Thursday, July 08, 2021

Pastrami Sandwich Pasta

Despite only just learning how to make homemade pasta, I'm now getting fancy with it. I have found that I prefer forming pasta by hand than rolling it out with Kitchen Aid attachments. For one thing, I can sit while I'm working rather than stand in front of the counter, and my bad back appreciates that. For another thing, I find it more suited to my creative mind. Hand-forming pasta shapes is almost like making edible beads. (For those who don't know, I have a jewelry business on the side.)

A couple of weeks ago, I tried making cavatelli for the first time, with the help of Mr Minx. It worked out so well, I decided to buy one of those little grooved paddles used to make gnocchi and tried making malloreddus, aka Sardinian gnocchi. Only malloreddus are made with semolina, and mine are not; technically I have no idea what the things I made are called. Someone on Instagram suggested "gnocchi" or "gnocchetti," but doesn't that normally bring to mind the pasta commonly made with potato?

So what did I do to cause myself so much nomenclatural consternation? I used rye flour. And all-purpose wheat flour. And some ground caraway seeds. You see, I wanted them to taste like rye bread. I was feeling all clever and decided that rye pasta needed a mustard cream sauce and pastrami.

I would have preferred to use pastrami from a real Jewish deli, but I didn't feel like making a special trip. Boar's Head, Dietz and Watson, et. al., are just not the same thing, but they were as close as I was going to get. If you can get real pastrami (or corned beef), then by all means use the good stuff! As for the mustard cream sauce, I used a combination of spicy brown mustard and dried mustard, but you can use whatever you prefer in whatever amounts most please your palate. I used about a quarter cup of liquid mustard. YMMV. I had some smoked mozzarella in the fridge that I put on top, but I'm betting Swiss would be great and fit with the theme nicely.

Overall, I was pretty happy with the way the dish turned out and thought I'd share the recipe guidelines with you. Enjoy!

Pastrami Sandwich Pasta

For the pasta:
1.5 cups finely milled rye flour (I used Arrowhead Mills)
1.5 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon caraway seeds, ground to a powder in a spice mill
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
About 1 cup water

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
Kosher salt
2 teaspoons flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
Spicy brown mustard
Mustard powder
Sherry vinegar
1/4 lb pastrami, chopped
Cheese of your choice (I used cubed smoked mozzarella)
Parsley for garnish
Additional caraway seeds (optional)

To make the pasta: Place flours, ground seeds, and olive oil in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add most of the water and turn on the machine. After a few turns of the hook and scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula, check to see if the mixture seems too dry. If that's the case, add more water. If you add too much, the dough will make an unpleasant squishy slapping sound in the mixer.  Never fear! That can be fixed by adding more rye flour until the dough seems dryer yet holds together. (It is better to err on the side of dry than of wet.) Remove the dough from the bowl to a board and give it a few kneads. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Flour a cutting board and prepare some baking sheets with parchment. Give them a generous dusting of semolina or regular flour to prevent sticking. If you have a grooved gnocchi board, give that a light dusting, too. If you don't have one, don't worry about it; you'll just be making cavatelli instead.

Remove the rested dough from the fridge. Cut off small pieces of the dough and roll them into snakes that are a bit less than half an inch wide. Cut the snake into pieces about an inch long. Take each piece and roll into a hot-dog shape by pressing it with your first two fingers and rolling it toward yourself. A video really helps:


I actually use my thumb and roll the pasta away from me, but whatever works!

Place the pasta on the prepared baking sheets and toss with the flour. Repeat until all of the dough is used up.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until the pieces float and stay there, 3-8 minutes, depending on the size of the pasta. Reserve a bit of the cooking water to thin the sauce, if necessary.

To make the sauce: Heat the oil over medium heat and add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Sprinkle onion with the flour and stir to combine. Let to cook a few moments before adding the cream. I wanted my sauce to be obviously mustardy, so I added about 1/4 cup of the brown mustard and a good teaspoon of the dried mustard, plus a few teaspoons of sherry vinegar to add the requisite tang. You may feel the brown mustard alone does the trick, so I suggest seasoning to your taste. Add half the pastrami to the sauce.

Toss the cooked pasta in the sauce, using reserved cooking liquid if the sauce seems too thick. Serve pasta topped with more of the pastrami, a bit of cheese, and some parsley. A sprinkle of caraway too, if you're as fond of the flavor as I am.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, July 05, 2021

Top Chef Portland

Did anyone watch Top Chef Portland? I think it was one of the best seasons ever. 

I didn't do a recap, and I'm not sorry. It was nice to actually enjoy watching the show rather than taking notes and trying to come up with jokes. Because the pandemic caused this season to be very straightforward, with a big focus on the food itself--no gimmicky challenges, no traveling for the finale--I think my recaps would have been pretty dry anyway. 

