Sunday, August 16, 2015

Turkish Style Turkey Kebabs

It seems somewhat of a paradox ... the cuisine of the country called Turkey does not have any recipes for the animal, turkey.  This paradox has its root in history.   The country occupies a peninsula known as Anatolia, and, the people who lived there have been referred to as Turks since as early as the 1300s.  The Turks lived in a rather strategic place, situated at the cross-roads of commerce.

At one end, there were the British.  They began to import a bird known by scientists as Numida meleagris, or the helmeted guinea fowl.  While the birds originated from Madagascar, it was Turkish merchants who sold the birds to the British.  After a while, the British referred to the merchants as "Turkey merchants," and then referred to the birds themselves as "turkeys."  Mark Forsyth, The Turkey's Turkey, New York Times (11/27/13). 

A couple centuries later, Spanish explorers encountered strange birds in the New World.  These birds, known to scientists as Melagris pellolavo, were soon exported to the Old World, including the British Isles.  Although this bird differed from the helmeted guinea fowl, the distinctions were lost upon the Europeans, who thought the bird tasted as good, if not better than the turkeys from the Turkey merchants.  Thus, they gave the New World bird the same name as the Old World bird, "turkey." 

This brings be back to the paradox.  The country, Turkey, has a cuisine that is rather devoid of any turkey recipes.  I now offer up my contribution, in some respect, with a recipe for Turkish Style Turkey Kebabs.  Turkish cuisine is renowned for its kebabs, and, there is no shortage of recipes for Turkish kebabs on the internet.  For this turkey kebab, I poured over many different recipes to find ingredients that would work well together.  In the end, I settled on a recipe that featured cumin, coriander, nutmeg and red pepper.   These flavors worked very well as a rub and, more importantly, it did not require any marinating for hours or overnight.

This was a very good recipe and it could work very well with other meats, most notably chicken.  If I happen to come across any helmeted guinea fowl, a/k/a the original turkeys, then I might just try this recipe to cook that bird.

Recipe adapted from Today's Parent
Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds of boneless, skinless turkey thighs, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Bamboo skewers
1 tablespoon of olive oil

1.  Prepare the skewers.  Mix the ground cumin, coriander, nutmeg, salt and pepper together.  Brush the cubes with some olive oil and then sprinkle the spice mixture onto the turkey.  Rub the mixture in well.  Thread the turkey onto the bamboo skewers, leaving room between each piece to ensure uniform cooking.  Cover the skewers and refrigerate for at least one hour.

2.  Grill the skewers.  Approximately fifteen minutes before grilling, remove the skewers out of the refrigerator.  Heat a gas or charcoal grill over high heat.  Brush some olive oil carefully onto the grates to prevent sticking.  Thereafter, place the skewers on the grill.  Cook the skewers for 2-3 minutes, then turn the skewers.  Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes and turn the skewers again.  Repeat this process until the turkey is cooked through.


Monday, August 10, 2015

Grilled Broccoli

I hate broccoli.  I really hate broccoli.  I hate it so much that I find myself repeating how much I hate broccoli.  If I could, I would ban broccoli from plates across the country.  That desire is the one and only position that I share in common with the 41st President, George Herbert Walker Bush.  

Over 15 years ago, President George H.W. Bush banned broccoli from the plates served at the White House.  According to the New York Times, President Bush not only declared that he did not like broccoli, but he stated, "And I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm President of the United States, and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli!"  Many a time I have made that same declaration!

But alas, I live with my beautiful Angel, who loves the flowering cabbage that the Italians call "broccolo" and, hence, what we call "broccoli."  She has rightfully pointed out that I do not eat enough vegetables (a fact that is somewhat reflected in this rather meat-centric blog).  Broccoli has a lot of health benefits, including the ability to help lower cholesterol, as well as provide some important vitamins and phytonutrients.

I think that my opposition to broccoli comes from eating steamed broccoli.  I have never really been a fan of the taste of steamed broccoli.  Even knowing the health benefits of broccoli cooked in this fashion, I still figuratively hold my nose whenever I eat it.  

Nevertheless, I wanted to make some broccoli for my beautiful wife, so I went searching for a recipe.  That search led me back to the the New York Times.

Sam Sifton of the New York Times provided a very simple recipe for grilled broccoli.  Just a few ingredients -- balsamic vinegar, tamari or soy sauce, olive oil, and salt -- come together for a very interesting "marinade" that goes on the broccoli just before grilling.  This recipe produces some very tasty broccoli that ultimately led to a caveat to my previous declaration: "I am not going to eat any more broccoli, unless it is grilled." 

A recipe from the New York Times
Serves 4

1 head of broccoli, about 2 pounds, cored and cut 
     into 1 inch florets
3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons of tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 tablespoon of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Kosher salt, to taste
Flaky sea salt (optional)

1.  Prepare the grill. Heat the grill, either charcoal or gas, to high.

2.  Prepare the "marinade." In a large bowl, whisk the tamari or soy sauce and the balsamic vinegar together. Add the olive oil while whisking vigorously.  Add the broccoli and toss to coat.   Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.

3.  Grill the broccoli.  Place a grill basket on the grill and add the broccoli to it.  Grill, tossing frequently, until the florets are crisp and tender with just a little bite to them, approximately 10 to 12 minutes.  If you don't have a grill basket, lay the florets out on the grill in a single level and use tongs to turn them frequently.  More work, same result.

4.  Finish the dish.  Transfer the cooked broccoli to a platter or bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with parsley, and, if using, a pinch or two of sea salt.


