-spicy chili paste (we sampled some on its own – the next day I went to an Asian market and bought some. It was so tasty!). The pork belly strips were then grilled until tender, put on to soft slider buns, and topped with a scallion salsa made with soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, sesame seeds, mirin, and gochugaru, the chili powder found in the gochujang. Needless to say, it was delicious. The pork belly was sweet with a little heat, the marinade created a nice glaze on the meat, and the scallion salsa added some tangy freshness to the dish.

Since pork belly was on our palettes, Chef Ortiz honored us with another pork belly dish – samgyeopsal gui. This is a very simple dish – you grill the pork belly until done (no marinade or seasoning), then slice it and wrap it in lettuce with chopped vegetables, rice, chili sauce, and kimchee (more on that later). As was explained to us, Koreans typically eat this in one bite – one mouthful of pork belly, lettuce, veggies, and accompaniments. Again, it was very tasty – the tender pork absorbed all the flavors of the kim chee and the chili sauce, with the veggies adding great texture and freshness.

Up next was galbi, which are basically barbecued short ribs. Oh yeah, this class was not for vegetarians, if you hadn’t guessed. The short ribs were cut into ½-inch thick slabs across the bone and marinated in soy sauce, water, vinegar, brown and white sugar, pepper, sesame oil, garlic, and onions. Then they were simply grilled until done, about medium-well. They were fall-off-the-bone tender, and bursting with flavor. But we weren’t done yet.

Beef bulgogi was next, which was the one meat dish I was familiar with (as posted here). Chef Ortiz’ recipe was slightly different from the one we used, but all in all in came out just about the same. I’ll spare you the details here because it’s pretty much the same as in that post.

The heart and soul of Korean food is kimchee. It dates back hundreds of years and no Korean meal is complete without it, even breakfast. There are several variations, but the main thrust of the dish is cabbage that is jarred along with water, salt, garlic, ginger, fish sauce, chili paste or powder, scallions, and sugar or honey. Sometimes daikon radish is used along with or in place of the cabbage; bok choy is another vegetable that can be used. The jar is then traditionally placed in a hole in the ground for several days – of course modern times allow for just storing the jar in a cool, dry place. The idea is to let the ingredients ferment – when it starts to bubble, it’s time to refrigerate it until chilled. The result is a spicy pickled cabbage dish that I believe to be one of the world’s perfect foods, when it’s made correctly. It can be an acquired taste – it’s not like a jar of spicy pickles from the deli. The fermentation gives it a unique taste that is terrific eaten on its own, or as a condiment for the dishes I’ve described above. Chef Ortiz demonstrated the whole process to us and then presented some kimchee he had made a few days prior, and it was delicious…and healthy!

Finally we were shown a side dish and a condiment. Pajori is a green onion salad made from scallions tossed with soy sauce, hot pepper flakes, sugar, sesame seeds, and sesame oil. I had never seen a dish that featured scallions so prominently, and it was great. The scallions had a good crunch to them but were softened by the dressing, which was full of flavor. The condiment, which went with everything else from the class, was called samjang, a soybean paste dipping sauce. Gochujang was mixed with soybean paste, scallions, garlic, and sesame seeds, creating a sweet and spicy topping for anything. I couldn’t get enough of it – I think the staff was getting annoyed at me asking for more all class long.

After the class I spent a little time talking with Chef Ortiz about Korean food, food around the region, his restaurants, etc. He was a very down-to-earth, nice guy, and capped off a fun and tasty evening.

So if you’ve been reluctant to try Korean food, maybe because you just haven’t been exposed to it and don’t know what it’s all about, I hope you found this post informative and hopefully appetite-stimulating. Enjoy.

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Get Edgy With Ejjeh

November 14, 2011

I never thought I would learn about new foods from a supermarket magazine, but the Hannaford one has done just that. Their latest issue features this recipe for ejjeh (pronounced “edgy”), a delicious treat from the Syria/Lebanon area of the Middle East. These are basically egg “pancakes,” or mini-omelets, and they are packed with fresh flavor. The tang of the onions and the aromatic parsley and mint make for a fresh, vibrant taste, with the chewy pita bread lending great texture. It was suggested to serve these with yogurt or hummus – we chose yogurt. I made a cucumber-less tzatziki, and it elevated the dish to a new level of deliciousness. Serve this with a fresh salad and it’s a unique twist on brunch, lunch, or even dinner. Enjoy!

Ejjeh

(serves 4)

6 eggs

1 small onion, finely chopped

2/3 cup finely chopped parsley

1 tablespoon finely chopped mint leaves

1 garlic clove, minced

¼ cup milk

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 tbsp. canola oil, or as needed

4 pieces pita bread, cut into quarters

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, onion, parsley, mint, garlic, milk, salt, and pepper. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tbsp. of the oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of egg mixture into the pan, making 4 “pancakes” per batch. Cook until the bottoms are lightly golden, about 30 seconds, then turn and cook the other side for 30 seconds. Transfer pancakes to a plate. Repeat with the next batch, adding more oil as needed. To serve, place one pancake in a pita quarter and place on a serving platter. Eat!

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No Longer a McRib McVirgin

November 8, 2011

Today, for the first time, I tried a McRib. Now before many of you get on your high horses about eating healthy and avoiding McDonald’s, etc., let me say that I did this for you, the readers of this blog. I thought at least some of you might like to know what the big deal is – or even if it is a big deal at all – about this seldom-appearing sandwich that has garnered a cult following of sorts. Have I ever had the urge to try one? Nope. But I did so in the name of full disclosure, in the interest of providing as much foodie information as possible to anyone reading. This was an act of pure altruism, folks – I promise.

