December 20, 2011

Potato Latkes for Hanukkah

Been a while since I have put anything up, but tonight that all changes. It is the first night of Hanukkah and tonight I made my "World Famous in my House" latkes! These were made the old fashioned way, with love and a knuckle busting grater. Sure, I could have taken the easy way out with the food processor. Going old school just seemed a little more satisfying when it came to the finished product.

The process of making latkes starts with peeling tons of potatoes. Sure, you can do this with a peeler. However, this method can take forever and can be frustrating if your peeler is dull or old. If you are skilled with a knife, you can peel potatoes lightning fast and this was the route I went. Put your potatoes in ice cold water after they are peeled. This will help prevent them from turning brown after you peel them and especially after you grate them.

The recipe for latkes is pretty simple. Bag of potatoes, 1 onion, 1 egg, a couple tablespoons of flour, kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste. You can substitute flour for baking powder or even potato starch, which I will get to in a bit.

Step 1: Grate your onion. Doing this first will further help prevent from your potatoes turning brown right away.

Step 2: Grate your potatoes. As you grate them into the bowl be sure to toss it with your onions. You will want to use both sides of the grater, one to get some thicker pieces of potato and the other to get more of a fine grate. I will usually use about 2/3rds of the potatoes on the larger side and the remaining third on the finer grate. Once you are done grating you will then take your potatoes & onions and place them in a cheese cloth, which is placed in a strainer. You want to get out as much water as possible. While your mixture is draining you can then start to heat up your oil in your pans. You want just enough oil that will cover your latkes, but not so much that they are submerged.

Step 3: Take your mixture from the cheese cloth, squeeze out one more time to make sure it is as dry as possible. Hot oil and water don't mix, so you want to be sure all the water is out at this stage. You will then add in your egg, flour, salt and pepper. Mix well by hand so everything is coated. Here is where you can substitute the flour for potato starch. When your mixture was draining into the bowl through the cheese cloth, water wasn't the only thing coming out. When you pour the water out of the bowl you will have a thick substance on the bottom. That is potato starch. You can flake it off with a fork and combine that back into your mixture. I did not do that for this batch, but I have done so in the past.

Step 4: Take a mixing spoon, scoop up some of your mixture, press it into the spoon, and then place it into the oil by turning your spoon over in the pan. Then press down on the latke. Once the latke becomes golden brown, on the bottom and edges, you will flip them and wait for the same process to finish on that side. Once this is complete you will remove from the pan and set on paper towel to dry.

Step 5: Now it is time to plate & eat. Garnish with some freshly cut scallions and serve with sour cream & applesauce. Personally I enjoy eating them with both side items, but it is all a personal preference thing. Some like just applesauce. Some just like sour cream. Some like them simply naked. Either way, there is no wrong way to enjoy a latke and these were very much enjoyed by us tonight!

For dessert we went with the traditional Hanukkah dessert of jelly doughnuts. You can further read about the meaning of this here:

June 19, 2011

Father's Day Dinner

This Father's Day marked a first in this house when it comes to cooking dinner. For the first time in the 9 plus years that my wife and I have been together, tonight was the first time she has ever cooked dinner for me. She isn't the most skilled in the kitchen, so it is just better if I handle the cooking duties. That being said, she pulled a rabbit out of the hat tonight and whipped up a very nice meal for her first time out of the box. I let her plan it all, prepare everything, cook it all, and then serve me. I figured of she was doing the first three that she might as well do the latter as well. :)

Here is a run down of what she made tonight:

Publix's recipe for "Party Chicken and Broccoli Salad". We had this a few months ago at my Aunt's house and she told my wife how easy it was to make. My wife insisted she could make it, if it was that easy, so today was her day to put that to the test. She passed.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Cheese
You can see the recipe for this dish below in the pictures. I was grab a picture of the laptop screen when she wasn't looking.

