Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Inspired by Columbus: Rodizio Grill

Rodizio Grill
125 W. Nationwide Blvd.
Columbus, OH
(614) 241-4400
Facebook page

For the first six years we were married, Lyndsay and I lived on Cape Ann just a little north of Boston.  A lot of Brazilian's have emigrated to the Boston area and Churrascarias, that is Brazilian steakhouses, abound there.  I came to love the garlicky, salty, rotisserie meats and so when I moved to Columbus, I was pretty disappointed that with as diverse a food scene as there is, there were no Brazilian steakhouses.  So when Rodizio Grill opened awhile ago, I didn't need to hear any more, I was going.

Rodizio Grill, which has about a dozen locations in nearly as many states, is a bit more upscale than the restaurants I usually visited in the Boston area.  The dining room is tastefully decorated, featuring decor that, without having actually been there myself I'm guessing evokes Brazil, while still firmly feeling like an American restaurant. There are only two dining options here, salad bar only, or the full churrascaria experience, which is why I was there.

After ordering drinks (they have an amazing selection of house-made fruit juices) and eating some of the complimentary garlic cheese puffs, crispy polenta fingers, and cinnamon plantains I made a trip to the salad bar.  The salad bar has several standout items, in particular the Brazilian black bean stew, which my friend Zach went back for seconds of.  They also had some delicious already prepared salads like Caprese, Caesar, and seafood salad. I filled up my plate and bid adieu to the salad bar, knowing I needed to save as much room as possible for the endless parade of meat that was coming.

They cook all their meats on this giant multi-rotisserie and then bring them around and cut off however much you want and you grab it with a little pair of tongs.  You have a little green and red indicator at your table that you use to tell the servers if you want them to keep bringing you meat or if you need a break.

It can be a little overwhelming to have meat constantly brought to you as you are trying to eat what is already on your plate, so I recommend taking a few minutes to load your plate up and then switch your indicator to red until you are ready to eat again so you aren't interrupted.  If you see something particular you want making the rounds, just switch it back to green for a minute so you don't miss it.  All of my favorites are available for lunch, which costs $19 a person compared to $33 a person at dinner, though they do offer more choice at dinner, including seafood. I especially recommend the top sirloin (picanhe), chicken hearts, chicken wings, parmesan pork loin, stewed brisket (offered in a bowl, not on a rotisserie skewer), and pineapple.

How I was Inspired
Revere, Mass is also the home of the original roast beef sandwich and I knew I wanted to try and make a Churrascaria picanhe version of this sandwich. I decided to make a sweet and savory sandwich by using the the garlic cheese puffs as my roll, the top sirloin as my meat, and adding in sauteed plantains.

Start by taking a 2 1/2 to 3 pound tri-tip with a good fat-cap on it and cutting it into equal-sized pieces about 3 inches wide.  Then roll the meat in rock salt, pressing as much into the meat as you can. Some will inevitably fall off whenever you move the meat, so be gentle.

Now I happen to own a small electric rotisserie, so I threaded the steaks onto the skewer the same way I had seen them do it at countless churrascarias.  This ensured the correct texture, but some of the flavor is lost by not doing it over charcoal, which is traditional.  The next time I make them I will cook them over the rotisseries until almost done and then sear them on my charcoal grill, but if you have a charcoal grill equipped with a rotisserie, that would be best.  Every ten minutes or so I basted the meat in garlic water, which was about five cloves of garlic that had been steeping in a cup of warm water for awhile and then passed through a fine-meshed strainer to remove any garlic pulp which would burn if it got on the meat.

After about 45 minutes on the rotisserie my meat had reached a nice medium and took it off the rotisserie to rest.  While the meat was cooking I prepared my cheese-puff dough and baked it.

The dough is made entirely in a pot.  You bring a mixture of butter, water, milk, and salt to a boil and then add tapioca flour and minced garlic.  Finally you stir in shredded parmesan cheese and beaten eggs until you get a very wet dough that resembles cottage cheese. I tried to make four large "buns" and then cut them in half and while I was moderately successful, they took too long to cook and were very hard to slice because of the tapioca flour.  Instead, I recommend making twice as many very thin cheese puffs and using two of them as the sandwich bread.

