Monday, September 22, 2014

Inspired by Columbus - Taste of Dublin

Taste of Dublin (Sept. 17, 2014)
The Conference Center at OCLC
6600 Kilgour Pl.
Dublin, OH
Facebook Page
(next event Sept. 22, 2015)

If you've never been to a "Taste of" event (there is also Taste of the Future, and probably others) they are a lot of fun.  After purchasing a ticket, you can sample any or all of the provided by the vendors.  In the case of Taste of Dublin, the vendors are either local to Dublin, have one of their locations in Dublin, or just wanted to add to the festivities regardless of location (looking at you Tip Top). There are also drink stations scattered around the event where you can get up to two complimentary beverages (beer, wine, soda, or water). Lyndsay and I got a babysitter and spent a few hours on a date (probably the last one before the baby is born) just sampling food and enjoying each others company.

There were vendors and sponsors spread outside and inside, making the event feel like it had four distinct areas to peruse.  The event was sold out, so it was nice to be able to move from place to place as needed to get out of the crowds, though it did take us awhile to figure out where everything was. One thing I always like about these kinds of events is that there are so many vendors it is fun to find out where the real standouts are.  Because when you have Costco and Jeni's a stone throw from each other you know you are going to get a wide range of things to try.

One of the standouts was Fresh Thyme Market. They had a beautiful display and many things to sample, including bacon candy, stuffed grape leaves, watermelon gazpacho, hummus and fruit.  However, the real standouts were their cheeses.  I had a fantastic Iberico cheese and a nice brie with fig spread.  They also had a strawberries and marscapone in a candied sesame seed cone, which was very creative and had a nice blend of salt and sweet.

Tip Top had maybe the nicest display of the evening and to compliment they had their chicken salad in mini-phyllo cups and freshly made smoked gouda grilled cheese sandwiches. Right next to them was one of the most well-balanced dishes of the day, described in the picture above.  This was, I believe, prepared by Brookside Golf and Country Club.

Matt the Miller's Tavern played a pretty good (albeit unintentional) trick on people, such as myself, who didn't take the time to read before stuffing their face.  I thought I was getting homemade chips and salsa and was very pleasantly surprised when I found it was a delicious raw gingery Ahi tuna on a wonton triangle.  I should make this version of chips and salsa for a party sometime.

But my very favorite dish of the evening was made by The Morgan House Restaurant. This grilled cheese sandwich was perfection.  It was made fresh with two kinds of very complimentary cheeses and served with the best Tomato Bisque I've ever had.  I knew as soon as I ate it that I wanted to do my own adult grilled cheese at home this week.

How I was Inspired

After enjoying my fig brie from Fresh Thyme and my grilled cheese from The Morgan House Restaurant I got to thinking about how much I enjoy bacon-wrapped stuffed figs and knew this was the direction I wanted to take my sandwich in.

Like all great grilled cheese sandwiches you don't need much to make it great and there really isn't a set recipe to follow.  Get your favorite sandwich bread or make your own, crisp fry the best bacon you can find (I recommend the double smoked or pepper bacon from Thurns) get a small wheel of brie, some salted butter, a griddle, and you're good to go.

The trick to making a really great grilled cheese sandwich is all about how much butter you put on your bread and the temperature of the griddle.  For the butter, you shouldn't be scraping as thin as possible, nor should it be thick and gloppy.  The temperature, well, that depends on the type of griddle you are using and the type of heat source you are using.  On my stove-top griddle shown here, I used the largest gas burner on my stove set just slightly below medium heat.  I let it preheat for exactly five minutes and I cooked the sandwiches for 

exactly three minutes on each side.
But if you were using a thicker or thinner griddle, are smaller or larger burner, or an electric griddle, these things can change dramatically, making the sandwich burn quickly or soak the butter into the bread, making the sandwich soggy. For this reason it is good to experiment with grilled cheese sandwiches until you get the hang of them with your equipment and then don't deviate from that.  I hate cooking grilled cheese at someone else's house because I always ruin at least one sandwich.  I also find this to be true with pancakes.

For these sandwiches, after spreading the butter on the bread I quickly spread a thin layer of the fig spread on the bread after it was already put on the hot griddle.  It is important that you use as little fig spread as possible to cover the bread because it is very sweet and will overpower the other ingredients quickly.  Then I added slices of brie and slices of the crisp bacon and topped it with the other slice of buttered bread.

