Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Fried Chicken Fingers with Comeback Sauce


When I hear the words "comfort food," some of the first thoughts that come to mind are "macaroni and cheese" and "fried chicken." With that said, I didn't grow up in a macaroni and cheese or fried chicken household. My family is Armenian, and I grew up introduced mostly to Middle Eastern dishes, but also to some American favorites as well, just on a much smaller scope.

My family never fried chicken, ever. My earliest understanding of fried chicken came in the form of KFC, and even Popeye's. There's definitely better fried chicken in the universe than what is found at these chains. I've had fried chicken at some much nicer Southern restaurants, and I've made it myself. Even though it's not something I really grew up with, I still associate it with decadence and comfort. While fried chicken is a staple on many Southern tables, for me it's a treat!

I've had the privilege to review Rebecca Lang's new cookbook entitled Fried Chicken. Before I even opened the book, my first thought was, "Really? An entire book devoted to fried chicken? How many kinds of fried chicken can there possibly be?" Well, my friends, the answer is A LOT.

I assumed that the book would feature a million different versions of a standard, Southern fried chicken. I assumed wrong! There are recipes within the book for Guatemalan Pollo, Chicken Kara-age (Japanese), Indian Fried Chicken with Cumin Yogurt, Mexican Lime Fried Chicken Tacos, Homemade Orange Chicken (Chinese), Brazilian Fried Chicken, Korean-Style Fried Chicken with Gochujang Sauce, and so much more! I'd say about a third of the recipes are internationally inspired.

Even the more "typical" non-global recipes still have a huge range from Sweet Tea-Brined Fried Chicken, to Cornmeal-Crusted Chicken with White Barbecue Sauce, Honeyed Fried Chicken with Hot Honey Sauce and Biscuits, Pineapple Chicken with Pineapple Salsa, Tangy Fried Chicken with Dijon, and Tennessee Hot Chicken among many others.

The book includes a wonderful introduction discussing how to select the perfect chicken and how to butcher it, an overview of fats and their smoking points, as well as tools and techniques for skillet fried and deep fried methods, both of which are highlighted in the book in addition to combination fried, which uses frying as well as an additional cooking technique to yield the final result.

Lang doesn't promote saving used oil for frying at a later date, but I can't really support being that wasteful (unless you're frying fish, of course, and then definitely don't use that oil for frying anything other than fish). I understand the reason--reusing oil lowers its stability and smoke point (although I typically use canola or vegetable oil, both of which already have high smoke points at 468 and 450 degrees F respectively), but even restaurants reuse their oil before emptying their fryers and replacing with fresh oil. Use your judgement, but I like to strain and store used oil in a jar and then top it off with fresh oil when I need to fry something else in the future, and then after I've used in twice or thrice, I will safely discard it.

Lang also suggests draining your fried birds on racks to maintain their crisp crusts (with her second choice being draining on paper bags). Normally I use paper towels, which are fine at absorbing grease, but then the fried food sits on the greasy paper towels and is still in constant contact with the fat (kind of defeats the purpose of "draining" it). It's something I never thought too much about, but now I know what I'll be doing in the future!

Now, I mentioned earlier that fried chicken for my family and me is considered a treat. I try not to fry food regularly, but every once in a while a splurge is in order, and crispy, juicy fried chicken is a pretty delicious way to cheat on our collective diets. Sadly for my "diet," I suddenly want more fried chicken than ever before!

With so many awesome-sounding fried chicken recipes, it was nearly impossible to select just one to start with. Many of the Southern style ones feature really intriguing and new-to-me accompaniments, such as white barbecue sauce from North Alabama, comeback sauce from Mississippi, tomato gravy (Southern, but not sure in which specific state it originates), cream gravy, and many more. You can definitely mix and match some of these embellishments or follow recipes exactly as they're written, but either scenario will result in some damn tasty fried chicken!

