Friday, January 20, 2017

Maryland Dogs

Upstate New York's Hofmann Sausage Company has been around since 1879 but only started expanding their market in 2013. If you haven't heard of them yet, they're still working their way through the Maryland area. They have, however, partnered with University of Maryland Athletics to create a special "Maryland Dog." I didn't think their recipe was Maryland-centric at all (but should probably have cut them some slack since they're not local). In any case, they sent me vouchers for free hot dogs so I could develop my own Maryland Dog.

I found that Harris Teeter sells Hofmann products, but the one at Canton Crossing only had the German Brand Frankfurters. They are made with pork, beef, and veal, and are stuffed in a natural lamb casing. They are smooth-textured with a snappy bite and a nice mild flavor that was absolutely perfect to pair with crab. For what is Maryland cuisine without crab?

My first idea was to top a frank with cold crab dip and a little tomato for color. Mr Minx felt that corn needed to be an essential element in the topping as well, but I didn't want to muddle the crab dip with another ingredient. So we made a crab salad using both tomato and corn. The corn we charred a bit so the topping would have all the colors of the Maryland flag: gold, black, red, and white (from the mayo used to bind the ingredients). We used claw meat, because it has extra crabby flavor and is less expensive than lump, but if you're not on a budget, by all means use lump crab in both recipes.

The cold crab dip on Maryland Dog #1 warmed up nicely when it came in contact with the hot dog, and the creaminess was a nice foil to the snappy casing. The bit of tomato brightened the flavors and added a pop of color to the otherwise pink palette. Maryland Dog #2 was just as tasty but had a lot more texture. I'm not sure which I preferred, but I will say that I very much enjoyed the hot dog itself. We normally buy Nathan's or Hebrew National, both of which have strong garlic and spice flavors that would probably overpower the delicate flavors of crab. The Hofmann dog, however, was nice and mild, and worked beautifully.

Tailgate season may be over, at least here in Maryland, but baseball starts up in a little over 2 months! Time to make a batch of crab dip and put it on a hot dog.

Maryland Dog with Crab Dip

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoons full-fat plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons cocktail sauce
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 scallions, chopped
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
3 ounces crab meat, preferably claw
4 Hofmann German Brand Frankfurters
4 potato rolls
1 small tomato, seeded and diced

Stir together the first 9 ingredients (cream cheese through crab meat) until combined. Chill until ready to use.

Cook frankfurters in your favorite method (boiling, pan frying, microwaving). Place franks into buns. Top with dollops of the crab dip mixture and sprinkle on a row of tomato. Top with a sprinkle of Old Bay, if desired.

Serves 4.

Maryland Dog with Crab Salad

1 ear of corn, with husk and silk removed
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
Dash lemon juice
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 ounces crab meat, preferably claw
2 small or one large tomato, seeded and diced
4 Hofmann German Brand Frankfurters
4 potato rolls

Place the corn cob directly over a gas flame or on a grill, turning regularly, until charred in spots. If using a grill, move the corn over indirect heat to finish cooking for 5 minutes. If using a gas stove, microwave the corn for a few minutes until tender. Allow the corn to cool before cutting the kernels off the cob. Set aside.

Stir the Old Bay and lemon juice into the mayonnaise. Fold in the crab meat, the cooled corn, and half the tomato. Taste for seasoning and add a pinch of salt, if desired.

Cook frankfurters in your favorite method (boiling, pan frying, microwaving). Place franks into buns. Top with dollops of the crab salad mixture and sprinkle on a row of tomato. Top with a sprinkle of Old Bay, if desired.

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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Monday, January 16, 2017

Stuffed Flank Steak

I've been seeing stuffed flank steak recipes all over social media recently, so I decide to try it. Normally, I marinate flank steak in a combination of garlic, Worcestershire, tomato paste, and soy and broil it until crusty brown on both sides. It's tasty and quick. Why I decided to do something fancier is beyond me. For one thing, it's not particularly easy to butterfly a flank steak if you're not used to butchering meat. My steak was oddly shaped, too, which also caused problems. But I patched it up with other bits of the steak and it seemed to work fine in the end.

The filling is a umami bomb of sundried tomatoes and mushrooms. While it's really yummy as a steak filling, I'm going to use the leftovers as a pasta topping, where I think it will really shine.

Make sure to season your steak with salt and pepper on both sides before filling and rolling. And it's flank steak, so while it has a lot of flavor, it's not going to be super tender. Worth a try though.

