Monday, July 25, 2016

Buffalo Deviled Eggs

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Adding a Patriotic flair to an upcoming Olympics gathering is easy with these Buffalo deviled eggs. I'm a fan of all things Buffalo, with the exception of their football team, of course. Go Patriots! There are so many things you can do with this flavor profile, and all of them are excellent.


This is a really easy make-ahead appetizer, but it's also wonderful for a breakfast or brunch spread since, you know, they're eggs. I recently made them for a potluck at work because I wanted something savory and satisfying that could be served cold. I didn't want to have to worry about heating things up at work.


These Buffalo deviled eggs only require a few ingredients. You can definitely embellish on them more if you'd like, but simplicity is underappreciated in cooking, and these eggs are pretty perfect just as they are.


The creamy yolk filling is heightened with my favorite go-to hot sauce for all things Buffalo, Frank's Red Hot. The amount I've used here is enough to give it subtle heat while focusing on the vinegary Buffalo flavor. These are not particularly spicy, so if you want them to blow your socks off, add more hot sauce to the filling, and you may also drizzle more hot sauce over the tops as a garnish at the end.


And speaking of garnishes, thinly sliced celery adds a bit of crunch to these soft and creamy deviled eggs, along with a burst of color which compliments the bright orange filling.


Crumbled blue cheese is the ultimate finish to these eggs, and necessary in my opinion for anything Buffalo. I'm an east coast girl, and while I know they typically ranch it up on the west coast, here it's blue cheese all the way!


Each bite of these Buffalo deviled eggs is perfection: a bit of heat and Buffalo flavor from the creamy yolk filling, with the obligatory crisp celery and funky blue cheese to finish it off. A match made in Heaven. They will be quickly gobbled up at your next party, Olympic or otherwise. I can guarantee that.


Buffalo Deviled Eggs
Makes 20

10 large eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise (reduced fat is fine)
2 1/2 tablespoons hot sauce, or more to taste (preferably Frank's Red Hot)
Kosher salt
1 stalk celery, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 ounce blue cheese, crumbled (I used Friendship Danish blue)

Place the eggs in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat to medium and cook for 7 minutes. Drain and run cold water over the eggs to cool them.

Carefully peel the eggs and slice them lengthwise. Gently remove the yolks and place them in the bowl of a food processor. Set the whites aside on a plate. Add mayonnaise, hot sauce, and salt to the egg yolks in the food processor bowl, then process until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. You can make it spicier with more hot sauce if preferred.

Transfer the yolk mixture to a piping bag and snip the tip of the bag (if it's a disposable bag). Pipe the filling into each of the egg white hallows. Top with thinly sliced celery (you may not use all of it) and crumbled blue cheese. You may also drizzle extra hot sauce on top of each egg for additional spice, if desired. Cover and refrigerate. Serve chilled.




Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Venezuelan Black Bean and Cheese “Domino” Empanadas

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Another great party idea for an upcoming Olympics party would be empanadas. There are so many different varieties from many distinctive countries. A really fantastic cookbook entitled Empanadas: The Hand-Held Pies of Latin America features a whole slew of them from a specific region of the world.


I have previously made Golden Chicken, Potato, and Green Pea Pies (SalteƱas de Pollo) from Bolivia, which are wrapped in a sweet, golden dough and baked, but most recently decided to try a classic Venezuelan empanada which carries the name "domino" because of its black and white filling.


These empanadas are vegetarian (minus the inclusion of Worcestershire sauce, which contains anchovy), and super crispy and delicious. The dough is made with precooked cornmeal, also known as masarepa or harina pan.


Yellow masarepa is preferable because it yields a much more golden-hued dough, however I was only able to procure the white variety, and mine still turned out pretty fantastic.


Between the protein-packed black beans, and the gooey cheese, these empanadas are surprisingly filling. Add the fact that they are wrapped in corn and deep-fried, you'll only want to consume a couple of these at most in a single sitting.


I was able to prepare these slightly ahead of time for a recent game night gathering, and then reheat them in the oven on a baking sheet. They were still crispy and delicious even after reheating them.


The key is to let them drain on a cooling rack set over a baking sheet, so they don't get soggy. This is truly ideal for any fried food, and I would never go back to soggy paper towels.


I hope this post has inspired you to step outside of the box at your next party (whether it's an international-themed Olympic celebration, or any other excuse to hang out with friends or family), and try something new. This will impress meat-eaters and vegetarians alike with it's luscious black-and-white filling.


