Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What you got there in your pocket? Cuban Style!

So the other day I was minding my own business while grocery shopping and as much as I try to stay away from the frozen snack aisle. You know, the cheesy taquito, TGIF jalapeno popper, mouth destroying pizza rolls section. The awful, hypnotic hallway of brightly colored and magically delicious frozen chemicals sung me a sweet lullaby and I couldn't help myself. I had to fill my basket with these frozen, fried delights. They made me do it.   

It's not very often that I do reviews for pre-packaged food stuffs and whatnot but I thought it would be fun to throw these in the mix once in a while. Besides during my last trip to the store I came across a box of Cuban Style Hot Pockets. I had to have them. They had pickles and ham and Swiss cheese in them. Surprisingly enough they sort of captured the approximate taste of a real Cuban sandwich. Now, I'm not saying that they were a suitable replacement for the real thing. I'm just saying that they were tasty in that "I'm drunk or wished that I was drunk and hot pockets are the best thing ever" sort of way. 

The outside of the pockets were soft and doughy in attempt to replicate Cuban bread which was a nice touch. The insides are all white and drippy and it squirts all over you when you put it in your mouth (it's better than it sounds unless of course you already like that sort of thing in which case have fun). It's cheesy and hammy and pickley. Savory with a little bit of sour sharpness. They make me wish I had some more whiskey. But then I would probably want some more Hot Pockets. Which would in turn make me want some more whiskey. A vicious cycle indeed. Help me, I am trapped in a booze pocket nightmare. Or is this the best dream I ever had? I can't tell anymore.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Chicken Fried Dreams.

Hello everyone. My name is Violet Séverine and I am a chicken-fried steak junkie. The first step to recovery is admitting that I have a problem. Awww who am I kidding. I've never been much of a quiter and I'm not hurting anyone so screw it. Chicken-fried steak til death!!! So yeah, like I said. I love the stuff. Fried meat smothered in gravy is always a good thing. Fried anything in gravy is delicious. I'd eat a used bandaid if you fried it and covered it in gravy. Perhaps that's the whiskey talking. Anyways, yeah. Did you know that chicken-fried steak has no chicken in it? Also I am sad to tell you that it is not prepared by a chicken either. But don't worry. It is still amazing.

When I was a kid my family would take the occasional Sunday trip to the "family friendly" (aka no diversity allowed) super-Southern meat-fest restaurant the Cracker Barrel (restaurant names don't get more ironic than that folks). They had a strange olde timey store up front where you could buy all kinds of Cracker swag. I would always get some mouth destroying rock candy on a stick and perhaps a coloring book. "Mommy, why are these ghosts riding horses and carrying torches?" Yeah, then we would get seated by our unnaturally smiling waitress and I would always order a chicken-fried steak with fried eggs and hashbrowns. And then maybe an order of biscuits and gravy. Oh and a side of sausage and another side of bacon. And maybe some corned beef hash. I was an insatiable little thing. I could eat 10 lbs. of meat and be happy as a carnivorous clam.

So the other day I was thinking about what makes chicken fried steak so delicious. Is it the steak? The breading? The gravy? Maybe it's the mystery of the chicken? Or perhaps it's the accouterments. If you guessed all of the above you would be correct. I decided I wanted to elevate the classic dish into something more refined (not that it needs any improvements to make it any more glorious but sometimes we must experiment in the name of delicious science). Here's my super fancy version:

"Chicken-Fried" Dried Porcini and Shallot Crusted Sirloin with Veal Demi-Glace and Organic Chicken Egg

(serves 4)
1 package of dried porcini mushrooms
1/2 cup dried shallots (found at most Asian markets)
1 Tbsp garlic powder
8 organic local farm chicken eggs
4 - 1/2 lb. top sirloin steaks, pounded 1/2 thin with meat tenderizer mallet
1 cup AP flour

2 cups veal demi-glace (I use a classic Escoffier recipe or Larousse Gastronomique or if you don't have the time or patience to make your own you can buy a decent pre-prepared one from D'Artagnan)

kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
celery leaves (for garnish)
Crystal hot sauce
peanut oil for pan frying

Place the porcini mushrooms and dried shallots in a food processor or spice grinder. Pulse until finely ground. In a large bowl mix the ground mixture with the garlic powder and the flour and season well with salt and pepper.

