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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

When Life Gives you Tomatillos, Make Sauce

This past week, a colleague was kind enough to bring me some tomatillos from the bumper crop she has grown at home.

What to do?  Make salsa or make a sauce?  After careful consideration, spurred on by the fact that Costco had halibut fillets on sale, I decided to make a nice tomatillo cream sauce with Mexican flavors.

Where to start?  I had never cooked with or even tasted a tomatillo.  So, I performed some internet research for a baseline to work from.  The recipe that I used was this one from Melissa d'Arabian on the Food Network website: Tomatillo Sauce Recipe.

As I am prone to do, I tinkered a bit.  I wanted more of a Mexican flavor.  I was also thinking cream sauce as well.  So, here is my final version:

Tomatillo Cream Sauce.  Recipe adapted from Melissa d'Arabian

1 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 white onion, quartered
2 jalapeño chile, whole
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup of low fat half and half

First I husked the tomatillos, rinsed, and dried.

Then, I quartered my onion, rinsed and dried my jalapeños from the garden, and grabbed the three cloves of garlic.  I place them all in a bowl, added the olive oil and salt, then roasted at 350 F for 30 minutes per the recipe.

After roasting, I removed the stems from and seeded the jalapeños.  Then, I removed the garlic from their husks.  Then, all of the roasted veggies and garlic went into the food processor along with the dry spices and was blended on high.  While blending, I added the 1/4 cup of low fat half and half.  Here is the final product.

I placed the sauce into a small sauce pan for reheating.

Then, after lighting the grill, I took a halibut fillet, cut in half, and rinsed and dried thoroughly.  The fillets received a thin coating of olive oil along with a seasoning of sea salt and fresh ground pepper.  On to the grill they went.  I grilled the fillets for about 5 minutes a side, or until they started to get flaky.

After plating, I covered with the tomatillo sauce that was gently warmed on the stove.  I also served and a side of crispy roasted red and fingerling potatoes.  The potatoes even received a dollop of the sauce.

First, the smell of roasting tomatillos was intoxicating.  They had a different aroma than you get from roasting your standard tomato.  I can't describe it to be honest.  You'll have to try it for your self.  As for the sauce, it was outstanding.  Almost tomato like, it was sweeter than a tomato, yet tart as well.  There was also a deeper flavor than you get with a standard roasted tomato.  I can't wait to get some more tomatillos and start experimenting with salsas.  Tomatillo plants will be in our garden next year for sure.

Thanks for stopping by,


Friday, September 12, 2014

Restaurant Review: Turkey Hill Brewing Co. - Bloomsburg, PA

We decided to break our drive to the Hudson Valley Ribfest up over two days this year.  Our overnight stop was in Bloomsburg, PA, about 2/3 of the way to New Paltz.  After checking into our hotel, we inquired about the brewery we saw on the corner, the Turkey Hill Brewing Co.  The lady behind the counter said we couldn't go wrong with that choice.  So, we made a short ten minute walk over to the brewery for some suds and dinner.

The brewery is modeled after an old style country inn.  It is warm and inviting with a nice pub like feel.  After being seated, we scanned the tap list for a nice draft to quench our thirst.  I must say, the brewery has a nice variety of beers on tap.

I chose The Mathmematician's Apology and Hope settled for a Barn Dance Blonde Ale.  Both drafts were outstanding choices.  Mine was a full bodied English Style Ale with a rich caramel flavor.  It starts strong and finishes crisp.  Surprisingly light considering the dark color.  Hope's blonde ale was light and refreshing.  A very nice summer ale.  While we were enjoying our first drafts, we could not help but to see the plates being delivered to the tables around us.  Everything we saw looked outstanding.  After some hard decisions, we placed our order.  

First off, we chose the Charcuterie Plate for an appetizer.

Sharp white cheddar, homemade sopressata, sausage, sweet gherkins, crusty bread, and horseradish mustard strong enough to take the varnish off of a cabinet.  It was a great start and a sneak peak at what was to come.  

Hope ordered the Flat Iron Steak.  

The steak was marinated with Stout, molasses, worchestershire, soy sauce, brown sugar and roasted garlic, and served with wild mushroom brown sauce with mashed Yukon Gold potatoes and steamed broccoli on the side.  Hope ordered with out the mushroom sauce, but it didn't matter.  Hope knows her beef and she stated that this was the best cooked steak she has ever eaten outside of a steakhouse. It was cooked to a perfect rare with just the right amount of caramelization on the outside.  The potatoes were light and creamy.  The broccoli was steaming perfectly with just the right amount of crunch.  

I ordered the Braised Pork Shank.

It is a one pound pork shank, braised with root vegetables, stock, demi-glace, bloody mary mix and red wine served with roasted red potatoes.  Outstanding.  Every bite.  The pork was fall off the bone tender and the root vegetables were not mushy at all.  The only thing that would make this better would be to remove the potatoes and serve on some polenta or some garlic mashed potatoes.  I will be trying to recreate both dishes here at home.  

We loved the place so much, we stopped for dinner on the way home.  After being around BBQ and smoke all weekend, the last thing you want is something grilled or smoked.  What is the perfect meal?  These bacon cheese fries hit the spot.

The menu is diverse and everything we tried was top notch.  The beers were excellent as well.  If you are driving through Bloomsburg on I-80 looking for a place to stop, we would definitely recommend stopping here for something to eat and a frosty pint.  Overall grade, A+.