I sauced my steak with melted goat cheese mixed with pesto. Yes, I did notice that the sauce broke because the pesto was a bit oily. It still tasted good. Next time, I think I'd make a white sauce first and add the cheese and pesto to it, rather than just melting the cheese and stirring in the basil paste.

Stuffed Flank Steak

1(1 1/2 - 1 3/4 lb) flank steak
Salt and pepper
2 ounces sundried tomatoes
Olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
4 ounces finely chopped button mushrooms
Half a red bell pepper, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Handful fresh baby spinach

Place the sundried tomatoes in a bowl. Pour over a cup of boiling water and allow to sit until the tomatoes have softened. Drain tomatoes and chop finely.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons of oil and the onion, mushrooms, and bell pepper. Season with a big pinch of salt. Cook, stirring regularly, until mushrooms give up their liquid and the dish is mostly dry, about 15-20 minutes. Stir in the garlic and tomatoes and cook an additional minute or two. Remove vegetables to a bowl and set aside to cool.

Butterfly the steak like a book along long edge, cutting and spreading the meat until it's twice as wide as when you started. Unless you have a very sharp knife and have done this before, you'll probably cut some parts too thinly and make holes. Just cut a flap in the thicker part opposite the hole to make a patch. As long as the holes are covered with meat, no worries. Cover the meat with plastic wrap and pound to a uniform thickness of about 1/4".  Season the meat on both sides with salt and pepper.

Spread the cooled vegetable mixture evenly over the meat, from edge to edge. Top vegetables with a layer of spinach leaves. (If you have made holes, put the spinach down first to create a barrier.) Starting at one long end, roll the steak jelly-roll fashion and secure in several places with kitchen twine. Starting about one half inch from the edge, place a line of toothpicks spaced about an inch apart across the top of the meat roll. Wrap the meat in loosely in foil and refrigerate for at least one hour.

When ready to cook, cut the meat into slices between the toothpicks, which will give you inch-thick spirals of stuffed meat. Put another toothpick into the bottom of each spiral (across from the original toothpick) for security.

Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. Add the meat 2-4 pieces at a time, depending on the size of your skillet. Don't crowd the meat, otherwise it will steam and not brown. Cook until crusty and brown on both sides, about 8 minutes.

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Friday, January 13, 2017

Southern Provisions

Southern Provisions used to be Jokers n Thieves, with the lovely and talented Jesse Sandlin in the kitchen. I'm not sure what happened there, why JnT became a different restaurant with the same general theme. We had dinner there once, summer before last, and liked it quite a bit. The soft shell crab waffle sandwich was killer, and I fell in love with the Carolina gold rice porridge served with a slab of smoky brisket. In any case, Jesse is off doing other things and the nice space on the corner of O'Donnell and Potomac Streets is now called Southern Provisions.

We had a book signing down the street at 2910 on the Square (a fab gift shop that we highly recommend) in early December and moseyed over to Southern Provisions for dinner afterward. I had heard that they were offering the trendy Nashville hot chicken sandwiches, and wanted to give them a try.

We ordered a couple of beers and both the Nashville hot chicken sliders and something called "Ol’ Saint Nick Fritters" for appetizers. I did the ordering, and when I added the "Chop Salad," our waitress seemed inordinately confused. Apparently she thought the sliders were my entree. A bit of advice to wait staff: when a fat woman orders a lot of food, just write it down and bring it. Maybe ask if she wants it all at once or some as an app and some as an entree, but don't stare at her like she has three heads. She may be a food writer who just wants to taste everything. There are these things called "doggie bags" if she doesn't finish it all.

Mr Minx ordered the Brisket French Dip. The waitress didn't look at him funny.

Let's start with those sliders, shall we? Real Nashville hot chicken is marinated, fried, and sauced in an ass-kicking cayenne-based paste. It's red and it's hot. As a sandwich, the chicken is typically served on white bread with pickle chips.

Well, they got the pickle chip part right.

The chicken itself was fried, somewhat dry, breast meat. Neither the chicken nor the breading was particularly flavorful. And there was no discernible heat. The menu claims the chicken is dipped in something called Jim Beam Devil's Cut hot sauce, but perhaps, as in the making of a dry martini, a bottle of the sauce was merely waved over the chicken. Disappointing.

I ordered the "Ol’ Saint Nick Fritters" just because they sounded like a disaster. "Fresh mint, sage and ginger fritters served w/peppermint bark butter." Not only is the Oxford comma conspicuously absent, I couldn't get my mind around the peppermint bark butter. The waitress assured me that the dish was tasty. She also said the fritters were like hush puppies, crisp on the outside and soft in the middle--an apt description. Definitely crispy on the outside, the fritters were raw and gooey on the inside. The waitress whisked them away with apologies; a few minutes later, a manager brought us fresh ones that were cooked all the way through.