I love that most of the contestants were non-white. It gets a little dull watching white folks cooking the same French-inspired stuff all the time. Latin American/Mexican and Asian cuisines are my jam, so I would have been quite happy to judge all of the goodies presented by Shota, Maria, Gabe, Jamie, Byron, and Avishar. Dawn was my favorite contestant though. She must have made some fabulous food if she could survive leaving stuff off plates on multiple occasions!
.
.
.
.
.
Spoiler Space
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
I even thought Dawn could pull off a win all the way into the finale's Chef's' Table, but after listening to the judges deliberate, I realized that Gabe was the winner. Deservedly so, as his food shone all season long. But have you read about the controversy surrounding his firing from restaurant Comedor? Apparently he was in a "consensual sexual relationship" with a female staffer--in other words, fucking around on his wife--pre-Top Chef, and cut the woman's hours once he returned. Allegedly for a "decline in her performance." We can assume this means on the job, but maybe she just didn't want to sleep with him anymore? That sort of toxic male behavior should no longer be acceptable in the culinary industry. I'd love to see that big check taken out of Gabe's hands and put into Dawn's. Or Shota's. 

Is anyone watching Top Chef Amateurs? I'll be tuning in. 

* 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!

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Pancho's (Sponsored Post)

Who doesn't appreciate some cheesy goodness now and again? I'm not just talking a slice of cheese on a sandwich or sprinkled on a taco. I mean real, ooey gooey, sexy cheese, draped over everything from a tortilla chip to a stuffed pepper.

I'm talking queso. Specifically Pancho's cheese dip.

There are only two Pancho's restaurants (in West Memphis, AK, and Memphis, TN) but their famed cheese dip is available in 1200 locations across the country, including Giant Food Stores in Baltimore, and the Weis Market on Goucher Blvd in Towson. (Check their store locator--https://panchosdip.com/store-locator--for info.) People have called this stuff the Best Dip on the Planet; it even has a fan club. I can see why. It's not too thick, not too spicy, and it tastes fresh. As I was putting these dishes together, I was literally scooping the cheese out of the tub with my fingers and eating it.

But then, I do like me some cheese.

I crumbled some freshly fried Mexican chorizo on some Pancho's to make a super easy and delicious choriqueso dip. And I thought it made a brilliant topping for some Mexican-style stuffed bell peppers.


Papas con Chorizo-stuffed Bell Peppers with Pancho's Cheese Dip

2 fist-sized red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
Salt
1/2 lb Mexican chorizo
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 red bell peppers, cut in half from top to bottom, seeds removed
Your favorite salsa
Pancho's Cheese Dip
Minced green onions or chives

Put the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold water seasoned with a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil. Turn heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 7 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Put the chorizo in a saute pan set over medium-high heat. Breaking the chorizo up with a wooden spoon, cook the sausage until it's crumbled and browned. Add the minced garlic, turn the heat to medium, and cook for another couple of minutes. Remove the meat and garlic from the skillet, leaving the fat. If there doesn't seem to be much fat in the pan, add a teaspoon or two of olive oil. Add the potatoes to the skillet and cook over medium-high heat until the potatoes start to brown. Return the chorizo to the pan and season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350F. Fill each bell pepper half with a heaping amount of the chorizo and potato mixture and place them in a baking pan--ideally an 8" glass pan. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the peppers are tender. NOTE: If it's too hot to put the oven on for this long, as it is in my house right now, you can microwave the peppers for 10 minutes on a covered plate to make them tender. Then they'll only need about 15 minutes in the oven. 

Put a puddle of salsa on each of four plates. Top with a pepper half. Generously drizzle Pancho's Cheese Dip over the peppers, and garnish with the onions or chives.

Serves 4.


Posted on Minxeats.com.

* 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!

Friday, June 25, 2021

Flashback Friday - Scallops with Lavender Honey Brown Butter

flashback friday graphic
This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on November 21, 2012.

Scallop dishes at restaurants don't seem quite as astronomically priced these days as back then, but they're still not cheap.
-----------------------------------------

Remember when I complained last month that scallops are the restaurant world's biggest rip-off? Here's some proof. I paid $15.95 per pound for U-10 drypack scallops at the local Giant. U-10 means there are fewer than ten scallops per pound - these three babies weighed .37 lb. ("Drypack" means they were packed and shipped on ice without the use of preservatives. They sear quite nicely and don't leach a lot of moisture into the pan.)

I seared the scallops in a bit of olive oil, removed them from the pan, and turned off the heat. To the still hot pan, I added a tablespoon of butter, a tablespoon of honey, about a teaspoon of dried, food-grade, lavender buds, and a teaspoon of chopped preserved lemon. The honey caramelized almost instantly, creating a rich, lightly sweet sauce for the scallops, which were also garnished with a sprinkle of green onion and a few more lavender buds.

Had I ordered this in a restaurant, it would have cost $35. Cost me around $6 to make at home. And they were damn fine.

Posted on Minxeats.com.