I was not allowed in the kitchen, thought I did sneak in to grab a few pictures, so I can't tell you for sure how she made everything. I can tell you thought that everything was cooked, or in the case of the broccoli salad and pie, and mixed very nicely. She earned herself another shot at cooking some point down the line.

Strawberry Creme Pie
I sort of assisted with this dessert as the three ingredients are Cool Whip, Strawberry Yogurt, and a ready to go pie crust.

My wife was going to buy Yoplait's Strawberry Yogurt. I convinced her that the Strawberry Greek Yogurt was the way to go, and it made all the difference in the world. Greek Yogurt is creamier and has a much sharper taste. It lent itself perfectly to this dessert when mixed with the Cool Whip.

June 05, 2011

Fall Off The Bone Rib Perfection

There are people out there that say you can't make great ribs on a gas grill. I am here to now tell you differently. These ribs that I made today were every bit as good as those smoked on a charcoal grill, or dare I say a Big Green Egg (BGE). Only difference were that these ribs lacks some of the smokiness that you will find with those latter methods. These were prepared and cooked the same exact way as you would via charcoal, but instead was cooked over indirect heat on a gas grill.

I prepared these ribs by first removing the silver skin on the back and trimming away some of the excess fat. Once that was completed, I then rubbed down the pork ribs in a little honey mustard before applying the the dry rub to every inch of the rack. The honey mustard was an experiment, since I was out of regular mustard, and it proved to be a nice compliment to the spicy bite of the dry rub.

After a lot of tinkering with the heat on the grill I was able to get it set to just a little over 250 degrees. This was barely having on the flames on the 2 outer burners. I then places some soaked apple wood chips in the middle in hopes that I could get that flavor up to the ribs. I knew I wouldn't get the smoke that I normally would get with a charcoal grill, but that didn't matter as I got tons of flavor into the ribs as is. The smell from the ribs and the apple wood chips were amazing and this couldn't have worked out better. I also sprayed down the ribs every 30 min or so with a 50/50 combo of apple juice and apple cider vinegar.

Cooking time was pretty easy as well thanks to the heat being perfectly regulated. I let these go 2 hours on the top rack, 2 hours wrapped up in foil, and then one more hour back on the rack as I applied the sauce. Two applications of the sauce did the trick and these ribs were done.

As you can see by the pics these ribs were not only a thing of beauty but were also cooked to perfection. The meat fell right off the bones, was moist, and had flavor for days.

If you are one that has been afraid to try and cook ribs on a gas grill, I am here to tell you that it can be done and be done easily.

June 03, 2011

Slider Nirvana at Sammy Greens

This was my second visit to @SammyGreens, a locally owned slider restaurant near downtown in Savannah on Abercorn. I could swear that I posted about my initial visit where I ate the Chee Booger and the Danang. However, for whatever reason I can't find it on we march forward with posting about the my second trip.

The process at Sammy Greens is very simple: Walk up to the counter, place your order, have a seat, and feast when your food is brought out to you. Everything is made fresh, but doesn't take long to prepare being that they are small in size. On this trip I ate the Windy City, a Hogzilla, and a Chee Booger (because it is that good).

The Windy City is a Chicago style slider that packs the best of the Chicago Dog into just a couple of bites. This split mini dog is topped with diced banana peppers, minced onion, diced tomato, pickled cucumbers, relish, lettuce, celery salt and mustard. This dog was messy, but oh so good. It was so good that I am tempted to just order a couple of these on the next trip and nothing else.

The Hogzilla is a slow roasted pork shoulder that has been pulled and then pressed together into a patty. Cole slaw, pickles, and their own BBQ sauce round out this pork slider. It was very good, but not one that will have me running back there to try again. I am much more of a fan of their brisket than the pork.

That leads me to the last slider, the Chee Booger. As I stated before, this slider is so good that it is almost a staple to have on your plate each and every visit. Slow roasted brisket, cooked to perfection, is the star of the show, but everything on this slider comes together perfectly. Topped with smothered onions, pickles, American cheese, mustard and Tschirky Sauce...every bit of this slider should be savored.