Ok, so let’s get to it. I think one reason that many people avoid the McRib is the name; it sure sounds unappetizing. The truth is there is no rib meat on the McRib – it’s mostly pork shoulder meat, with some, er…other pork parts thrown in as well. It’s probably best to not know, kind of like hot dogs or that stuff in the school cafeteria. But I guess they couldn’t call it the “McShoulder” or even just “McPork.” Regardless, the name turns people off. And upon seeing the sandwich up close and personal, it doesn’t look all that delicious either. It’s a gray slab of meat topped with a lot of BBQ sauce, onion slivers, and pickle slices. And so, I took a bite.

The verdict? Meh. It’s definitely not terrible, and certainly edible. The meat is actually quite tender and moist, not dry and chewy like I was expecting. The onions and pickles tasted remarkably fresh for McDonald’s, but the BBQ sauce was not very good – way too sweet and syrupy. But overall, it could have been much, much worse.

Now I still don’t get why people clamor over these things, why they can’t wait until the next time McDonald’s allows their existence, limited as it may be. It’s a very average sandwich – I never thought I’d say this, but there are much tastier items at the Golden Arches. But at least now I have the personal experience with which I can criticize, rather than using presumptive judgments I’ve made in the past about those who enjoy the McRib. And now you have the knowledge as well. Use it wisely. Enjoy.

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A Sandwich By Any Other Name…

September 15, 2011

…would still be sandwi-licious, to quote Shakespeare. Or not. The inspiration for today’s post comes from an unlikely source: a college Spanish class. The MHK’s founder and Executive Chef is currently enrolled in said class, and they have been discussing food in Latin American culture, learning about restaurant terminology and customs, ordering food, etc. One of the themes that came up in class was that there are different words for the same food, depending on regional dialects. For example, corn is commonly called “maize,” but in parts of Mexico, people say “el elote”; they say “el choclo” in Chile and Peru. Beans in Honduras are known as “frijoles,” and in Puerto Rico they are sometimes called “habichuelas.”

So this got us thinking about regional terminology in the U.S. Homer Simpson, wise and sage as always, gives us an example:

“I’m sick of eating hoagies! I want a grinder, a sub, a foot-long hero!”

Yes, depending on where you are, a large, elongated sandwich can be referred to as any of the terms Homer espouses. Then there’s the word for a carbonated beverage. Most people that I know call it “soda.” But I know there are places, and maybe it’s not as common any more, where people call it “pop.”

Brian Regan points out another semantic difference here: http://comedians.jokes.com/brian-regan/videos/brian-regan—let-s-split-a-pie/

And when we compare our terms to other countries’ terms, we again see differences. In England they call sausage and mashed potatoes “bangers and mash,” they call cookies “biscuits,” French fries are “chips,” and of course botulism is called “steak and kidney pie.” So what are some other food terms that differ around the country, or the world for that matter?

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Grilled Cheese Throwdown

August 10, 2011

Yes, this is just a recipe for grilled cheese – not exactly on the cutting edge of contemporary cuisine, I know. But this particular recipe happens to belong to one Bobby Flay, and was the winning recipe on his show “Throwdown with Bobby Flay.” For those who may not know the show, he travels the country challenging chefs to a “throwdown” where they compete to make that chef’s particular signature dish. Flay has done throwdowns with fried chicken, clam chowder, macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, Pad Thai, puffy tacos, cupcakes, etc. A pair of judges then decides who wins each challenge (Flay has lost more than he’s won). The grilled cheese throwdown episode featured Flay visiting a restaurant that specializes in that sandwich, but this time Flay emerged victorious with this delicious dish. The Brie and goat cheeses compliment each other perfectly, with the creamy, sweet goat cheese melting nicely with the smooth, elegant Brie. The tomatoes add a nice touch of acidity (Flay used green tomatoes, but we used red and they were great), and the bacon adds that smoky saltiness we all know and love. Flay’s recipe calls for Pullman bread, but since we had no idea where to find that, we used sourdough (or the closest thing to that here in the Northeast) and it was fine, but plain old white bread or Italian would be good too. The next time you’re in the mood for comfort food, give this grilled cheese a try. Enjoy!

Bobby Flay’s Grilled Brie and Goat Cheese with Bacon and Green Tomato

(serves 4)

8 slices center-cut bacon, cut into ½-inch thick pieces

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

8 slices bread (white, sourdough, Italian), sliced 1-inch thick

8 to 12 ounces Brie cheese

2 green tomatoes, sliced ¼-inch thick

8 ounces soft goat cheese, cut into 8 slices

Ground black pepper

Place the bacon in a large skillet or griddle and cook until golden brown and crisp. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Break each piece in half and set aside. Heat a griddle or pan over medium heat. Spread butter on 1 side of each slice of bread. Layer 4 of the slices of the bread with 3 to 4 slices of Brie, 2 tomato slices, 2 slices goat cheese, and 2 slices of broken up bacon and season with freshly ground black pepper. Place the remaining bread slices on top, butter side up (press down gently on the top of each sandwich). Cook until golden brown on both sides and the Brie has melted, approx. 3-4 minutes per side. Slice each sandwich in half. Eat!