Next, I biased cut a plantain and sauteed it until it was golden brown on both sides.  I thin sliced some of the meat and I had my perfect sweet, salty, garlicky, chewy picanhe sandwich.

Picanhe and plantain on Pao de Queijo
  • 2 1/2 to 3 pound tri-tip with a good fat-cap
  • rock salt (I used the kind of salt you find in a grinder)
  • 9 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 and 2/3 cup water
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 tsp. table salt
  • 4 cups tapioca flour
  • 1 and 2/3 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 4 beaten eggs
  •  1 semi-ripe plantain (half black)
  • a little oil for sauteing the plantain
  1. Cut the tri-tip into equal pieces each about 3 inches wide. Roll each piece in rock salt.  Mix half of the minced garlic with 1 cup warm water and let sit for a few minutes before straining the mixture, reserving the liquid.  Either thread the meat onto a skewer and rotisserie, or grill over a combination of direct and indirect heat until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 130 degrees, basting with the garlic water every 10 minutes.
  2. While the meat is cooking, heat the remaining 2/3 cup water, butter, milk, and table salt in a stock pot over high heat, stirring to help the butter melt, until it is boiling.  Take the mixture off heat and add the tapioca flour and remaining garlic and mix thoroughly.  Add the parmesan and eggs and mix thoroughly.  Put 16 equally sized dollops of dough on an ungreased baking sheet and press down on each with a spatula to make thin wide rounds.  Bake at 425 degrees until golden brown.
  3. Peel and slice the plantain on the bias to make long thin silces.  Saute in a little oil over medium heat until golden brown on each side, about 2 minutes per side.
  4. Thin slice some of the tri-tip and assemble your sandwich with some of the beef and plantain between two of the cheese bread rounds.
See you next week with a new recipe from a new Columbus restaurant (well, new to me anyway). What are some of your favorite restaurants.  Leave me a comment below.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Inspired by Columbus: Daybreak Diner (part 2)

In my previous post I wrote about the fun decor, and creative menu at Daybreak Diner. Their delicious French toast breakfast sandwich inspired me to make my own sweet breakfast sandwich with cinnamon bread.  But I was also inspired by their delicious breakfast fried rice bowl.

I don't know why it never occurred to me to eat rice for breakfast.  I mean, Nasi Goreng, a breakfast fried rice, is considered by some to be the national dish of Indonesia.  So which culture's rice dish would I use as the foundation for my version of Bill's Breakfast Fried Rice Bowl? I went with Mexico's Arroz a la Mexicana.

The original dish was fried rice with some veggies and crumbled sausage over an open-faced omelet, topped with melted cheddar cheese.  For my version I would crumble Chorizo sausage in with my Mexican rice, then top it with some pepper jack (or Chihuahua cheese) and an over-easy egg.

Mexican rice is surprisingly easy to make.  Start by cutting 12 oz. of tomatoes and 1 large onion into large chunks.  Then, puree them together in a food processor until they make a thick liquid. Measure out two cups, discarding any extra.

Next, mince 2 jalapenos, keeping the seeds if you want it spicy and removing them if you want it milder. Mince 5 cloves of garlic and also ready your tomato/onion mix, 2 cups chicken stock, and 1 Tbsp. tomato paste.

Put two cups of rice in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse with cold water for about two minutes, shaking or stirring the rice to remove excess starch.  Next, heat 1/3 cup oil over medium-high heat for two minutes.  Fry the rice in the oil until golden brown, about six minutes. Add the jalapeno and garlic and saute until fragrant.

Add the tomato/onion mixture, chicken stock, and tomato paste and bring to a boil.

Cover the saute pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.  While the rice cooks saute 1 lb of chorizo sausage breaking it up into small pieces with a spoon until it is cooked through.