Crack open 4 eggs into a separate bowl and whisk until smooth.

Place a large skillet (preferably a cast iron skillet) over medium high heat. Add enough oil to cover 1" up the sides of the pan.

Season the steaks with salt and pepper. Using standard breading technique dip the steak into the flour mixture and lightly coat. The dip into the egg to coat. Then back into the flour mixture. Shake off any excess and place into the pan to fry. Pan fry each steak about 3 minutes per side or until golden brown. Remove steaks to a paper towel lined plate and let them rest.

While the steaks are cooking heat up the veal demi glace. It should be glossy and luscious and coat the back of a spoon.

Fry the eggs in a little butter. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon a fair amount of demi-glace on a plate. Place the chicken-fried steak onto the sauce. Top with a fried egg and garnish with celery leaves and hot sauce. Enjoy your fancy version of hillbilly grub and perhaps afterwards go to the opera without any shirt or shoes on and crack open a few beers. Enjoy yourself dammit! xoxo

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Meatless in Seattle.

I eat meat. In fact I eat a lot of meat. I adore juicy chewy meaty goodness. I wasn't always a hot dog and cheeseburger loving fiend though. I had a good 12 year run of being totally meat free. Vegetarian to the core. When I was young and broke I would even sit through an entire service at the Krishna temple to eat free veggie food when that was pretty much the only place you could go and say the word vegetarian without someone looking at you like you just said you had syphilis or something. I even owned a "meat is murder" t-shirt (although it was pre-owned and happened to have pepperoni pizza stains on it). I also had two years of being vegan in which my skin turned a murky, sickly yellow. After lots of soul searching and salivation over Burger King menus it turned out it just wasn't for me. Everyone draws a line when it comes to what they will and wont eat. I just decided that my line of ethicality would be raised a little higher. Do I love animals? Sure I do. Do I love eating animals. Why yes, in fact I do. Everything on this planet that can sustain us is alive. Plants feel. It's a fact. We are animals. Some animals eat other animals. I have chosen to not eat people. That's where I draw the line. Unless of course they piss me off. Shhhh... Don't tell anyone. It'll be our little secret.

So recently my little besty friend Lucy has come to stay with us here in our cave. She happens to be a vegan who also can't cook (my lil' wife K burns water as well) so I have adapted my cookery to keep her from starving to death. Some nights we eat animal free and some nights I make her special fancy vegan meals while K and I eat a roast beast or whatnot. In the words of Lucy "who needs restaurants when you have Chef Violet to cook for you." Awww shucks.

In part one of Vegan Dinner for Lucy I made:
Zucchini "Pasta" with a Spicy Vegan Field Roast Sausage Sugo.

Here's what you need:
2 medium zucchini, sliced into thin strips
1 package of spicy vegan field roast sausage (or something similar), crumbled or thinly sliced
vegan "butter" (we use Earth Balance fake butter which has a pretty yummy taste/texture)
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp harissa (or sub a little tomato paste and cayenne pepper)
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
1/2 cup vegetable stock (or water)

vegan cheese, shredded (I like the Daiya brand jack cheese for this)
fresh dill

Using a mandoline (if you don't have one, drop what ever you are doing and go get one now) I sliced the zucchini super thin longways and with the right blade attachment it shreds them as well essentially making long, thin strips (aka fake vegetable pasta). A little blanch in boiling, salty water for 4 minutes and then shocked in cold water to stop the cooking.

In a large saute pan over medium heat cook the onions and garlic in a little vegan butter until soft (about 4 minutes). Add the sausage and harissa and cook another 3 minutes. Add the veggie stock or water to thin it out. Add the zucchini and gently stir. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the sauce thickens a bit and the zucchini is cooked through but not mushy (about 2-3 more minutes).

Plate the zucchini pasta with tongs and garnish with dill and shredded "cheese". Enjoy your delicious and satisfying meatless feast you have just amazingly prepared without the use of hippy chants. I promise this dish will not trick you into wearing harem pants or accidentally attending Burning Man. You will not get the urge to buy a digeredoo. Nope. I promise. xoxo