Thursday, June 28, 2012

Middle Eastern Spiced Lamb Meatballs

Mmmmm...lamb...my favorite specimen of the meat group (as I mentioned recently). I thought the ground protein would be a good canvas for me to play around with some of my more recently acquired spices. A little turmeric here, a little allspice there, and some feta cheese to add some tang. These aren't your standard meatballs for sure, but boy are they delicious. It's pictured with some leftovers from our culinary school buffet—I believe it was a Moroccan vegetable tagine with peppers, onions, okra, and a bunch of different herbs and spices. You could also serve it atop a bed of couscous as another meal option. I made this recipe for an Oscars party a while back and they were a hit!

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese
  • salt
  • pepper
  • red pepper flakes
  • turmeric
  • allspice
  • oregano
  • garlic powder
Procedure:
  1. Add meat, eggs, bread crumbs, and cheese to a bowl. Season with the spices listed above. Mix together well (your hands are great tools for this task). 
  2. Cook off a test patty in a sauté pan to check the seasoning. Make any adjustments as you see fit. Once you are satisfied with the flavor of your meat mixture, start forming into balls. 
  3. I cooked this batch in a sauté pan on the stove top in some vegetable oil. They can also be baked in the oven at about 375-400˚F for 20-25 minutes, depending on the size of your balls.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Potato Gratin and Cornmeal Fried Chicken


In my last post I shared with you the recipe for my spicy roasted cauliflower, and here is the rest of the meal! The cauliflower was accompanied by my cornmeal fried chicken and potato gratin (there was probably also a glass of wine and some crappy reality television thrown in there somewhere too).

I posted a looooong time ago my original take on a potato gratin—back before my days at The French Culinary Institute—but I've since learned that you should actually cook the potatoes in the milk first before just plopping it in the oven. Pictured above and below I started with washed Yukon gold potatoes that I sliced about 1/8" thick (with Yukon gold potatoes you don't have to really worry about peeling, but you might want to do so with Idaho potatoes). Place the spuds in a saucepan large enough to hold them and cover with milk (or heavy cream if you want to be extra indulgent). Bring to a simmer and cook until just tender. Next you start layering the gratin: put a layer of potatoes in your baking dish; season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg; sprinkle a little cheese (cheddar, Gruyère, and Parmesan are a few examples of what you could use); repeat layering process of potatoes, seasoning, and cheese until complete. Pour the reserved milk that was used to cook the potatoes 3/4 the height of the gratin. Bake in a 375˚F oven for about 20 minutes. Since the potatoes are already cooked, it really only needs to spend enough time in the oven for the cheese to melt and the flavors to meld a little bit. Top with a sprinkle of parsley.

And just like the potatoes, I've also posted about cornmeal fried chicken before. It really isn't any different than any of the other recipes I've posted about the golden, brown, and delicious bird. Season the fowl at least with salt, pepper, and garlic powder (I also enjoy adding cumin, paprika, chili powder, and cayenne pepper occasionally), dredge in a 50/50 mix of cornmeal and flour, and pan fry in oil that's at about 350˚F. I believe it should take about 20 minutes of frying time, but don't quite me on that because I've never actually timed it and am kind of pulling a number out of the air...

So there you have it—a complete meal in the life of The Hungry Hutch.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Spicy Roasted Cauliflower

If you've been following me for a while then you've already read about my love for roasted vegetables—especially broccoli—but this time I decided to play around with its less colorful cousin cauliflower. Since it's such a hearty vegetable, I felt like it could handle some extra seasoning to amp up the flavor. Here I included some paprika and cayenne pepper in addition to the standard salt and black pepper. To finish it off I sprinkled it with some fresh lemon juice which brightened the whole dish and made all of the flavors dance in your mouth. I'm stating here and now that this is probably one of my favorite vegetable side dishes that I've ever created. So with that in mind, I think you'd like it at least a little bit too.

Ingredients:
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • paprika
  • cayenne pepper
  • juice of one lemon
Procedure:
  1. Preheat your oven to 400˚F. 
  2. On a sheet tray or in a roasting pan, drizzle the vegetable with olive oil. Season with salt, black pepper, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Toss to coat evenly. Put in the oven and roast for about 25 minutes, until tender and lightly charred. 
  3. To serve, remove from pan and sprinkle with lemon juice.
It's a little too hot in most parts of the country right now to turn on the oven, so I suggest you keep this recipe in your back pocket for a cooler time. Also, stay on the lookout for the next post to see what this is served with. Until next time...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Guide to a Perfect Grilled Cheese




I am the yin to tomato soup's yang.