And there you have it, six minutes later and my family is eating a delicious salty sweet, crunchy gooey, perfect grilled cheese sandwich that I think would fit in well at The Morgan House.  Be sure to check out next year's Taste of Dublin or Taste of the Future.  Next week, I'll be bringing a recipe inspired by my trip to local orchard and fall festival.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Inspired by Columbus: Roosters - part 2

Sorry for the delay on this post.  To make it up to you, I will do two posts this week.  As promised, I wanted to introduce you to Korean fried chicken wings, which I often think about fondly after eating Roosters Sweet Thai Chile wings pictured above.  These wings and their sauce are quite easy to make and they are so good.

Start by tossing some chicken wing sections in salt and cornstarch in a large bowl until the wings are well coated. Whisk together some additional cornstarch with water and then toss the sections in this mixture to coat.

Fry in small batches in 375 degree oil until the for about 5 minutes and then using tongs, a skimmer, or a slotted spoon remove the wings and set aside on a cooling rack placed in a 200 degree oven.  Fry the remaining batch or batches in the same way making sure the oil gets back up to 375 degrees in between each batch.  

Fry each batch a second time until they are golden brown, putting the finished batches in a large bowl.

Simmer some minced garlic, sugar, soy sauce, water, sriracha, and rice vinegar together in a saucepan until thickened.  Toss the wings with sauce and serve.  You can also add some minced cilantro and thin sliced scallion when tossing for additional flavor and color.

Korean Fried Chicken Wings
  • 2 quarts vegetable oil
  • 3.5 lbs chicken wing pieces
  • 1.5 c. cornstarch
  • 1.25 c. water 
  • .5 c. sugar
  • .25 c. soy sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. sriracha
  • 1 Tbsp. minced cilantro
  • 2 scallions, sliced thin
  1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees and heat oil in a large stockpot or dutch oven over medium high heat to 375 degrees.
  2. While the oil heats, toss the wing pieces and 1/2 cup cornstarch in a large bowl.  Whisk together the remaining 1 cup cornstarch and 1 cup of water until smooth.  Toss the wing pieces with the cornstarch slurry until the wings are well coated.  
  3. When the oil gets up to temperature add 1/3 or 1/2 of the wings (depending on pot size, do not overcrowd).  Stir the pieces to prevent sticking and cook for 5 minutes.  Remove with tongs, a skimmer, or slotted spoon to a wire rack set over a cookie sheet in the oven.  Fry and remove the remaining batches in the same manner, making sure the oil temperature gets back up in between batches.
  4. Fry the first batch a second time until deep golden-brown, about 5 more minutes.  Transfer the finished wings to a large bowl and repeat with the remaining batches.
  5. Simmer the sugar, remaining 1/4 cup water, soy sauce, minced garlic, vinegar and sriracha or medium heat until syrupy.  Toss the finished with the sauce and cilantro and scallions if desired and serve.
In the next couple of days I'm going to let you about an event Lyndsay and I went to called Taste of Dublin and some of the great food we had there.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Inspired by Columbus: Roosters - part 1

Roosters may have started in Dayton and is now in multiple states, but with 10 locations it is the Columbus area that has embraced this "fun, casual joint" the most heartily. I have tried sauced wings all over the city and I will admit to having a bias towards Roosters even before this post.

If you've never been before, Roosters has the feel of a large sports bar.  This means lots of muted TV's, beer signs, and in Roosters case, colorful sayings posted all over the walls.  It often feels busy, and a little loud, but because it has so much seating I have never had to wait for a table.  All the staff work quickly so no matter how busy it is I have never found the service to be lacking.

The sports bar aesthetic continues through the menu  which focuses heavily on wings and other fried foods as well as burgers, sandwiches, pizzas, and salads. One thing I like about Roosters is that everything I have had there has been pretty good, though the wings are an obvious standout. The food is also very reasonably priced; I often pay less for a full-service meal here than a trip to a food-truck.

Honestly, besides the wings, I can never decide on which appetizer I want.  Taking a queue from the state fair they have a lot of foods deep-fried for easier consumption like mini corn dogs, fried pickles, mac-and-cheese bites, fried mushrooms, and that's just to name a few. I ordered the mac-and-cheese bites and Isaac always orders the mini corn dogs kids meal so I borrowed them for the picture.  I also got some wings half Carolina gold and half Sweet Thai Chile.  Finally, Lyndsay, who couldn't really handle all the fried goodness ordered the Cobb salad.  As expected everything was excellently prepared, best in it's class without breaking any boundaries.  