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Cellar Rats Russian Imperial Stout

The use of a hammer and sickle on a label for a Russian Imperial Stout seems to be somewhat of a paradox.  A historical contradiction.  After all, the Russian Imperial Stout style emerged in the court of the Czar Peter the Great.  British brewers increased the alcohol and hops in their porters to create a beer that could be transported to St. Petersburg.  The beer continued to thrive in the courts of successor Czars, such as Catherine the Great.  According to one historian, "The Empress of all Russia is so partial to Porter that she has ordered repeatedly very large quantities for her own drinking and that of her court."  The History and Antiquities of the Parish of St. Saviour, Southwark.

Yet, the hammer and sickle is the emblem of the Soviet Union, whose founders overthrew the Czarist court, executed the Czar, and implemented a version of communism that lasted over eight hundred years.  While Soviet leader may have been preoccupied in Western imperialism, that focus was not on British beers.  One could safely assume that most Soviet leaders drank vodka, and a lot of it.    

This discussion is prompted by Cellar Rats Brewery's Black Rat Imperial Stout, whose label contains that historical contradiction.  According to the Beer Judge Certification Program, a Russian Imperial Stout should appear a very dark reddish brown to jet black, with a rich and complex aroma that should feature roasted malts, hops, and alcohol and a taste that could be reminiscent of bitter or unsweetened chocolate, cocoa or roasted coffee.  

The brewers at Cellar Rats have produced a Russian Imperial Stout that fits comfortably within the style.  The stout pours a jet black color, and a thick, puffy foam.  It has aromatic elements of roasted coffee.  Those earthy notes carry over to the taste, which is full of mellow, roasted malt notes wrapped in a thin sheet of booziness.  There is a little bitterness on the palate, most likely from the roasted malts, but also from the hops.  This bitterness is not overwhelming and does not detract from the overall smooth, mellow nature of this beer. 

I have to say that this is one of the better Russian Imperial Stouts that I have tasted.  I was given a bottle of this beer to try by my father, so I don't know the price of the beer or where to find it.  Given Cellar Rats Brewery is based on Madison, Ohio, I am sure that you can find the beer in Ohio.   If you see it on a menu or see a bottle in the store, it is worth trying.  


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Grilled Steak with Green Sriracha

One of the things on my culinary bucket list is to make my own hot sauce.  It may not seem like much, especially to cooks and chefs who could easily make a hot sauce for various dishes.  However, I love hot sauce.  I really, really LOVE hot sauce.  I usually keep at least 3 or 4 different types of hot sauce on hand in our refrigerator, including the "staples," like Tabasco and Sriracha. 

Recently, I came across a recipe for a grilled steak with a green sriracha sauce.  A sriracha sauce is a type of hot sauce typically made from chiles, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt. The sauce is Thai in origin, often called sot Siracha; the name comes from the city of Si Racha, which is located in the Chonburi province of eastern Thailand.  The sauce is typically used in Thai cuisine as a condiment; and, it even finds its way into Vietnamese cuisine, served alongside bowls of phở.

Sriracha is particularly popular in the United States.  Given that over one ton of Sriracha sauce is produced every hour, it has found its way into many grocery stores and restaurants across the United States.  The supply is readily eaten by demand, including one person who consumed three bottles of it at one time.  While I have consumed my fair share of Sriracha sauce, I have never simply guzzled the hot sauce.  It is best drizzled over food, especially fried or grilled foods.

While the red Sriracha sauce is almost ubiquitous, the green sauce seems more intriguing and it is one that I have never tried before.  The recipe incorporates green chiles -- roasted poblano peppers and serrano chiles -- with a range of fresh ingredients such as basil, chives, cilantro, lemongrass, lime leaves and coconut.  The poblano peppers add depth to the flavor of the sauce, while the serrano chiles provide quite the kick, which one would expect.  The end result is a hot sauce that is in many respects better than the red Sriracha.  Maybe it is the use of fresh ingredients, prepared using a blender.  Maybe it is the tartness of the lime juice contrasted with the heat of the serranos, along the field of chives, cilantro, basil and mint.  Maybe it is just that I love most of what I make.    

Recipe from Food & Wine
Serves 4

3 large poblano chiles 
2 serrano chiles
3 large garlic cloves, peeled & smashed
1/2 cup fresh ginger, sliced
1 half-inch piece of turmeric or
     1/2 teaspoon of ground turmeric
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
2 loose cups of basil leaves
2 loose cups of mint leaves
1 1/2 cups of snipped chives
1/2 cup of chopped cilantro
4 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
1 lemongrass stalk, tender inner bulb, bottom 4 inches
     peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup canola oil, plus more for grilling
1/4 cup of lime juice, plus 2 tablespoons
Kosher salt
4-5 pounds of steak, such as flank steak or skirt steak, cut into 
     4 even sized pieces

1.  Prepare the Green Sriracha.  Roast the poblano chiles directly over a gas flame, turning, until charred and tender.  Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let cool.  Peel, core and seed the poblanos.  Transfer the poblanos to a blender.  Add the serranos, garlic, ginger, turmeric, coconut, basil, mint, chives, cilantro, lime leaves and lemongrass and pulse to chop.  With the machine on, add the 1 cup of oil and puree.  Add the lime juice and season the green Sriracha with salt. Once the sauce is made, it can be refrigerated for up to three days.

2.  Grill the steak.  Light a grill.  Brush the steaks with oil and season with salt.  Oil the grill grates and grill the steaks in batches over high heat, turning once or twice, until the meat is lightly charred and medium rare, 5 to 6 minutes.  Cook a little longer, 1 to 2 minutes more, to obtain medium, if that is your desired doneness.  Transfer to a carving board and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing across the grain.  Serve the steak with the green Sriracha.