I am the holy grail of lunches at the elementary school cafeteria.

I conjure fond memories of a time when one's main priority is remembering "hor d'oeuvres" for tomorrow's spelling test.

I make the mouths of the masses water at the very mention of my being.

I am grilled cheese, here me roar (or moo...or bahhh...or whatever else).

I'm sure most have eaten a grilled cheese at some point in their lifetime (if not, then what are you waiting for?!), but how often are you the one to prepare it and have it turn out perfectly? For a delicacy so seemingly simple, it deserves all the care that you can give it. Seeing as how the most basic version only has three ingredients (bread, cheese, and butter), the resulting cheesy goodness is a direct reflection of the quality of its ingredients. Your standard white bread is a classic—I usually only have wheat bread on hand in my pantry—but a more artisanal bread can only kick things up a notch. When it comes to the star of the show, the cheese, I implore you to get as far away from any bright yellow "cheese product" that comes in individually wrapped packages (*cough* American cheese *cough*) as you can. If you want the ooey-gooey-ness that dreams, leprechauns, and unicorns are made of, then you'd want to choose a good melting cheese that is in the soft or semi-soft category. Another trick I've discovered is that shredded cheese melts much easier than slices. When it comes time to get the lactose party started, put your (unsalted) butter in a pan over a medium-low flame and let it melt before adding the bread (you could also have the flame higher to get the butter to melt more quickly, but once you add the slices it should be turned down). Sprinkle a little—or a lot—of cheese on each slice and just wait. All the times that I've made less than stellar sandwiches it was because I tried to speed things up and subsequently burned the bread. The low-and-slow method gives enough time for the cheese to melt while also allowing the bread to get wonderfully toasted—in total it should take about ten minutes or so.

With these three simple tips in mind you should be able to produce a perfect grilled cheese sandwich every time (or your money back). Upon this foundation you can build all the beautiful creations your stomach can think of. Focaccia, mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil would make a great combo. I'm also a huge fan of the patty melt, which is the lovechild of a grilled cheese sandwich and a cheeseburger after a wild night of dancing and tequila shots (a.k.a. every other Friday).

What's your favorite type of grilled cheese?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Happy New Year (Six Months Late...)

Once again this post shows just how...delayed...I can sometimes be in putting things up. Here is the meal I prepared shortly after the new year. Black-eyed peas (they're actually beans of course) and greens are two food items that are supposed to bring good fortune as the Earth makes another trip around the Sun. I served them with some fried pieces of pork (leftover from the day in class when we learned to butcher a rack into chops) and a honey sweetened cornbread (I followed the recipe on the bag of cornmeal and added a heaping spoonful of orange blossom honey). My roommate and her boyfriend shared the meal with me, and I was shocked to learn that not everyone grew up eating beans and cornbread together. [Poll: Have you ever heard of eating beans and cornbread together?] Well I must say that if you've never tried this dynamic duo, you need to put it on your to-do list IMMEDIATELY if you know what's good for you; even if you sometimes choose not to make the best decisions, I feel like you should trust in me enough at this point to know that I would not steer you in the wrong direction.

Black-Eyed Peas
  • 3 cans black-eyed peas
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
Put the beans and bay leaves in a pot. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Smothered Greens
  • pork scraps/bones
  • oil
  • a mix of kale and collard greens, washed and stems removed
  • beef stock
  • red pepper flakes
  • ground nutmeg
  • salt
  • pepper
  • apple cider vinegar
  • hot sauce
Brown the bones in oil in a large stock pot. Once browned, add the greens and let them begin to wilt. Cover with beef stock (or water) and add red pepper flakes, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Simmer for about an hour or so (in Southern cuisine you pretty much want to cook the leaves until they're as dead as a doornail). Increase the heat with a few glugs of hot sauce and brighten it up a bit with a splash of apple cider vinegar. Taste and adjust.

Fried Pork Nuggets
  • pork, cut into nuggets
  • salt
  • pepper
  • cumin
  • paprika
  • chili powder
  • garlic powder
  • flour
  • oil
Season the meat with the spices listed above. Dredge in flour and pan-fry in 350˚F oil (a.k.a. the meat sizzles as soon as it hits the pan without immediately being incinerated). Drain on paper towels or a wire rack and sprinkle with a little salt upon exiting the fryer.