After the rice is cooked mix in the chorizo and a few Tbsp. of minced cilantro.

Cook 8 over-easy eggs.  Put some of the rice mixture into a bowl.  Top with some shredded pepper jack or Chihuahua cheese and put in the hot oven to melt.  Then top with two of the over-easy eggs (the picture just shows one egg and did not include the cheese) and serve.

This made for a delicious breakfast, reminiscent of Huevos Rancheros, but the rice and sausage made it something new.  You could also add a little salsa at the end which would brighten the color and flavor.  Here is the recipe if you want to try it yourself:

Mexican Breakfast Fried Rice Bowl

  • 12 oz. tomato, chopped into large pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped into large pieces
  • 2 jalapenos, diced (seeded if you want it mild)
  • 2 cups long-grain white rice, rinsed in a colander for 2 minutes
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • salt to taste
  • 1 lb chorizo removed from it's casings
  • 8 oz. pepper jack or Chihuahua cheese, shredded
  • 8 eggs
1. Puree the tomato and and onion in a food processor until smooth.  Heat the oil over medium-high heat for two minutes.  Add the rice and saute, stirring frequently for 6 minutes or until golden brown.
2. Add the jalapenos and garlic and saute until fragrant.  Add the stock, tomato paste, and tomato/onion mixture and bring to a boil.  Cover the dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
3. While the rice bakes, saute the chorizo, breaking it up into little pieces until cooked through.  Shortly before the rice is finished cook the eggs until they are over-easy.
4. Mix the cilantro and chorizo into the cooked rice.  Divide the rice mixture into four bowls and top with some shredded cheese.  Put the bowls back in the oven and bake until the cheese is melted.  Top each bowl with two of the fried eggs and serve.

Check the blog out again next week when I talk about my visit to Rodizio Grill in the Arena District.  Let me know if there are any restaurants I should visit in the comments.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Inspired by Columbus: Daybreak Diner (part 1)

Daybreak Diner
1168 E. Weber Rd.
Columbus, OH 43211
(614) 261-4560
Facebook Page

Daybreak Diner has been around for about four years now and even though you won't see owner Bill Kinniard (more about him in this great article by my friend Nick Dekker) behind the grill much these days, his menu and musical Americana decor are still the focus. On the surface it may appear to be another run-of-the-mill diner, but spend a little time looking at the menu and you'll see a number of intriguing choices.

Lyndsay, Isaac, and I went for a Saturday breakfast. It was still fairly early for a Saturday breakfast, so it was not very busy.  This is a good thing because Daybreak Diner likes to take their time with each dish and you might find yourself waiting awhile to eat after you order.  This is probably not the diner to go to if you are voraciously hungry, in a hurry to be somewhere afterwards, or just don't like the people you are eating with.  Luckily, none of these were true for us so we were led through the memorable knick-knack laden decor to a table in the back.  Even though it was a warm day, it was a bit drafty at our table, making me wish I wasn't wearing short sleeves.  

Other than the decor, the menu is where Daybreak shines.  Sure, they have all the classic breakfast dishes like pancakes, omelets, biscuits and gravy, and breakfast sandwiches, but they have just as many unique options.  Captain Crunch French toast, breakfast fried rice, a french toast breakfast sandwich, and a couple of breakfast bowls are just a few of the choices you won't see anywhere else.  These options both feel clever, but also fit in with the standard diner fare.  

Isaac always orders pancakes (which taste like cupcakes by the way), but Lyndsay and I were a bit more adventurous.  I ordered the French toast breakfast sandwich with their thick-cut bacon for $4.50 and hashbrowns for $1.79 (though they cost up to $5.25 if you get them fully loaded with mushrooms, peppers, onions, cheese, and meat).  Other than Katalina's sweet and spicy bacon (I'll surely head there for a post sometime), Daybreak has one of my favorite bacons. The French toast was perfectly cooked and quite eggy which kept me from missing an egg in the sandwich itself. I added a little syrup inside and this made it a perfect mix of sweet and savory.