Black Bean and Cheese “Domino” Empanadas
Makes 18 Empanadas
(From Empanadas: The Hand-Held Pies of Latin America)

Filling:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup (120 g) minced white onions
1/2 cup (50 g) minced leek (white and light green parts only) (I used more onion in place of the leek)
1 aji dulce (sweet Caribbean pepper) or serrano pepper, seeded and minced (I used a jalapeno)
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground annatto (achiote) or Bijol
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 (15-ounce/430-g) cans whole black beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces (170 g) queso blanco or mozzarella cheese, shredded

Cornmeal Dough:
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons (440 g) precooked yellow cornmeal (masarepa or harina pan), plus more as needed (I used white masarepa instead of yellow because that's all I could find at the store)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 cups (720 ml) hot water, about 115 degrees F), plus more as needed

Vegetable oil, for frying

Make the Filling: In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, leeks, aji or serrano pepper, garlic, annatto, and cumin. Cook until the onions have softened, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce; stir well and cook for 30 seconds. Add 1 cup (240 ml) water, the beans, salt, and black pepper; bring them to a boil, lower the heat to medium, and simmer for 10 minutes or until they have thickened, stirring regularly. Remove the filling from the heat and let cool; cover and chill thoroughly (at least 1 hour or overnight).

Make the Dough: In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal and salt. Add the water slowly, in a thin stream, kneading the mixture with your hand until it comes together into a ball with the consistency of mashed potatoes (if the dough is too dry, add a few more tablespoons of water at a time; if it's too wet, add a few tablespoons of the precooked cornmeal at a time). Turn the dough onto a clean surface and knead it until smooth, 45 seconds to 1 minute or to the consistency of play dough. Return the dough to the bowl, cover it with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel, and let it rest for 10 minutes (to allow the fine grains to absorb all of the liquid).

Assemble the Empanadas: Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; set it aside. Divide the dough into 18 equal pieces (about 2 ounces/55 g each). Line a tortilla press with a zip-top freezer bag that has been cut open on three sides so that it opens like a book. Place a ball of dough in the middle of the tortilla press and flatten it into a 5-inch (12-cm) round, about 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick. If you don't have a tortilla press, flatten each ball using a flat-bottomed, heavy skillet.

Place 2 tablespoons of the filling and 1 tablespoon of the cheese in the middle of the round, leaving a small rim. Use the bag to fold the dough over the filling, forming a half-moon. Press the edges together with your fingers to seal. Transfer the empanada to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling, keeping the empanadas covered as you go. These empanadas can be shaped and filled up to 1 hour before frying as long as you keep them covered and chilled until you're ready to fry.

Fry the Empanadas and Serve: Fit a large baking sheet with a metal cooling rack and set it aside. In a large skillet with high sides, heat 1 to 1 1/2 inches (2.5 to 4 cm) of vegetable oil to 360 degrees F. You may also use a deep-fryer according to manufacturer's directions. Working in batches of 4 or 5 empanadas at a time, carefully slide them into the oil (I fried 3 at a time so my Dutch oven wasn't too crowded). Fry them until golden, 3 to 4 minutes, turning them over halfway through. If the oil gets too hot as you fry and they're browning too quickly, lower the temperature and let the oil cool slightly before frying any more. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the fried empanadas to the prepared rack to drain (I use a spider skimmer). Serve them immediately, or keep them warm in a 250 degree F oven for up to 1 hour before serving.

Note: Once fried, these empanadas can be frozen for up to 3 months. Freeze them in a single layer on baking sheets lined with parchment paper; once frozen solid, they can be transferred to freezer boxes or zip-top bags. Reheat them at 350 degrees F for 12 to 15 minutes, or until their centers are hot.




Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Chicken & Thai Basil Dumplings

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The Olympics are coming! The Olympics are coming!


I am a huge fan of the Olympics, counting down for years until the next one. It's a never-ending cycle of Olympic obsession. I love watching the various sports, but I also just love being patriotic and supporting all of our athletes.


Embracing all of these nations coming together in competition can perhaps be best expressed through culinary exploration. What better way to celebrate our diversity than by cooking and eating foods from around the world.


I plan on sharing more posts leading up to and during the Olympics, including other international recipes, but today let's take a look at a really delicious dumpling that embodies a fusion of traditional Thai flavors in a Chinese-style package.


These Chicken & Thai Basil Dumplings were incredibly popular at New York City's Rickshaw Dumplings in its heyday. The recipe for these beloved dumplings is available in Kenny Lao's Hey There, Dumpling! cookbook.


It does require a bit of advance prep, including preparing the lemongrass marinade and allowing it to sit at least overnight or up to a week. After mixing the strained marinade with the other filling ingredients, it's also a good idea to chill the mixture further before using it. This will allow the filling to be more easily scooped into the wrappers.


With just a bit of planning, you could potentially be eating these dumplings (instead of drooling over my pictures) within a couple days! Not too shabby.