I slathered a hot ball with some of the pink butter and took a bite. Weird, but not awful. On their own, the fritters tasted a tad like stuffing. The butter was creamy and tasted like melted Hershey's white chocolate kisses, the ones with the bits of candy cane inside. It would have been fab spread on a slice of chocolate cake. Had there been no sage in the fritters, it would have worked with them, too. Otherwise, it was just weird. But far from inedible.

I imagine it was my mistake thinking that a "chop salad" was going to be a "chopped salad." A chopped salad is, well, chopped. That is, everything is cut into small pieces, including the lettuce. A sturdy lettuce like iceberg or romaine works best; their prominent rib actually offers something to chop. Southern Provisions' salad was just a salad. There was a mess of baby greens topped with milky blobs of what was listed as "house made" mozzarella, plus roasted beets and pecans. A shit ton of pecans. An entire pie worth of pecans. I'm not complaining - they were the best part of the salad. What wasn't the best part was the "warm bacon & onion vinaigrette" which was unbalanced, leaning too far toward sour. It was also watery, which may have meant the greens hadn't been dried well after washing. In any case, it was a bad salad and I regretted ordering it.

Neal's brisket French dip was meh. The "sautΓ©ed" onions were little more than steamed (and whomever chopped them needs to learn better knife skills). The brisket was tender and had a nice smoky flavor, but it was a little hard to taste with all the bread. The fries were good though, well-cooked and seasoned.

So. Completely meh. Maybe that's being generous. They did take the fritters off the tab, which was nice. I should have complained about the abysmal salad and lack of hot sauce on the chicken, too. We actually should have sent it all back. But what's bitchier - being a picky and complaining customer, and making the wait staff suffer when it's not their fault, or writing about it afterward?

Southern Provisions
3000 O'Donnell St
Baltimore MD 21224
410) 675-4029

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Drink up! 🍷🍸🍹

With the New Year comes some fun booze news....

Wit & Wisdom is offering wine tasting classes with Advanced-level Sommelier Julie Dalton. Classes last about 2 hours and are limited to 24 participants; snacks are provided by Chef Zack Mills. Tickets can be purchased at cellarsessionsatwit.eventbrite.com.

Blind Tasting Basics: How to taste wine like the Pros!
Saturday, January 21, 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Clarity, Brightness, Fruit Character, Intensity, Earth, Acid, Length, Age....do these words mean anything to you? If not, join Lead Sommelier Julie Dalton to learn the basics of how to properly taste wine. Light bites will be provided to complement the wines.

'Love is in the Air' Wines
Saturday, February 11, 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. (A Perfect Valentine’s Day Weekend Date or present!)
We will taste through 6 wines that are perfect for that romantic date on Valentine's Day. Many of these wines have aromas and flavors evocative of aphrodisiac-like ingredients that will definitely set the mood for a very special evening! Light bites will be provided to complement the wines.

Island Wines!
Saturday, March 18, 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.
We've reached that time of year when spring is trying to push winter out of the way and the cold weather is making us crave the Islands. We'll bring the Islands to you with these wines. Light bites will be provided to complement the wines.

🍷🍸🍹🍷🍸🍹🍷🍸🍹🍷🍸🍹🍷🍸🍹🍷🍸🍹🍷🍸🍹🍷🍸🍹🍷🍸🍹🍷🍸🍹🍷🍸🍹🍷🍸🍹

Down in South Baltimore, Hersh's Anti-Temperance Society (HATS) is in full swing on Monday Nights. Starting at 6:30pm, January through May, participants will learn about various boozy subjects, some led by bar boss Ali Dryer, and others by brewers, distillers, and winemakers. The first Monday of each month will be dedicated to beer. And a special $5 drink will be available to HATS attendees all evening at the bar. Here's a sample of upcoming events.

January 16: Staple Booze and Tools for your Home Bar

January 23: New Liberty Distillery, makers of such fine spirits as Melvale Rye & Brothership Irish American Whisky

January 30: Hot Boozy Cocktails

February 6: Maryland’s own Flying Dog Brewery

February 13: Manhattans, and Ways to Riff on Them

February 20: Lyon Distilling Company, makers of Maryland’s finest rums

February 27: New Orleans Cocktails… because there’s *so* much cocktail history in NOLA but also because Mardi Gras!

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