Comeback sauce

Although I have a steady "to do list" including so many fun fried chicken variations from this book, the first one out of the gate in my own kitchen is Camden's Favorite Chicken Fingers, mainly because I actually had chicken fingers in my freezer, and also the comeback sauce had me seriously intrigued. These fingers require less oil for frying as well, since they are smaller than bone-in chicken pieces.

They also don't require you to do any advance prep work, like brining, so they are excellent for weeknight meals as well! You can easily make these fantastic chicken fingers on a whim, although I highly recommend making the comeback sauce. I didn't try the homemade honey mustard recipe myself (yet), but the comeback sauce was one of our favorite parts of the meal. It's an excellent all-around fry sauce, which you can also use for dipping your fries, onion rings, and so much more. I've read that it can also be used as a dressing, though I haven't tried that myself.

The comeback sauce is creamy and delicious with a bit of tartness from the fresh lemon juice, and a bit of heat and complexity from a variety of spices. The only ingredient I didn't already have in my pantry or refrigerator was the chili sauce, but it was easy enough to pick up at my local supermarket. It's different than a typical "chili" sauce--it's not Tabasco or Frank's Red Hot, but rather a ketchup-like sauce with extra seasonings and spices. I loved the comeback sauce so much, that I will definitely be making more, and putting my new stash of chili sauce to good use.

The main event is definitely the chicken fingers. They are quickly soaked in buttermilk and then dredged in a mixture of flour, bread crumbs, and seasonings. It's a very basic recipe, but the results are fantastic. The only challenge is maintaining the oil temperature. I have a deep-fry thermometer, but the oil in my cast iron skillet wasn't deep enough for the thermometer to reach when I clipped it onto the edge of the pan, so I just held the thermometer manually with my hand to check the temperature periodically when first heating the oil, and during batches. My oil temperature did fluctuate (as it tends to do, and especially since I was juggling holding the thermometer with breading and flipping chicken fingers) but I did my best to adjust my burner accordingly when necessary.

In the end, my chicken fingers were a complete success! They were crunchy and flavorful, although some of the coating did start to soften as they cooled on the rack. You can easily keep them warm in a low oven (on the rack) while you finish frying your remaining batches of chicken fingers. This should help them stay crispy throughout the entire process.

I will definitely be making these chicken fingers again (and the comeback sauce too, of course), and I can't wait to try some of the other fried chicken recipes in the book! Between the traditional Southern style versions and the International ones, there are great fried chicken recipes for everyone.

With the Fourth of July only days away, I highly recommend these easy to make chicken fingers if you're planning on hosting friends and family. They are popular with adults and children alike. And really, what's more American than fried chicken?

Camden’s Favorite Chicken Fingers
Serves 4 to 6
(From Fried Chicken)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unseasoned dry bread crumbs (I used fine panko bread crumbs)
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups buttermilk (I used 1 1/2 cups, and it was plenty)
Pure olive oil, for frying (I used a combination of extra-virgin olive oil and canola oil, to increase the smoke point but still retain some olive oil flavor)
1 3/4 pounds chicken tenders (about 18 tenders)
Homemade Honey Mustard (recipe follows), for serving
Comeback Sauce (recipe follows), for serving

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, bread crumbs, salt, and pepper. Pour the buttermilk into another bowl.

In a large heavy skillet, heat 1/2 inch of olive oil over medium heat to 325°F. Set a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet.

Working with half of the chicken tenders at a time, dip them in the buttermilk and dredge in the flour mixture (I actually just dumped all the chicken tenders in the bowl of buttermilk and let them hang out in there until I was ready to bread each one). Stir the flour mixture often to keep the bread crumbs from settling to the bottom of the bowl.

Carefully place the tenders in the hot oil. Fry, turning often, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown and juices run clear. Maintain an oil temperature of 315°F to 325°F.

Drain the pieces on the wire rack. Repeat with the remaining chicken. Serve the chicken fingers with honey mustard and sauce.

