Friday, June 23, 2017

Crab Flake Salad

If you took the Baltimore & Ohio's Capitol Limited from Washington, D.C., you would have had the opportunity to have a special experience on one of the Martha Washington dining cars, with the wooden interiors, white table cloths and the very fancy china.  The surroundings would have raised expectations about the offerings on the menu.  Guests would have expected fine cuisine, whether it was an appetizer, salad or main course.

That is what I thought when I saw the recipe for Crab Flake Salad in the book Dining on the B&O.  The recipe calls for an equal amount of "large crab meat flakes" and "small diced hearts of celery."  It also calls for "a creamy mayonnaise made with lemon juice instead of vinegar, with a garnish of quartered hard boiled eggs.    Although the recipe appears in Dining on the B&O, it originated in the quintessential cookbook, The Edgewater Beach Hotel Salad Book.  

Despite this pedigree, there was something about a "creamy mayonnaise" with lemon juice that did not seem appealing. It is probably because I am not a very big fan of mayonnaise.  The question became, however, what to substitute for mayonnaise.  I decided to draw from another crab recipe, the West Indies Salad (which is one of my favorite lump crab recipes).  The West Indies Salad uses vinegar, rather than mayonnaise.  In my humble opinion, vinegar works much better with crab meat than mayonnaise, and, it is probably healthier too.  I also decided to use finely diced onions, which are used in West Indies Salad, along with the finely diced celery used in the Crab Flake Salad.

The end result is Chef Bolek's interpretation of the B&O's Crab Flake Salad, which I have to say was very, very good.  The celery actually added an additional flavor that is not in the West Indies Salad, and the use of the vinegar kept the salad lighter and provided a good, sharp taste to contrast with the sweetness of the crab meat. 


CRAB FLAKE SALAD
Recipe adapted from Dining on the B&O, pp. 33-34
Serves several

Ingredients:
1 pound of jumbo lump crab, picked
1 heart of celery, diced finely
1 sweet onion, diced finely
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
6 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
Cracked black pepper
Sea salt

Directions:
1.  Marinate the crab.  Line the bottom of the bowl or dish with half of the diced onion and celery.  Add the crab meat.  Spread the remaining onion and celery over the crab meat.  Add the cider vinegar to the water and then add the oil, whisking it all together.  Drizzle the mixture over the crab meat and vegetables.  Drizzle the mixture over the crab meat and onions.  Let it rest in the refrigerator overnight. 

2.  Prepare the salad. Gently mix the salad.  Place some lettuce leaves on a plate and spoon the salad over it.  Serve with crackers. 

ENJOY!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A New Project in the Bluegrass State

Whenever we travel, my beautiful Angel, Clare and I like to check out the local scene.   We look for interesting things to do, cool restaurants to try, and, of course, a brewery or brewpub to check out.  Recently, we made a trip to the Bluegrass State to visit with close friends who live in Louisville.  

We arrived the day before and decided to check out the town, with one of the stops being, of course, at a local brewery or brewpub.  We have been to Louisville in the past, and, I have been to Bluegrass Brewing and Against the Grain, both of which are very good.  But, this time, we wante to try something different.   I asked Google for the nearest breweries or brewpubs, and, it responded, "Holsopple Brewing."

Holsopple Brewing opened in February 2017 in the Lyndon neighborhood, which is not too far from Shelbyville Road and I-264.  The brewery's owners -- Sam Gambrill and Kristy Holsopple -- opened the brewery with a tap room that features 8 drafts.  When we visited the tap room, we were greeted with beers that spanned different brewing styles from the classic pale ale and single-hop india pale ales, to a lager, pilsner and even a dunkel.   The tap room also had games and crayons, providing some kid-friendly activities while the parents sample the beers. 

Clare and I tried a few of the beers.  Clare ordered the Hefeweizen, which was a good effort at the beer.  I tried the Project Alpha "B" IPA, which I believe is one of their efforts to brew a single hop India Pale Ale.   I also tried their Paula Pilsner, which was a very crisp and clean pilsner.  It was a good contrast to the hoppy Project Alpha B IPA.

The Project Alpha beer is the second in a single hop IPA experiment of the brewers, with the goal being 26 different single hop IPAs.  From what I could tell, the Project Alpha B IPA is brewed with cascade hops.  As you can see from the picture to the right, the beer pours a orange color with a thick foam covering the surface.  The aromatic elements feature the hops, with the citrus notes, but also a fair aroma from the malts.  This balance carries through to the taste, with the result being a good balance between the hops and the malts.   This balance helps make this beer a little more approachable to people who are usually turned off by very hoppy IPAs.  

Overall, our visit to Holsopple Brewing was a good one, especially given this brewery has been only open for a few months.  If you happen to live in Derby City, you should check it out.  When we make our way back to Louisville, we will definitely make another stop to see how the brewers and the beers have evolved.  Until next time ...

ENJOY!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Chicken Maryland

Little did I know, but Chicken Maryland is quite the recipe.  The recipe was born as the Old Line State's answer to traditional southern fried chicken.  Where cooks throughout the American south fried chicken in pots full of oil, lard or shortening, cooks in Maryland pan-fried the chicken. They then finished the dish by adding cream to the pan to create a white sauce that would be poured over the crispy chicken.  This recipe is much like Maryland, something that draws from tradition, but is still unique in its own right. 