Lyndsay ordered the fried rice bowl for $7.85, but without any sausage gravy on top (I know, I know, but cut her a break, she's pregnant).  So what this amounted to was an open-faced omelet, topped with breakfast fried rice and cheese.  The breakfast fried rice has sauteed mushrooms, onions, and sausage in it, and is salty from the generous amount of soy sauce used.  They give you a nice big bowl full, more than most people will be able to eat in one sitting, but I didn't hear Lyndsay complain when she boxed up the leftovers.

How I Was Inspired
I liked how using French toast instead of regular bread changed my sandwich so I decided to see how else I could change the bread to make a unique breakfast offering.  I decided to use a cinnamon swirl bread as my foundation and go from there.  Since this would be a sweet dish, I needed to substitute the cheese and bacon.  I decided to make a cream cheese spread, like the kind used on cinnamon rolls, and use sweet and salty sauteed plantains.

You can either make cinnamon bread from scratch, which is what I did using this recipe or you could just purchase your favorite (Pepperidge Farm makes a good one if your local bakery doesn't).

First I made my cream cheese frosting which is a simple matter of whisking together cream cheese, powdered sugar, and buttermilk. I would have whisked a little better, but I knew this was going inside a sandwich, so I moved on.

Next, I sliced a sweet plantain (meaning mostly black all over) lengthwise, salted them lightly, and then sauteed them until they were golden brown on both sides.

Finally, I put some of the frosting and few slices of plantain between two pieces of buttered cinnamon bread and cooked the sandwich on the griddle until it was golden brown on both sides, just like a grilled cheese sandwich.

They turned out exactly as I hoped.  The bread I made tasted good plain, but boy did it shine whenever it was griddled or toasted.  The salty sweet plantain was complimented well by the cinnamon, though next time I make it I will probably use more plantain in each sandwich.  The frosting tasted cheesy enough without being out of place and while it made the sandwich gooey, it didn't ooze out of the sandwich, which I was thankful for.

If you want to make it on your own, here is the recipe:

Cinnamon Plantain Breakfast Sandwiches

  • 4 slices of cinnamon swirl bread
  • butter for bread
  • 1 sweet plantain
  • 1 Tbsp. buttermilk
  • 1 Tbsp. very soft cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

  1. butter each slice of bread and set aside
  2. peel the plantain and slice into long thin slices and then sprinkle with a little salt.  Saute in a little oil or butter over medium heat until golden brown on both sides
  3. sift the powdered sugar over the buttermilk and cream cheese and then whisk to combine.
  4. Brush some cream cheese icing on the non-buttered side of two pieces of bread and set face down in a skillet that has been on medium heat for about 5 minutes or until hot.  Add plantain strips and the other slices of bread butter side to make two sandwiches.  Griddle the bread for about 3 minutes per side or until golden brown.  Serve.
Stick with me because in a day or two I'm going to reveal how I was inspired by Lyndsay's breakfast fried rice bowl.  You won't want to miss it.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Inspired by Columbus: Iron Grill (part 2)

In my previous post I wrote about my experience at Iron Grill Barbecue and Brew, specifically focusing on a few of their more unique menu options.  In addition to the pulled pork nachos that inspired to me make my own pulled pork and coleslaw tacos, I was also inspired by the pulled pork Memphis burger on the menu.

But this time, instead of trying to take the same flavors and turn it into something different, I decided to play with the idea of a hamburger.  With the Memphis burger being inspired by Southern barbecue, I started to think about what other classic Southern flavors would lend themselves to a burger.  I quickly settled on a jambalaya burger.  

First, I had to decide what needed to stay to make the dish taste like jambalaya and would would need to go.  When I make jambalaya I make it with shredded chicken thighs, Andouille, and shrimp, so I knew I wanted to keep those ingredients.  I also wanted to keep the traditional flavors that come from onion, celery, bell pepper, thyme, garlic, and tomato.  In fact, the only thing I was really cutting out was the rice.  I decided to make a ground chicken patty with sauteed vegetables and herbs mixed in, topped with a thin sliced sauteed andouille and shrimp, and finished with a slice of tomato, ketchup, and cajun aioli.  