Homemade Honey Mustard
Makes 1/2 cup

1/4 cup yellow mustard
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon paprika

In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Comeback Sauce
Makes 1 1/4 cups

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup chili sauce, such as Heinz
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

*Disclaimer* I received no compensation to write this review other than a free copy of the book. My opinions are always my own.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Pork and Chive Dumplings


Pork dumplings are classic appetizers on so many Asian menus, whether they are Japanese gyoza or Chinese jiaozi. They can easily be pan-fried, deep-fried, steamed, or boiled with excellent results. The pork filling itself can range based on the cuisine and the cook. Cabbage and/or chives often compliment ground pork along with soy sauce and minced ginger.

I've shared some pork and cabbage dumplings in the past, so today I've decided to share a recipe for pork and chive dumplings. The chives here come in the form of Chinese chives (or garlic chives). If you can't find these, use scallions, although the flavor won't be quite the same. It's worth seeking out the real deal to make these morsels authentic.

The filling is a cinch to make, and once you get the dough technique down, these dumplings come together quite efficiently. You can use store-bought wrappers as well, but I always find the quality to be inferior, and quite frankly they can be a pain to pleat since the dough doesn't stick to itself the way fresh dough does. Even wetting the wrapper doesn't solve this problem, so I do highly encourage you to try making your own wrappers from scratch. They're easier than they look!

Pan-fried dumplings are always my favorite, since they boast the most complex texture: a little crunchy, a little chewy, absolute perfection. Steaming or boiling will be your healthiest option. I find that even using traditional ground pork (not the super fatty kind), my dumplings are still very juicy. Sometimes the juice even explodes a bit when I bite into these bad boys, so have a napkin at the ready :)

In the recipe below, I share a couple of different pleating techniques for dumpling making called "pleated crescents" and "pea pods." These terms come from Andrea Nguyen's Asian Dumplings as does the basic dough recipe.

I'm always trying out some variations so I did a slight tweak to the crescent shape for my pork and chive dumplings. I simply pinched the dumpling together in the center, and then made a couple pleats on either side in opposite directions towards the middle.

I think they turned out pretty cute, if I may say so myself. Although a beautiful-looking dumpling is appetizing to the eyes, at the end of the day flavor is paramount, and I'm pleased to report that these classic dumplings definitely hit the mark.

Between this recipe and the pork and cabbage ones I've shared previously, you have two wonderful options for classic pork dumplings that would please any dumpling lover!

I've also shared many other dumpling recipes over the years. My Chinese New Year post from this past February contains links and photos to the others, and I do occasionally update this post to keep it current with my more recently added contributions, so please check it out if you're interested in expanding your dumpling making outside the tasty classics!

Pork and Chive Dumplings
Makes 32 dumplings, serving 4 as a main course, or 6 to 8 as a snack or starter
(Dough and assembly from Asian Dumplings)

2/3 pound ground pork
2/3 cup chopped Chinese chives (aka garlic chives)
2 tablespoons light (regular) soy sauce (I prefer low-sodium)
2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

10 ounces (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
About 3/4 cup just-boiled water (boil water, then let it sit for a minute off the heat before measuring)

Tangy Soy Dipping Sauce:
1/3 cup light (regular) soy sauce (I prefer low-sodium)
2 1/2 tablespoons unseasoned rice, Chinkiang, or balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1 tablespoon finely shredded ginger or 2 tsp. finely minced garlic (optional)

Canola or peanut oil, if pan-frying

To make the filling, mix the pork, chives, soy sauce, wine, ginger, sugar, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl until well-combined. To develop the flavors, cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes. You should have about 2 cups of filling. The filling can be prepared 1 day ahead and refrigerated. Bring it to room temperature before assembling the dumplings.

To make the dough, place a large mixing bowl over a damp paper towel on your work surface, to keep in place while mixing. Add the flour and make a well. Use a wooden spoon to mix the flour while you add the water in a steady stream. Mix together until you have a lot of lumpy bits, then knead the hot dough in the bowl until the dough comes together. Add water by the teaspoon if the dough does not come together.