Fish sauce, lemongrass, Thai basil, scallions, chicken, carrots, cellophane noodles, and lime are just a few of the key flavors showcased here. The accompanying dipping sauce also screams traditional Thai, and is very reminiscent of a satay sauce, combining creamy peanut butter and coconut milk, along with spicy nam prik pao, a Thai chile paste (I used Thai Kitchen brand Roasted Red Chili Paste).


I added a bit more nam prik pao to yield a slightly spicier sauce, but even with my addition it was still relatively sweet and creamy with very little spice. The sauce can definitely be tweaked to your taste.


These dumplings are easy enough to make with store-bought dumpling wrappers. There are a few steps involved in their preparation, but if you like Thai flavors, and Chinese pan-fried dumplings, you will adore this combination.


You can also make these dumplings and freeze them on a baking sheet before storing the frozen dumplings in your freezer in a freezer bag or airtight container for cooking at a later time.


What a perfect way to celebrate the Olympics, by pan-frying some of these flavorful, chewy and crispy dumplings for you and your friends.


Chicken & Thai Basil Dumplings
Makes about 45 dumplings
(From Hey There, Dumpling!)

1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) fish sauce
2 garlic cloves
1 lemongrass stalk, trimmed, smashed, and coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 bundle (50 g) vermicelli mung bean noodles (also called cellophane noodles, bean threads, or glass noodles)
1 pound (455 g) ground chicken
1 cup (130 g) very finely chopped carrots
1/4 cup (6 g) thinly sliced Thai basil leaves (use regular basil if you can't find Thai basil)
1/4 cup (25 g) finely chopped scallions
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/4 teaspoons sriracha
2 1/4 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 (1-pound/455-g) package round dumpling wrappers
Spicy Peanut Dip (recipe follows)

In a food processor, combine the sugar, fish sauce, garlic, lemongrass, and 1 1/4 teaspoons pepper. Pulse until the lemongrass is very finely chopped. Transfer the marinade to an airtight container and refrigerate at least overnight and up to 1 week.

When ready to cook, strain the marinade through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. You should have 1/2 cup (120 ml). (If you have extra, save it to use as a marinade for grilling chicken, pork, or beef.)

Fill a medium bowl with ice and water. Bring a small pot of water to a boil and drop the noodles in. Cook just until softened, about 3 minutes, then drain and transfer to the ice water. When cool, drain again, then chop the noodles.

In a large bowl, combine the chicken, carrots, basil, scallions, salt, sriracha, lime juice, cornstarch, 1/2 cup (120 ml) marinade, noodles, and remaining 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Use your hands to work all the ingredients together until well-mixed. It’s best to use your hands because you can get everything incorporated into the meat without making the pieces of meat too small.

If you have time, cover and refrigerate the filling until nice and cold, up to 2 days. The filling will be easier to spoon into your wrappers when it’s chilled.

Take out five wrappers and cover the rest with a damp dowel. Lay out the five wrappers like ducks in a row. Wet 1/2 inch of the rim of each wrapper. Scoop a fat teaspoon of filling into the center of each wrapper, shaping it elongated like a football to make it easier to fold. Fold the wrapper in half like a taco and pinch the edges at the top center. Continue folding the dumpling using your preferred folding method (simply press the edges together or pleat to create another shape--I used the "Buddah's Belly" fold from the book).

At this point, the dumplings can either be cooked immediately, covered and refrigerated for up to a couple hours, or frozen.

When you're ready to cook your dumplings, choose a large nonstick skillet with a lid. Coat the bottom of the pan with oil. Start arranging the dumplings in super-tight concentric circles. Add 3 tablespoons water to the pan (I suggest a bit more than this, especially if you are cooking a large batch at once), set over medium heat, and cover.

Let the dumplings cook, rotating the pan every once in a while to promote even cooking. When the bubbling sound switches to a crackle, lift the lid to peek and see if the pan is dry. This step takes about 7 minutes with fresh dumplings and about 10 minutes with frozen ones (mine took longer than this--I usually use another, more traditional method to pan-fry; you can find it here if you're interested). You may need to continue to cook the dumplings for a few more moments to ensure they are evenly browned once the water has evaporated. (Alternatively you may steam these dumplings in a bamboo steamer basket lined with parchment paper or cabbage leaves.)

Spicy Peanut Dip
Makes about 1 cup
(From Hey There, Dumpling!)

2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
2 1/2 teaspoons nam prik pao (roasted chile jam; see Note) (I used 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon fish sauce
3/4 cup (180 ml) coconut milk (I used a small 161 ml can, closer to 2/3 cup)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, nam prik pao, sugar, and fish sauce. Continue whisking and add the coconut milk in a slow, steady stream to emulsify the mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste. You also can adjust the other seasonings to your taste. The dip can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

NOTE: Nam prik pao, an essential Thai condiment, combines a chile-garlic-shallot paste with funky shrimp paste, fish sauce, sweet palm sugar, and tangy tamarind. It’s sometimes labeled roasted chile paste, chile jam, or chile paste in oil. Look for the blend of ingredients above and you’ve got the right thing.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Stromboli with Soppressata, Rapini, and Provolone

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Pizza dough is incredibly versatile. It can be used for so much more than just pizza. I personally love the flavor and texture of Jim Lahey's No-Knead Pizza Dough, although it's a bit wetter and stickier to work with than some other pizza doughs.