The first trick was the ground chicken.  You could purchase already ground chicken, though it sometimes hard to come by, but the real problem is that it is made with white meat and I really wanted the deeper flavor of chicken thighs.  So I purchased two pounds of boneless skinless chicken thighs, chopped them up into large chunks, and then pulsed them in batches in a food processor until they were finely ground.

Next I chopped up the onion, pepper, and celery into coarse chunks and pulsed them in a food processor until they were a very petite dice.  

Next, saute the diced vegetables with some minced garlic and thyme until soft and mix it in with the ground chicken when it is cool enough to handle.

Form the chicken into 8 patties and cook in batches over medium heat for 5 minutes per side.  Check it's temperature, if it hasn't reached an internal temperature of 170 degrees, finish it in a 400 degree oven until it reaches the correct temperature.

While the chicken burgers are cooking, slice 4 andouille sausages thin (about 5 or six pieces per sausage) and saute in batches in a separate skillet until starting to brown.

Peel and saute 8 jumbo shrimp until golden brown on each slide and then slice so they are half as thick.

Purchase or make your own cajun remoulade like this one. Toast your favorite hamburger bun, add the chicken patty, andouille strips, sliced shrimp, a slice of tomato, and ketchup and remoulade to taste. I had mine with some cajun potato salad from Weilands.  

Lyndsay and Isaac and I enjoyed our burgers with our friend Liz.  She suggested that in place of the potato salad some cajun flavored rice would even bring back the one part of the jambalaya I had left out.  If you want to make your own, here is the recipe in detail:

Jambalaya burgers

  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into large chunks (or 2 lbs ground chicken)
  • 1 rib of celery, chopped coarse
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped coarse
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped coarse
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 4 hotdog sized andouille sausages, each sliced thin into 5 or 6 pieces
  • 8 16/20 shrimp, peeled
  • 8 hamburger buns
  • 1 beefsteak tomato, sliced
  • cajun remoulade and ketchup
  1. Pulse half of the chicken in a food processor about 20 times until uniformly ground.  Transfer to a large bowl and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.  Clean out the food processor bowl.
  2. Pulse the chopped onion, celery, and bell pepper until it is petite diced.  Saute the vegetables with the minced garlic, thyme, and salt to taste in a little oil over medium heat until softened.  Let cool a few minutes before adding to the ground chicken.
  3. Mix the ground chicken with the sauteed vegetables and 1 tsp. salt until uniform and shape into 8 equal sized patties.  Saute over medium heat 5 minutes per side and then check the temperature.  If it is less than 170 degrees bake the patties at 400 degrees until it reaches the correct temperature.
  4. While the chicken is cooking saute the andouille strips and shrimp in a separate skillet over medium high heat until browned on each side.  After the shrimp is cooked slice it in half so it is half as thick.
  5. Toast the buns and then layer the chicken patties, andouille, shrimp, slice of tomato and andouille and ketchup to taste and serve.
See you next week with some ideas from a new Columbus restaurant.  Leave me a message in the comment section if you have any restaurant suggestions or anything you'd like to see in the blog.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Inspired by Columbus: Iron Grill (part 1)

Iron Grill Barbecue and Grill
5295 N. High St.
Columbus, OH
(614) 885-7444
Facebook page

You may remember Iron Grill by it's old name, Pig Iron BBQ.  But back in 2012, Eugene Staravecka, the owner of Gahanna Grill purchased and renovated the space.  What is clear about Iron Grill - from the name to the decor to the menu - is that it seeks to combine what people enjoy from both Gahanna Grill and Pig Iron BBQ.

My wife, son, and I headed there on a Saturday for lunch.  It was not very busy inside as most people were enjoying their meals and the great weather on the patio.  We were told we could sit wherever, so we walked through the modestly decorated wooden dining room. We found a booth in the back where we settled down to look at the menu.