The menu at Sammy Greens features different sides each week, salads, and a host of other sliders on the pork, brisket, chicken, and hot dog scale. Size wise, 2-3 sliders will have you full and happy when you walk out the door. Also, at around $2.50 a slider...they won't kill your wallet.

Sammy Greens on Urbanspoon

June 02, 2011

Great, cheap lunch in Athens at Cali n Titos...

Great little lunch spot. This a a Latin restaurant, and really has a nice little vibe, with a lot of little kitsch items around and some modern Latin pop music playing. It looks like something you would find in an ethnic Miami neighborhood, or even in Cuba. The menu seemed geared toward quick service things, and the sandwich items all looked awesome. They have tacos, traditional Cuban sandwiches, as well as other items that I didn't really have a chance to review. I should have stolen a menu, but you can see an older one here. Many of the items are the same.

I went with the Cubano sandwich. They offer it with steak, chicken, or chorizo and eggs. It comes with lettuce, tomato, mayo, jalapenos, onions and a little cilantro. The bread was great, with a nice, crisp crust that gave a good texture on the bit. The steak appeared to be a marinated flank steak, and there was plenty of meat in the sandwich.

For my side, I chose the tostones (fried green plantains smashed into small wafers similar to thick potato chips). Those tostones were off the hook! They were not greasy at all, and were not overly salty. They were also dusted with what appeared to be a small amount of parmesan cheese. Other sides offered were fries, maduros (fried sweet plantain {I really want to try these next time}), and yuca frita (fried yuca {cassava}).

The sandwiches were all sold as combos for around $7, which was the sandwich, a side, and a canned drink. The sandwiches are a very good size and are plenty of food for a lunch or dinner. The drinks are canned drinks, but they do offer some fresh juices as well, I believe. the selection of drinks is pretty varied, as well. In addition to the standard Coke/Diet Coke/Sprite/Tea, they offer common Latin soft drinks like Postobon (an apple soft drink), Colombiana (made by Postobon, more of a cream soda type), Inka Cola, and other popular Latin brands.

Sadly, I was so consumed by eating a damn good sandwich that I didn't remember to take any pictures until I had already eaten half of it. The photos are bad and do not do justice to the food.

A few things to note:
They don't take credit/debit cards.Lunch crowds can create long lines, but the food wait is minimal.The patio is covered and there are fans, but it could be uncomfortable during summer. They don't have a liquor license, but for $2.00 per person you can BYOB. Parking can be an issue when busy (he bought the car wash next door to help with this). This restaurant is a must visit in Athens, IMO. I am definitely going back to try some of the other combos. And for the guys--the ambient scenery is fantastic!

May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Cookout - Meats on Sticks

Memorial Day is a time to pay honor to those that have served before us and for those that currently do everything that they can to protect and serve our great country. However, the holiday does mean one more thing and this is cookouts. It is the "official" start to the summer cookout season. All across the country grills were fired up and meats were smoked or grilled to perfection. My house was no different on this Memorial Day.

This year I decided to go the meats on sticks route and went with beef and chicken kabobs. A good kabob is a thing of beauty and will leave you plenty satisfied. Some like to put their meat and veggies on the same skewers, but I choose to have the meat on their own and the vegetables on another. Only reason for this is because of the cooking times. Everything was marinated in the same Gourmet Warehouse of Hilton Head's Low Country Marinade. This stuff goes great with anything and played perfect with this selection of meats and vegetables.

As for the rest of the meal, I decided to make a pasta salad and then bought some potato salad from Publix. Just wasn't in the mood to make the potato salad this morning and the red skin homestyle one at Publix is pretty darn good. The pasta salad was just pasta, peas, onions, garlic, cherry tomatoes, feta, and Newman's Own Light Lime Dressing. Just a little of this goes a long way and this salad was perfectly dressed. A few hours chilling in the fridge gave the pasta salad time to get to the right serving temp and for the flavors in the dressing to work their way into every bite of the salad.