Continue kneading the dough on a lightly floured surface (only flour if necessary, and do so sparingly) for a couple more minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic (my mixing bowl was very large so I finished kneading directly in the bowl and it was just fine). The dough should bounce back when pressed with your finger, but leave a light impression of your finger. Place dough in a zip-top bag, seal tightly, pressing out excess air, and set aside at room temperature for 15 minutes up to 2 hours. The dough will steam up the bag and soften. After resting, the dough can be used right away, or refrigerated overnight and returned to room temperature before using.

To make the dipping sauce, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar and stir to dissolve. Taste and adjust flavors to your liking for a tart-savory balance. The sauce can be prepared several hours in advance up to this point. Right before serving, add the ginger or garlic.

To assemble the dumplings, remove the dough from the bag, turning the bag inside out if the dough is sticky. Put the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut it in quarters. Put half back in the bag, squeezing out the air and sealing it closed to prevent drying.

Roll the dough into a 1-inch-thick log and cut into 8 pieces (cut in half, then cut each half in half, and so on to create pieces that are even in size. The tapered end pieces should be cut slightly larger). If your pieces are oval, stand them on one of the cut ends and gently squeeze with your fingers to make them round, like a scallop. Take each piece of dough and press each cut end in flour, lightly pressing the dough to about 1/4 inch thick and set aside.

Next, flatten each dough disk into a thin circle, about 1/8 inch thick, either with a tortilla press (lined with plastic wrap), or with a heavy flat-bottomed object like a frying pan (also lined with plastic). Alternatively, use a dowel (which is a good lightweight rolling pin alternative for fast and flexible dumpling making) to lightly roll out each disc into an 1/8 inch thick circle.

To finish the wrappers, place wrappers one at a time on your work surface, and flour only if sticky. Imagine a quarter-size circle in the center of the dough. This is what the Chinese call the "belly" of the wrapper. You want to create a wrapper that is larger than its current size, but still retaining a thick "belly" in the center. This ensures an even distribution of dough when the dumpling is sealed. Use the rolling pin to apply pressure to the outer 1/2-to-3/4-inch border of the wrapper. Roll the rolling pin in short downward strokes with one hand while the other hand turns the wrapper in the opposite direction. Aim for wrappers that are about 3 1/4 inches in diameter. When a batch of wrappers is formed, fill them before making wrappers out of the other portions of dough.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (if planning to refrigerate dumplings for several hours, also dust with flour to prevent sticking).  Hold a wrapper in a slightly cupped hand and scoop about 1 tablespoon of filling slightly off-center toward the upper half of the wrapper, pressing and shaping it into a flat mound and keeping a 1/2-to-3/4-inch border on all sides.

To make "pleated crescent" shapes, make the first pinch between index finger and thumb, then fold over the front edge to form the first pleat and press it against the back edge. Continue pleating the dough in this fashion until making the final pleat and then settle the dumpling on a work surface and press the edges to seal well.

Alternatively, to make "pea pod" shapes, fold the edge of the wrapper closest to you to meet the top edge and pinch together to seal well (you can stop here at the "half moon" shape, especially if you plan on boiling these). Place on your work surface and press gently to steady the dumpling and make it sit flat. Fold the sealed edges of the dumpling to make a series of pleats from one end to the other.

Place finished dumplings on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and dough, spacing out dumplings about 1/2 inch apart. Keep the finished dumplings covered with a dry kitchen towel.

When all the dumplings are assembled, they can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for several hours and can be cooked straight from the refrigerator. For longer storage, freeze them on their baking sheet until hard (about 1 hour), transfer to a zip-top freezer bag, pressing out excess air before sealing, and frozen for up to 1 month. To cook after freezing, partially thaw, using your finger to smooth over any cracks that may have formed during freezing, before cooking.

To boil the dumplings, half-fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat (I like to salt the water, but it's not necessary). Add half the dumplings, gently dropped each one into the water. Nudge them apart with a wooden spoon to keep them from sticking together or to the bottom of the pot. Return the water to a simmer and then lower the heat to maintain a simmer and gently cook the dumplings for about 8 minutes, or until they float to the surface, look glossy, and are puffed up and a tad translucent. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to scoop the dumplings from the pot, a few at a time, pausing the spoon's motion over the pot to allow excess water to drip back down before putting the dumplpings on a serving plate. Cover the plate with a large inverted bowl to keep the dumplings warm. Return the water to a boil and cook the remaining dumplings. When done, return the first batch to the hot water to reheat for a minute or two. There is no need to reboil.