While pizza in and of itself is great for a gathering, I also love using its dough to make other creations such as calzones or stromboli. Calzones are typically half-moon shaped and have one large pocket stuffed with fillings, while stromboli is more like a pizza roll and shares its name with a very active volcano off the coast of Italy.


One thing in particular that I love about stromboli is that although it is great hot out of the oven, it's often served at room temperature, which makes it perfect for a party!


Rather than using the tired combination of pepperoni and mozzarella, I decided to try a different spin on the filling. A hand-crushed garicky San Marzano tomato sauce is the base, which is then topped with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (or in my case Pecorino Romano). Then it's topped with thin slices of soppressata, a type of dry salami, and Provolone cheese. The stromboli is finished off with roasted rapini, also known as broccoli rabe.


I love the saltiness of the soppressata with the slight bitterness of the rapini, all wrapped up with sharp provolone in chewy and crusty pizza dough. It's way more refined than your pepperoni and mozzarella variation, and even adds some veggies into the mix.


A couple notes about the recipe. First of all, you're going to end up with a lot of extra tomato sauce. Yes, the recipe does instruct you to heat it up and serve on the side for dipping, but it's still a lot more than you'd realistically need for this purpose. I used some of my extra sauce to make homemade frozen pizza with the rest of the pizza dough I had made, and then froze whatever wasn't used for dipping (we didn't dip directly into it, but spooned it from the bowl onto our plates) to make this same exact stromboli again for an upcoming occasion (*cough* Olympic party *cough*).


Also, my bunch of rapini was pretty substantial, and although I roasted all of it, I did not actually use it all in my stromboli filling. I used what seemed like a reasonable amount, and then saved the rest to eat as a side dish for another meal. Just use your judgement. If it looks like too much filling to actually roll it up without bursting, just scale back a tad on your rapini.


I mentioned earlier that the No-Knead Pizza Dough I typically use is on the wetter/stickier side, and although it yielded a fantastic result for my stromboli, I found that the dough was still pretty sticky after generously flouring and re-flouring the board, and it caused my stromboli to slightly tear in some places as I was rolling it up (even while using my dough scraper to lift it from the board as I went). In the future, I would be sure to flour the board even more generously, or just add a bit extra flour (or use less water) in the dough just to make it easier to work with for the purposes of rolling.


All in all, this stromboli is a huge success! It's easy to make, and puts a more sophisticated spin on this party favorite. It can easily be enjoyed at room temperature, or gently reheated before slicing if you'd like to make it ahead of time.


Stromboli with Soppressata, Rapini, and Provolone
Serves 6 to 8
(From Beer Bites)

1 bunch rapini, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt
1 (28-ounce/794-gram) can whole peeled tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 pound/455 grams pizza dough, homemade or store-bought, at room temperature
1/4 cup/30 grams freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
4 ounces/115 grams thinly sliced soppressata
4 ounces/115 grams thinly sliced provolone cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Toss the rapini with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and a big pinch of salt in a large bowl. Spread it out on two large rimmed baking sheets and roast until the stalks are tender and the leaves are slightly charred, 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the pans in the oven halfway through.

Squish the tomatoes with your hands into a chunky sauce in a saucepan. Stir in the garlic, oregano, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 1 teaspoon salt. Set aside.

Line a clean, large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface into a 16-by-12-inch rectangle with the long edges parallel to the edge of the countertop. If it is too elastic to roll out the whole way in one shot, cover it with a kitchen towel and let rest for 10 minutes, then continue rolling.

Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce over the surface of the dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Sprinkle it with the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Arrange the soppressata in an even layer over the sauce, and then layer the provolone over the soppressata. Strew the rapini over that (you may not use it all). Brush the bare edges of the dough lightly with some of the beaten egg. Beginning at the long edge closest to you, carefully roll up the dough snugly into a cylinder (like a jelly roll). Press the seam together and tuck in the ends to completely encase the filling.

Place the stromboli, seam-side down, on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the top and sides lightly with the egg. Cut five diagonal slits about 2-inches apart in the top of the dough for steam vents. Bake until the crust is a deep golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Let the stromboli cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Meanwhile, bring the remaining sauce to a simmer over medium heat. Transfer the stromboli to a cutting board and cut it crosswise into thick slices. Serve directly from the cutting board or on a long platter, with the remaining sauce on the side for dipping.

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