If that were the end of the story, a Chicken Maryland recipe might not be that interesting.  However, Chicken Maryland made its way into the news, with the first reference to the recipe or dish appearing in a newspaper in 1886.  Several years later, the recipe began to appear in cookbooks.  And, not just any cookbooks.  The recipe appeared in Fannie Farmer's The Boston Cooking School Cook Book in 1896.  Decades later, a recipe for Chicken a la Maryland in the iconic French cookbook, Ma Cuisine written by August Escoffier.  The dish became so popular that it even appeared on the dinner menu of the Titanic, although I don't know if any of the passengers enjoyed the dish because that menu was for the day the ship sank.  Despite the tragic end of the Titanic, the recipe for Chicken Maryland continued to live.  The dish appeared on the menu for guests  who traveled on the Baltimore & Ohio's Capitol Limited from Washington, D.C. to Chicago. 

Chicken Maryland's travel through time has given rise to many different variations to Maryland's take on southern Fried Chicken.  For example, Auguste Escoffier's version of Chicken a la Maryland featured a side of fried bananas.  The bananas were perhaps a nod to the fact that the largest city in Maryland, Baltimore, was once a key port for the import of bananas from Latin America.  By contrast, the chefs and cooks on the B&O left the bananas off the plate and served the Chicken Maryland with its version of a corn fritter.

For this recipe, I blended the B&O's recipe for Chicken Maryland and Escoffier's version of Chicken a la Maryland.  The former recipe uses whole chickens, spatchcocked, with each serving being half a chicken, while the latter recipe allows for the use of chicken breasts.   I decided to use boneless, skinless breasts because I felt that they would be easier to work with on a frying pan.  I then decided to '86 the frying pan and to just bake the chicken.  This made the recipe healthier.  After getting the chicken ready, I turned to Escoffier's recipe for a bechamel sauce that could be poured over the chicken.  Finally, I decided to serve the dish in the style of the B&O cooks, with a corn fritter as a side.  The two recipes helped to produce a dish that is perhaps one of the best ones that I have made in a long time.    

CHICKEN MARYLAND
Recipe adapted from Dining on the B&O, pp. 71-72
and the Spruce
Serves 4

Ingredients (for the chicken):
2 chickens, spatchcocked and split
     (or use boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
1 egg beaten
Salt and pepper, to taste
Bread crumbs, as needed
Butter, melted as needed
Bacon, 2 slices per servings
Bechamel or cream sauce, 2-3 serving,
Corn Fritters, 1 per serving

Ingredients (for the bechamel or cream sauce):
2 1/2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of all purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg

Ingredients (for the corn fritters):
15 ounces of corn, frozen, canned or fresh
1 1/2 tablespoons of butter
2 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons milk
3/8 cup flour

Directions:
1.  Prepare the chicken. If you are using whole chickens, cut the chickens into portions.  Season with salt and pepper.  Dip the chicken in the beaten eggs and then the breadcrumbs.  Arrange in baking pans with 2 slices of bacon.  Brush the chicken with butter.

2.  Bake the chicken.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Bake the chicken until the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees.

3.  Prepare the bechamel sauce. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour until it forms a smooth paste. Continue whisking, cook for about 2 minutes, and then gradually – 1/3 cup at a time - add the milk. Continue whisking and cook until the sauce is completely heated through, smooth, and thickened. Remove from the heat and season with the salt and nutmeg.

4.  Prepare the fritters.  Pound the corn, mix with the flour, butter, eggs, salt and pepper.  Heat butter or oil on medium high in a pan.  Ladle the mixture into the pan and do not overcrowd.  Fry for about 5 minutes and flip.  Fry until the fritter is brown.

5.  Finish the dish.  Plate one of the chicken breasts to one side of the dish, ensuring that the bacon remains crossed over the chicken.  Plate the corn fritter next to the chicken.  Pour the bechamel sauce over the chicken breast and the bacon.    

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Crime

Beers brewed with peppers are quaint.  And I have tried many in my time.  Some draw inspiration from Oaxacan Moles, such as New Holland's El Mole Ocho or Ska Brewing's Mole Stout, which inevitably include the use of chiles like ancho peppers.   Other brewers just brew beers with chiles, like Rogue's Chipotle Ale.  With these beers, it is more about the heat, rather than the style.  

While I love Mole beers, I have to say I am also a big fan of the chile beers as well.  That is what drew me to Stone Brewing's Crime, a supped up version of its Arrogant Bastard.  The Crime is a blend of the Arrogant Bastard and the Oaked Arrogant Bastard, both of which are aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels and then finished with jalapeno, serrano other chile peppers.  The brewers produced this beer for, in their words, "those who adore both pain and pleasure (but mostly pain), those who should know better and those who don't know better."  They continue, "[t]he result is something unsuitable for the faint of heart, mind or palate."

Well, I am certainly not one who is faint of heart, mind or palate, especially when it comes to chiles.  I have over a dozen different types of peppers and chiles in my spice drawer and pantry, covering the entire range of the Scoville scale.  So, I'm game for this beer.

I bought a bottle of Stone's Crime, 2015 version. According to the brewers, the beer is "hoppy with lots of oak and malt."  I would agree with that assessment.  The hops are clearly present up front, competing with the peppers' piquancy.  The malts are present as well, but they definitely play a second fiddle.  This role is not only secondary to the hops and the peppers, but also the bourbon.  

As for the finish, the brewers note that there is a "[l]ong finish [that] reveals oak, vanilla, bourbon and malt that produce caramel flavors with peppers adding a pleasant tamarind, subtle tropical fruit flavors and significant heat."   Once again, the brewers are mostly on target.  There was definitely oak and bourbon, but I could also sense the vanilla.  These elements came together, and I somewhat sensed the a caramel flavor with a tamarind note.  I did not sense any tropical fruit flavors though.  There was, however, a good sting from the peppers.  Much of that heat was felt on the back of the palate and throat as the beer went down.  

Overall, this is a great beer and a good companion to Stone's Punishment, which I previously reviewed.  In some respects, this beer is better than Punishment because the chiles do not completely overwhelm the other aromatic and flavor elements.   Definitely worth a try.

ENJOY!
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