To steam the dumplings, place the dumplings into a bamboo steamer lined with a perforated parchment circle or cabbage leaves (to keep the dumplings from sticking to the steamer) steam over boiling water for for about 8 minutes, or until slightly puffed and somewhat translucent. Remove the trays and place each atop a serving plate.

To pan-fry the dumplings, use a medium or large nonstick skillet (or cook two batches at the same time using two pans). Heat the skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 1/2 tablespoons oil for a medium skillet and 2 tablespoons for a large one. Place the dumplings 1 at a time, sealed edges up, in a winding circle pattern. The dumplings can touch. Medium skillets will generally fit 12 to 14 dumplings, large skillets will fit 16 to 18 dumplings. Fry the dumplings for 1 to 2 minutes until they are golden or light brown on the bottom.

Holding the lid close to the skillet to lessen splatter, use a measuring cup to add water to a depth of roughly 1/4 inch (about 1/3 cup water). The water will immediately sputter and boil vigorously, Cover with a lid or aluminum foil, lower the heat to medium, and let the water bubble away for 8 to 10 minutes, until it is mostly gone. When you hear sizzling noises, remove the lid as most of the water is now gone. Let the dumplings fry for another 1 or 2 minutes, or until the bottoms are brown and crisp. Turn off the heat and wait until the sizzling stops before using a spatula to transfer dumplings to a serving plate. Display them with their bottoms facing up so they remain crisp.

Serve with the dipping sauce in a communal bowl or in individual dipping sauce dishes.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Belgian Liège Waffles


Most Americans who have eaten Belgian waffles at Sunday brunch (or even in their own kitchens) haven't really eaten Belgian waffles. Just because a waffle is baked in a Belgian-style waffle maker does not automatically make it Belgian.

The waffle maker itself does yield bigger pockets (perfect for filling with syrup and other toppings), but if we're going to get technical, a true Belgian Liège waffle (aka a Belgian sugar waffle) is very different from its American cousin.

Authentic Liège waffles are more time consuming to prepare, and feature a rich and buttery yeasted brioche dough studded with Belgian pearl sugar. I've scoured the internet looking for authentic recipes for Liège waffles and bookmarked several, but I found the version on Smitten Kitchen to be the winner, and adapted it to make a half recipe for brunch in honor of Father's Day and my mom's birthday this past Sunday.

The evening before I planned to make the waffles, I started on my dough, enriched with tons of butter and an egg, it's made with yeast instead of baking powder, giving these waffles a much more complex flavor and texture. After the dough proofs for a couple hours, it's deflated and refrigerated until the next morning.

This is when the magic happens. We fold in the Belgian pearl sugar! Belgian pearl sugar can be a bit challenging to find. I actually purchased mine a couple months ago at Kalustyan's in New York City (a whopping $5 for a small 3-ounce bag--eek!), but it's readily available online (a much better deal than I got) and in other specialty shops.

Do not confuse it with Swedish pearl sugar, which is vastly different and not a direct substitute. You can learn more about pearl sugar here. You can also try using roughly crushed sugar cubes, although the result isn't quite the same.

My purchase from Kalustyan's only yielded 3/4 cup of Belgian pearl sugar, which was not enough to make a large batch of the Liège waffles. With that said, I also knew these waffles would be especially rich and sweet, and although they can be frozen, I decided to just make as much as we would eat in one sitting, so the half recipe (below) yielding 8 waffles was just fine, since they are quite decadent.

If you've never eaten a real Belgian Liège waffle before, let me enlighten you a bit on the experience. It's very different from what you'd expect. These waffles are crunchy, chewy, buttery, rich, yet delicate, sugary sweet, and so exquisite. It's almost like waffle meets candy; so much more than your basic breakfast.