How I was Inspired
Part 2 will focus on the wings, but my first, and more interesting idea was to take the concept of deep-frying foods and apply it to something that isn't normally deep-fried. I decided to take traditional Spanish tapas and give it the sports bar treatment by battering and breading it.  After looking at a lot of options I settled on Chorizo stuffed mushrooms, Spanish meatballs, and Manchego cheese.

To make the Spanish meatball I started by soaking some bread in milk until it was soft enough to be beaten into a paste.  Then I added ground beef and pork, parsley, egg, salt and pepper, garlic, and Manchego cheese, mixed thoroughly and rolled it into 3/4" balls (any bigger and they will be too hard to eat in one bite).

To accompany the meatballs I made a sauce with onions, tomatoes, broth, wine, and picada which is a mixture of  finely chopped almonds, minced garlic, saffron, and parsley added after the sauce is finished simmering.

The mushrooms and Manchego cheese were really easy.  I removed the stems from some white mushrooms and then filled them with raw chorizo.  I removed the rind on the cheese and then cut it into small cubes.

I made a thick batter (think pancake batter), put some panko in small bowl, and battered each piece then rolled it in panko.  The most important thing I learned in the process was that the dripping batter quickly made the panko unusable so use small amounts at a time and wipe out the bowl regularly. Also, for the Manchego, freeze them after breading for at least an hour so the cheese is less likely to ooze out.  I fried the pieces in stock pot containing 1 quart of 375 degree oil until they were golden brown as shown above.

You'll notice that only the mushrooms, pictured in the back, look right.  This is because I ran out of panko as a result of the problem I mentioned above.  But, they still tasted pretty darn good, though not as crunchy as the mushrooms, which were amazing.  I topped the mushrooms and Manchego with a drizzle of honey and smoked paprika.

Recipe for deep-fried tapas (serves 6 as an entree or 10 as an appetizer)

  • 2 slices of white bread, torn into quarters
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 8 oz. ground beef
  • 8 oz. ground pork
  • 3 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • pinch pepper
  • 1 small onion, minced 
  • 1 small tomato, minced
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped almonds
  • 1/4 tsp. crumbled saffron threads
  • 14 tsp. paprika
  • 9 oz. Manchego cheese, rind cut off, 1 oz. shredded, the rest cubed
  • 12 oz. white mushrooms, stems removed
  • 1/3 lb. uncased chorizo sausage
  • smoked paprika and honey for garnish

Oil, Batter and breading

  • 1 quart vegetable oil
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • water to get it to the desired consistency
  • 4 cups panko
  1. Combine the milk and the bread and let it sit for a few minutes until saturated.  Mash it into a paste and then add the ground meat, shredded cheese, 1 clove minced garlic, 2 Tbsp. minced parsley, salt, pepper, and egg and mix until uniform.  Form the meat into 3/4" meatballs and set aside.
  2. Saute the onion over medium heat until very soft and lightly browned.  Add the tomato and cook for 1 minute.  Add the broth, wine, and bay leaves and simmer until thickened.  Mash together the remaining minced garlic, minced parsley, almonds, saffron, and paprika and stir this into the mixture after it has finished cooking.
  3. Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium high heat until it reaches a temperature of 375 degrees. While it is heating, mix the the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, and water to make a thick, but still drippy batter.  Put a little bit of panko in shallow pan. Have 2 baking sheets ready.  Dip each cheese cube into the batter with a long skewer and then roll in the panko, adding more panko and cleaning the dish as needed to prevent clumping.  Set each cheese cube on one of the baking sheets and put in the freezer. Repeat with the meatballs and mushrooms, but do not freeze them.  
  4. Once the oil is ready, fry the meatballs in batches first, pulling them out when they they are deep golden brown with a pair of tongs or a skimmer and setting them on a paper towel lined plate.  Repeat with the mushrooms, then finally the semi-frozen cheese.  Check your oil temperature from time-to-time to make sure it is staying hot enough.
  5. Serve the meatballs with the sauce and garnish the meatballs and mushrooms with some honey drizzle and smoked paprika.

Stick with me because next week I will show you how to make Korean-style fried chicken wings, which I would put up against any wing I've ever had.