Saturday, October 18, 2014

Wine Club - A Diwali Inspired Dinner

It has been a little while since we hosted our last wine dinner.  The last dinner was back in April, America in Miniature, when we took a culinary tour around the State of Maryland.  As we prepare for our next wine dinner, the big question was (as it always is), what should be the theme?  The first thing that came to my mind was a celebration.  I checked the calendar (and, of course, the Internet), and I came across a website that listed all of the international festivals in the month of October.  After some more research, I decided upon a theme that should be perfect for the Wine Club ... a Diwali inspired dinner.

Initially, this theme offers an opportunity to learn a little more about Diwali, an important festival for Hindus, Jains and Sikhs.  Diwali unfolds over five days, with the third day being celebrated as the main festival or "Festival of Lights." The lights were originally clay lamps, lit for reasons that vary with the celebrants.  For example, lighting lamps represents the victory of knowledge of ignorance.  Darkness represents ignorance, as well as wickedness, violence, anger, bigotry, injustice and suffering.  The lighting of lamps allows light to overcome darkness, which is not only a metaphor for knowledge overcoming ignorance, but also illustrates how light reveals the beauty that surrounds us. 

Of course, the Diwali celebration involves far more than lighting of clay or electric lamps.  Families decorate their houses, set off firecrackers and, of course, partake in a feast of food.  For this wine club, the feast will be a three course meal, with appetizers, two main courses (served together) and a dessert.

Onion and Sweet Potato Bhajji

The first course will feature a duo of Onion Bhajji and Sweet Potato Bhajji.  A bhaji is a type of pakora or fritter that is a common street food in Maharashtra.  And, from what I have read, bhajji are also commonly served as part of Hindu festivals, such as Dwali.  I hope to have a couple of chutneys to serve with the bhajji; however, due to a lack of time, those may not be homemade. 

Rogan Josh, Daal Saag, and Vegetable Pulao

The main course features two dishes - Rogan Josh and Daal Saag -- served with a vegetable pulao or rice dish.  The dishes accommodate meat eaters, as the Rogan Josh is a traditional lamb dish that, although of Persian origin, is a staple of Kashmiri cuisine.  They also accommodate vegetarians, as Daal Saag, which is a lentil dish that includes spinach.  And, for omnivores, you can have booth. 

Goan Coconut Pancakes

The last course will be Goan Coconut Pancakes, which will have a stuffing of coconuts, raisin, cardamom and nutmeg.  The pancakes will be served with a little vanilla ice cream.

See you soon!


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Green Chile Turkey Burgers

Lately, it has been difficult finding the time (and, quite frankly, the desire) to cook.  The past few months have been some very busy times in the Chef Bolek household.  While I continue to cook, the opportunities have been far less in number than I would like.  Sometimes, we are just too tired or it is just too late to make dinner, especially with a little toddler running circles around us.  

All of these challenges have led to an evolution of sorts in terms of my cooking.  Rather than looking for complicated recipes by which to challenge my skills, my focus has turned to simpler recipes.   Recipes that can be completed in 1/2 to 1 hour. These are not recipes that would pave my way onto shows such as Master Chef, but they are ones that fill our stomachs with some good and tasty food.  

Take, for example, a recipe for Green Chile Burgers that I found on Saveur's website. The recipe initially caught my eye because of the use of green New Mexico or Hatch chiles, which happen to be among my favorite chiles.  However, it is the fact that this is an easily and quick recipe that led to the making of these burgers.  The bulk of the preparation time spent on creating a very delicious chile sauce, which includes the roasting of the peppers and the combination of the ingredients.  In the end, you have some great burgers.

Finally, I decided to make one big change to the recipe.  Rather than use beef, I decided to make these burgers with turkey.  I wanted a leaner option, but I ensured there would still be sufficient flavor and moisture by using ground turkey thighs.  The thighs have a higher fat content that serves both purposes well.  There you have it ... Green Chile Turkey Burgers.  

Recipe adapted from Saveur
Serves 4

2 pounds of ground turkey (preferably thigh meat)
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon of Hatch chile powder
1 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons of ketchup
4 cloves roasted garlic, mashed to a paste
2 tablespoons of canola oil
6 roasted Hatch chiles, peeled, stemmed, seeded and chopped
4 slices of cheddar cheese
4 slices of Swiss cheese
4 brioche buns, split and toasted

1.  Make the burgers.  In a bowl, combine the ground turkey, 1 tablespoon of chile powder, cumin, salt and pepper.  Form into four 8 ounce patties and chill in a refrigerator.

2.  Make the chile sauce. Whisk remaining chile powder, mayonnaise, ketchup, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Refrigerate the sauce until needed.

3. Cook the burgers.  Heat oil in 12 inch cast iron skillet over medium heat; work in 2 batches.  Cook patties, turning once until a thick crust develops on both sides, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Top each with 1/4 of the roasted chiles, and 1 slice of each cheese.  Cover with lid to melt cheese.  To serve, place 1 patty on each bottom bun and spread the top buns with some of the sauce.  Cover burgers with the top bun and serve immediately.