What happens is the pearl sugar begins to soften in the waffle iron, creating pockets of soft sugar within the waffles, and caramelized sugar coating the pan. When you make more waffles, the caramelized sugar almost becomes like a shellacked sugar coating on the waffle's exterior, resulting in a glistening, golden crunch. For that reason, these waffles really must be enjoyed warm, because once they cool, the sugar cools too resulting in hard waffles. You can easily rewarm them in your oven, if needed.

It's also good to note that since these waffles are quite sweet and rich on their own, they really need no additional embellishment in the form of syrup, whipped cream, ice cream, fruit, Nutella, etc, however you can definitely dress them up to your heart's content. They are absolutely sublime plain, so don't feel the need to cover them up. You also don't really need a fork and knife. Maybe it's not proper, but we ate these with our hands :)

Liège waffles had been on my to do list for some time, and I'm so glad I finally got a chance to make them. The results were fantastic, and I highly recommend this recipe if you'd like to give it a shot yourself. I would like to add, however, that cleaning my waffle iron after the fact was a tremendous pain. The sugar was caramelized and hardened quite drastically, and it was much more complicated to clean than wiping down with a wet paper towel.

I actually had to pour hot water onto the bottom plate (very carefully since you can't submerge the machine in water--mine is electrical and not a stove-top version) and then use a small brush to scrub and loosen the sugar, then soak up the dirty water with a paper towel and squeeze it out, and then repeat two more times. Then I followed up with using wet and then dry cotton swabs to finish cleaning between the rows. It was a work out. In retrospect, it may have been easier to "soak" the interior with water while it was still hot, since allowing it to cool is what really caused the sugar to harden on the surface.

I can see why having a waffle maker with removable plates would make it SO much easier to clean after Liège waffle-making. Typically, the waffle maker isn't this difficult to clean, but the caramelized sugar really makes it a doozy. Just beware... for that reason alone, I'd be hesitant to make these again. They are fantastic, but require extra elbow-grease for cleaning up afterwards. I'll just save them for special occasions!

Belgian Liège Waffles
Makes 8 small waffles
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon raw sugar, brown sugar, or honey
1/2 packet (3.5 grams or 1 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
230 grams all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
100 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature/softened
3/4 cup Belgian pearl sugar

Make dough: Warm milk between 110 and 116 degrees F, and place in the bottom of a large mixer bowl. Add sugar and yeast and stir to combine. Set aside for 5 minutes until the yeast looks foamy.

Whisk in eggs and vanilla, then stir in all but about 1/2 cup flour (eyeball this) using a spoon or the dough hook of a stand mixer. Once the flour is mostly combined, add the salt and continue to mix. Using the dough hook of a stand mixer, add the butter, a spoonful at a time, thoroughly kneading in each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed before adding the next until all of the butter has been mixed in. Add the remaining flour and knead with dough hook on low speed for 5 minutes, or until stretchy and glossy.

Set the dough to rise twice: You can let the dough rise two ways, first at room temperature and then in the fridge, or vice-versa:

For room temperature first, cover bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 2 hours; dough should double. Stir with a spoon or spatula to deflate into a mound, re-cover with plastic wrap and let chill in the fridge overnight, or up to 24 hours.

For fridge first, cover bowl with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge overnight, or up to 24 hours. The dough will not look fully doubled when you take it out. The day you'd like the make the waffles, bring the dough back to room temperature for 60 minutes, stir to deflate, and let rise again for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

To cook the waffles: For both methods, on the day you're ready to make the waffles, knead in the pearl sugar (I did this in a few separate additions of the sugar by flattening the dough, topping with about 1/3 of the sugar, then folding it into the dough, and then repeating twice more until it becomes a homogeneous dough). Divide dough into 8 mounds. If it's rather warm and greasy, you can return these balls of dough to the fridge until you cook them off.