Nothing tops off a cookout quite like fresh ice cold watermelon, and this cookout was no different. Seedless might be on the label, but I don't think I have ever run across a watermelon that was 100% seedless. This was pretty close, but still no cigar.

Hope everyone had a great Memorial Day holiday weekend.

May 29, 2011

Anniversary Dinner 2011

Manuel's Bread Cafe, @manuelbreadcafe, is one of those gems in the CSRA that I am not sure many know about. Tucked away into the North Augusta community of Hammond's Ferry, Manuel's is so much more than what its name lends one to believe. Sure, they do have some of the finest local breads made and they do serve 3 meals a day on the corner of a street like a neighborhood cafe. However, Manuel's is not your typical cafe in terms of the exceptional French cooking and the fresh produce from the neighborhood farm, Blue Clay Farms.

Chef Manuel Verney-Carron has brought his classical French training to the Augusta area with a very nice twist, and the menu is seasonal to boot with specials changing daily. The bread was exceptional, and Manuel sells his breads in the restaurant and at the local farmers markets in the area. The food was outstanding. The atmosphere was amazing. The service was first class.

Upon arrival we walked into the restaurant to see a giant black board above the bar that listed all the various specials for each course. At the front of the board was a Happy Anniversary greeting just for us. Nice touch to make us feel welcome, especially on our first visit to your restaurant. We did notice the impressive dessert display to our left as well when we walked in. I will get back to that later on.

We were then seated in the movie room. One of the nice touches is that they play old French movies on the wall in the back room. There is no volume on for these, but that didn't matter as I was reading out the subtitles and acting out the parts myself. There wasn't anyone else back there us at that point in time, so I could get away with acting a fool for those few minuets. They did give us an interesting selection for a movie being that it was our Anniversary dinner...Diary of a Chambermaid.

Our first course consisted of my wife getting a Caprisi Salad and I went with the French Onion Soup. The FOS was made with a combo stock of beef, veal, and lamb. The flavor was off the charts and though this didn't look like the most impressive FOS ever, the taste test told something different. It was by far one of the best bowls of FOS I have ever had. As for the Caprisi Salad, only one word can describe this...fresh. Just something to be said for local produce that is picked that day. It really does make all the difference in the world between fine dining and your chain restaurants.

For the main course I ate the Surf and Turf while my wife had the Raviolli. I wish I could remember the cheese combo, and spices, that were in the Raviolli (it was one of the chefs specials for the night)but I don't. Just know that it was heavy but damn near perfect. It was some of the best raviollis I have ever tasted. As for my surf and turf...the fillet was cooked to perfection and the the dish itself was quite refreshing. I was told that the shrimp was going to have a strong licorice taste/smell to it, but I had neither. The shrimp were cooked in Pernod. I love licorice, so that wouldn't have been a bad thing. However, it really wasn't that strong or over powering. Just great dishes all the way around.

We saved a little room for dessert and headed over to the case for our deliberation on which amazing piece of cake we wanted. Having trouble deciding the waitress told us that we could have a sampler plate with 3 slivers of cake. Slivers doesn't sound that bad, so that is what we went with. All I wanted was the Goat Cheese Cheesecake, so that was our first selection. I told my wife to pick out whatever else she wanted to try. She selected the Peanut Butter Cake and a Triple Chocolate Cake that was wrapped in fudge. When our plate came out we quickly learned that a sliver at Manuel's is like 2 pieces of cake. No way in the world we were going to make a dent in this plate, let alone finish it. The cheesecake was off the charts good and the other two were amazing, but way to rich for my blood. Still...they were all so gooooooood.

After dinner we took a nice walk through the neighborhood and down by the Savannah River. A beautiful sunset capped off an amazing dinner. If you live in the area, do yourself a favor and check out Manuel's. Planning a trip to Augusta? Make sure you add Manuel's to your must eat list of restaurants.

Manuel's Bread Cafe on Urbanspoon