Thanks for stopping by,


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tailgating Eats: Stuffed Biscuit Fattie

The leaves are changing and it is starting to get brisk in the morning.  That can only mean one thing, football is upon us.  We follow the Pittsburgh Panthers.  Unfortunately, there are a large amount of Noon games scheduled.  Lets face it, they have not clawed their way back into the national spotlight. So, Noon games mean a breakfast themed tailgate.  I was trying to come up with an idea for an easy, make before dish that I could easily cook at the game.  So, after careful consideration, I came up with the Biscuit Fattie.  What is a Breakfast Fattie?  Well, lets just say it is scrambled eggs all wrapped up in a convenient hand held package.  Off to the R&D labs we go.

First, I fried some bacon and some bulk breakfast sausage in separate pans.  The bacon, I cooked, crumbled and set off to the side.  The grease was disposed of and a clean pan used for the next step.  I heated some olive oil, sautéed some pepper and onion, then added two well beaten eggs.  When cooked, I added the bacon to the mixture, then placed in the refrigerator to cool.  For the sausage, I cooked until crumbled, then added diced bell pepper and onion and cooked until translucent.  Then, I added two well beaten eggs.  I also placed the cooked mixture in the refrigerator to cool.

While the mixtures were cooling, I made a batch of my homemade buttermilk biscuit dough:

Homemade Buttermilk Biscuits

¼ Cup Cold Butter, Cubed
2 ¼ Cup Self Rising Flour
1 ¼ Cup Buttermilk
Flour, For dusting

1. Add butter to flour and use a pastry blender (or two butter knives) to cut the butter into the flour until crumbly and mixture resembles small peas. Cover and chill 10 minutes. Add buttermilk, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.

2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead 3 or 4 times, gradually adding additional flour as needed. With floured hands, press or pat dough into a ¾-inch-thick rectangle (about 9 x 5 inches). Sprinkle top of dough with additional flour. Fold dough over onto itself in 3 sections, starting with 1 short end. (Fold dough rectangle as if folding a letter-size piece of paper.) Repeat entire process 2 more times, beginning with pressing into a ¾-inch-thick dough rectangle (about 9 x 5 inches).

3. Press or pat dough to ½-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface; cut with a 2-inch round cutter, and place, side by side, on a cookie sheet or baking stone. (Dough rounds should touch.)

4. Bake at 450° for 13 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven; brush with 2 Tbsp. melted butter.

*To make your own self rising flour, simply add 1 ½ tsp baking powder and ½ tsp salt for EACH cup of all purpose flour. 

Fresh buttermilk makes for a fluffier biscuit.

A baking stone is best, but a pizza pan or cookie sheet works just as well.

I don't brush with butter.

Original recipe calls for ½ cup of butter.  ¼ cup works just as well.  

Let just skip the baking part for now.  I split my dough in half to make two fatties.  When rolled out on a well floured surface, I layered with thin sliced sharp cheddar, then for the second layer I placed my egg filling.

Next, I rolled it up, and sealed all of the holes so the cheese would not run out.  Then I wrapped in wax paper and placed in the refrigerator until the next day.

The next day at the tailgate, I started a fire in my grill and placed the lit coals off to one side.  Then, I placed a piece of aluminum foil on the grill grate, then placed the unbaked fattie on the foil.  I covered the grill to bake.  Every 15 minutes I rotated the fattie so that it did not get too brown on one side.  After about 45 minutes, it was ready to eat.  

As you can see, the cheese always seems to find the holes in the dough and run out.  But, who doesn't like toasted cheese?  After sitting for 10 minutes, I sliced and served.

Not bad.  Fluffy biscuit wrapped around cheesy scrambled.  The perfect tailgating meal that lets you walk around with a frosty beverage in your other hand.  Next time, I think I am going to make mini-biscuit shaped sandwiches to cut down on baking time.  If you wanted to make this at home, no problem.  Just bake at 450 F per the biscuit recipe until golden brown on the outside.  

Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Grilled Feta with Pickled Peppers, Tomatoes, and Garlic

A few weeks ago, when I posted about the bacon wrapped feta, a good friend of mine now working in Germany reminded me how Germans will grill certain types of cheese with a high melt point.  The first time I tried this as an appetizer at a German restaurant, I fell in love.  The only problem was that I couldn't find out the type of cheese it was due to being lost in translation.  My German friends were calling it schafkäse.  Loose translation is sheep cheese.  After some digging, I have learned that it can either be Halloumi or Feta.  Whatever it is, this dish is good eating.  When we have fresh peppers and tomatoes over the summer, I always try and make this for dinner a few times.  So, here is our method.

First, I pickled some hot and sweet peppers with garlic cloves and olives.  My pickling liquid was just a basic pickle brine:

1 1/2 cups of white wine vinegar.  I used the white wine variety as I did not want the vinegar to be overpowering in the dish.
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp of sugar.  I used Turbinado
1 tsp of kosher salt

While the above was coming to a boil, I cut some sweet and hot peppers, then packed into 1/2 pint jars with:

2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp oregano

Once the brine was boiling, I poured into the jars and sealed and let pickle for 24 hours.

The next day, after I lit my grill, I drained my peppers and placed in a bowl with some sliced onion, quartered tomatoes, and some pitted kalamata olives.  I also sliced some 1x3 inch slabs of feta cheese and placed those in a bowl.  Both bowls received light drizzle of olive oil.  I also made sure the feta blocks were lightly coated on all sides with the oil.

Once the grill was ready, I put the pepper mixture in my trusty cast iron skillet and placed the skillet on my grill to start a very quick sauté.  

Next, the crazy part.  I placed the feta blocks over semi-direct heat for grilling.

Eventually, I placed the cheese on direct heat because I was not seeing the crispiness that I wanted.

One I was starting to see a nice brown color on my cheese, I made some room in my skillet to place the cheese for serving.

I served the Feta and veggies with slices of crusty baguette.

This makes a great summertime dinner or appetizer while grilling.  It is also a nice use for all of those peppers and tomatoes you might have from your garden.  Enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by,