Heat your waffle iron, preferably a deeper Belgian-style one, over medium to medium-high heat. No need to oil or butter if it's nonstick and in good condition. Place the first ball of waffle dough on grid and cook according to waffle maker's instructions (depending on your waffle iron, you may be able to cook several waffles at once--mine has a capacity for two rectangular waffles; if you have a round waffle iron, you can also fit two of these smaller waffles at a time, although the rectangular waffle iron shape is more authentic to this style waffle). Cook until deeply golden all over, which will take approximately 4 to 5 minutes, then carefully transfer with tongs or a fork to a cooling rack. Remember, they're loaded with molten sugar; they're very hot. Repeat with remaining balls of dough, adjusting temperature of waffle iron as needed to get the color you want. You'll likely find that the waffles look more caramelized and glossy as you go on, as bits of melted sugar stay behind and gloss the next waffles; this is the best part but also a cause to the headache of cleaning the waffle iron--we'll get to that later.

Keep waffles warm in a 200 degree F oven if you plan to eat them right away. As the waffles cool, they will harden (that's all the melted sugar firming up), but will soften again when you rewarm them. These waffles should always be eaten warm.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Turkey and Zucchini Burgers with Green Onion and Cumin


Happy Summer! Officially as of yesterday, the summer solstice, we can start the celebration. Although summer is the perfect excuse to fire up the grill, I actually made these wonderful turkey and zucchini burgers on my stove-top, featuring wonderful Middle Eastern flavors.

Although they require a bit of oil for cooking, they are otherwise quite healthy, and feature a generous amount of grated zucchini and tons of delicious herbs, really amplifying the tenderness of these delicate, small, bun-less burgers. And PS this is a great way to fool your kids into eating vegetables ;-)

A mixture of mint, scallions, and cilantro make up a bulk of the seasoning along with cumin and a bit of cayenne pepper. I held back on the cayenne since I was also feeding this to my three-year-old nephew, but I'm sure the full amount would pack a great punch if you'd like a little extra heat.

To compliment these summery morsels we have a sauce comprised of sour cream, yogurt, garlic, lemon zest and juice, and sumac, a tart and citrusy purple-hued spice prevalent in Middle Eastern cooking.

I actually doubled this recipe quite easily, and recommend you double it as well since they are so easy to make and wonderful as leftovers. They can be eaten hot or at room temperature, and would be great to pack for a picnic.

Although they're not typically served on buns (slider buns would be more appropriate for their size if you choose to go that route), you could easily stuff them into the pocket of a pita bread half, or even serve them atop a salad.

I actually served one of my favorite summer side dishes to go with these burgers: Tomato Bulgur Pilaf. Together they really showcase some of the summer ingredients I crave most leading up to this season, and also yield quite a colorful plate of food!

Turkey and Zucchini Burgers with Green Onion and Cumin
Makes about 16 to 18 small burgers (Serves 4 to 6)
(Adapted from Jerusalem)

1 pound (500 g) ground turkey
1 large zucchini, grated (scant 2 cups/200 g in total)
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 large egg (I actually forgot to add the egg--oops!--and mine still held together really well without it, but you should probably remember to add it just in case ;-)
2 tablespoons chopped mint
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I used less to make sure it wasn't too spicy for children to eat as well)
Sunflower, vegetable, or canola oil, for searing

Sour Cream and Sumac Sauce:
Scant 1/2 cup (100 g) sour cream
Scant 2/3 cup (150 g) plain yogurt
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
1 small clove garlic, minced or crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sumac
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

First, make the sour cream sauce by placing all the ingredients in a bowl and mixing well. Refrigerate until needed.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the burgers except the oil. Mix with your hands and then shape into about 16 to 18 burgers, each weight about 1 1/2 oz (45 g).

Pour enough oil into a large frying pan to form a layer about 1/16-inch thick on the pan bottom. Heat over medium-high heat until hot, then sear the burgers in batches on both sides. Cook each batch for about 4 minutes total, adding oil as needed, until golden brown.

Carefully transfer the seared burgers to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, or until just cooked through. Serve warm or at room temperature with the sauce spooned over or on the side.


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