The menu has a lot of enjoyable pub and fast casual staples divided into the usual categories: appetizers (like wings, onion rings, and potato skins), soups, salads, sandwiches and burgers. The menu is quite extensive, which is great since you need to please a wide variety of people, but can be a little daunting.

However, there were a few things that really stood out as being particularly interesting: pulled pork and sauerkraut "eggrolls" from the appetizer menu, pulled pork and chili nachos, the "Memphis Burger" and a few of the daily specials like the smoked pork loin, smoked prime rib, and a delicious and deadly-sounding dish called the "hog stack."  Knowing that the portions were pretty big, we only ordered the pulled pork nachos and the Memphis burger.

Lyndsay ordered the nachos sans jalapeno for $8.99 and I ordered the burger which was also $8.99.  The nachos are huge, easily two meals for the average diner or a great appetizer to share with a large group.  The flavors of the chili and pulled pork go well together.  The pork is tender and the homemade barbecue sauce is tasty and unique.  If I were to change this dish, I would probably layer the nachos a little better so the cheese and toppings are spread more evenly, but this is a problem I have with most nachos.

I've had a bacon cheeseburger before. I've had an onion ring on a burger before. I've had a pulled pork sandwich. But, I've never had all of them mixed together.  It should come as no surprise that all of these flavors work well together, but the real appeal of this dish is the myriad of textures you experience with every bite. Soft bun, crisp lettuce, tender pork, crunchy onion ring, and chewy burger, make this burger a delight to eat.  It is definitely one of my favorite specialty burgers I've had.

How I was Inspired

My first thought was to take the ingredients from my wife's nachos and change it up a little bit.  I decided that if I added a little coleslaw, they would make great tacos.  It just so happened that I had just made some pulled pork the previous day, so all I needed was some coleslaw, chili, cheese, and taco shells and I would be all set.

The great thing about these tacos is that they can be as easy or as complicated as you like.  You can go buy your favorite pulled pork (mine is Ray Ray's), a can of chili, some deli coleslaw, shells, and cheese and literally have no work to do.  I love to cook, so I made everything except for the shells.

You can make a decent pulled pork without a smoker either on your grill, using this recipe (which is what I did this time), or in your oven with this recipe (which I have done in the past).

Though I do enjoy a Texas-style chili, a ground-beef chili with tomato and kidney beans is what we got on our nachos at Iron Grill, so I made up a big pot of it using this recipe. I have to say, even though I only needed a little chili for the tacos, I'm not upset.  This week I'll also be eating chili cheese dogs, chili omelets, and chili mac.

Finally, I had to find a really great coleslaw recipe.  I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of coleslaw, and I've tried multiple recipes on my own and multiple iterations at restaurants.  But this recipe was really excellent.  The cabbage was still crisp, it wasn't waterlogged, and it had excellent flavor without being too thickly dressed, over-sweet, or overly vinegary.  

So now that I had all my components in place, I invited over my friends Zach and Libby and we all enjoyed these chili, pulled pork, and coleslaw tacos together.  Though each individual component has it's own recipe, here are a few things to remember when making these tacos

  1. Don't try to overfill the taco shells or you will have a mess on your hands and your basically back to nachos at that point.
  2. Start with just a little bit of chili on the bottom of the taco shell.
  3. Then add some mild cheddar, Monterrey jack, or your favorite Mexican cheese on top of the chili.
  4. Next, the thickest layer should be made up of the pulled pork.  Putting the cheese between the two hottest layers will help it melt faster.
  5. Finally, put a small amount of the coleslaw on top and enjoy.
So head on out to Iron Grill and get some classic dishes made better with a little barbecue. Let me know if there is a dish somewhere I should try, or if you would like any more info in later posts.  Later this week, I will do a short follow-up post where I reveal what dish the Memphis burger inspired me to create.  You won't want to miss it, it is going to be a tasty burger.