Gourmet Hot-Pockets; or German Pretzel Calzones

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From: Daniel Larkin
To: Jamey Bennett

I know you’re not a bread man, but I also know you’ve agreed to eat my sourdough the next time you’re in my kitchen. So maybe you can find someway to make this happen in your house in the meantime.

Have you ever made pretzels? I hadn’t, but seeing as how this is the first Oktoberfest since I’ve really (half) mastered the art of the dough, I thought I would give it a shot. I wanted to make pretzels, but I also wanted to do something a little more exciting, so I came up with the idea of stuffed pretzels. And what better German foods to stuff into pretzel dough than pork and cabbage? I’m sure I’m not the first person to do something this, but this recipe was 100% Daniel.

Since reading The Butcher’s Guide to Well Raised Meat, I’ve been obsessed with pork, and not just pork, but overlooked cuts of the pig. And at the Three Rivers Co-op in Knoxville, there’s usually a few packages of local country-style pork ribs from Jem Farm. Country pork ribs are a cheap, fatty cut that more resembles tiny, super fatty ribeye steaks than the traditional image of pork ribs. Cheap + fatty = YES!

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My idea was simple; roast some pork and cabbage, stuff it into pretzel dough, cook it on my stone. The only adaptation I had to add was to boil the pocketed mess before baking. (Boiling is apparently the key to good pretzels and bagels.)

So here we go:

Filling:
About a pound of country style pork ribs.
Onion (I used 4 chipolline onions – think a hybrid yellow onion and shallot)
About 1/4 head cabbage
2 tbs Dijon mustard. I use Lusty Monk Original Sin
6 Juniper berries dried
1 tsp caraway seeds
Broth (I used homemade chiclet broth)
High heat oil
Salt and pepper to taste

This is easy peasy. It’ll save dishes if you use an all metal pan, which you can use on the stove and in the oven.

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1) Preheat oven to 225º.

2) Salt and pepper room temperature ribs, and sear on high heat for 30 seconds each side, or until brown. Remove from pan.

3) Sautee the onions in the remaining fat and oil until clear.

4) Deglaze the pan with a few tablespoons of broth, and add the cabbage to the onion mix. Add enough extra broth to simmer, but no smother, the cabbage. Simmer for 5 minutes.

5) Stack the pork ribs in the pan, placing some of the cabbage and onion mix above the ribs and some below it. Cover tightly with tin foil and place it in the oven for at least three hours.

6) When done, set aside to cool, preferably in the fridge, where the fat will congeal. When it’s cool, find and remove the juniper berries.

Dough:

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1) Preheat oven to 450º, with a pizza stone if you have one.

2) Look up a pretzel recipe, and do that. (I used my regular sourdough pizza dough recipe, and it worked great.)

3) Instead of rolling your dough into neat little tubes and making pretzels, roll it into an even number of flat square (or circles, just make sure they’re roughly the same size). Given this recipe, you can expect to make 4 good sized pockets, which means you’ll need 8 dough plates.

4) Stack your meat into the center of the dough, and over with a matching piece of dough.

5) Brush the edges with egg wash (Egg wash wlll be in your pretzel recipe, I guarantee it.) and place a second piece of dough on top. Press the edges together with a fork. (You can see from my pictures that I went with the single-piece/fold method, but that created a few thick dough pockets that would be avoided by using the ravioli method.)

6) Boiling will also be in your pretzel recipe, along with a recommended ration of water to baking soda. I recommend not skipping this step, since it really gives the chewy consistency you want. Sooooo…..boil your hot pocket for 30 seconds, flipping it once in the middle.

7) Remove the pocket from the water, let it sit for a minute to cool, and then brush it with egg wash and sprinkle it with kosher salt.

8) Bake it until the crust is a deep, even brown.

9) Let that shit cool for a while! Maybe drink an Ayinger Oktoberfest will you wait.

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Dude, this is pure American indulgence, but the flavor is strictly German. The pork mix is good enough to just eat by itself, but when it’s wrapped in a brown, chewy pretzel, it just makes you want to listen to oomph music and get hammered. I served it with a heaping scoop of Lusty Monk mustard on the side, which just fueled the need for more beer. It was a heavenly cycle of burn and belly bomb.

As you can see, I also made some straight-up pretzels for Jenny. Her reaction was, and this is an exact quote; “What the hell, Daniel?! You can make pretzels?”

Shit just got out of hand! “Italian” Mac-n-Cheese

from Daniel Larkin
to Jamey

I know I had mentioned to you about a week ago that I was planning on making some Southern Mac ‘n Cheese. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on who you ask) things got a little out of hand, and my simple comfort food spiraled into a whole different genre of dairy-and-pasta. Here’s how it all started.

I’ve made good Mac ‘n Cheese in the past, so good in fact that Jenny and my mother in-law both requested it for their birthday meals. Personally, I like my recipe, but I’ve never been a fan of fact that it’s kind of bullshit in that it’s just pasta, a roux with milk, and Velveeta. It tastes good. Obviously it should, Velveeta is engineered to hit every one of my fat-man sensors, but it’s too processed to warrant any real pride.

Well I recently found a squash “souffle” recipe that caught my eye, and its gooey consistency was perfect for what I wanted. So that’s where this all began. I say “began” because things really did get out of hand; I ran out of things, let time lapse on a few occasions, and ended up generally winging it.

Now before I lay this all out, I want to express my disgust for food companies that think adding a tiny bit of olive oil and a smidgen of shitty parmesan cheese to an already substandard product makes it “Italian” and therefore “gourmet.” Bullshit!  Italian food starts from the beginning concept, and is always about freshness! That’s why I refuse to call this Italian Mac ‘n Cheese.  This was all a happy accident that ended up using a few “Italian” components. But it’s kind of Italian Mac ‘n Cheese.

Here’s the ingredient list:

  •     12 Ounces whole wheat pasta spirals – cooked al dente, cooled
  •     3/4 pint cherry tomatoes – halved
  •     Bunch fresh basil
  •     Extra virgin olive oil
  •     Good shaved parmesan
  •     Handful fresh parsley
  •     2 Eggs — separated

For the sauce:

  •     2 tbs Butter
  •     2 tbs All purpose flour
  •     8 oz. block of good cheddar – shredded
  •     One cup whole cottage cheese.  None of that low fat bullshit.
  •     1-1/2 cups whole milk
  •     1-1/2 tsp salt, pepper to taste
  •     3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  •     Red pepper flakes to taste. (Late thought.  I didn’t try it, but it would certainly work wonders)

Toss your sliced grape tomatoes and chopped garlic in olive oil and roast them in the oven at 400º for 10 to 15 minutes — until they become fragrant.

Now, make the darkest roux you can with the butter and flour.  (Melt the butter over low heat, add the flour, and cook on LOW stirring often, until you get the color of cardboard.  If it smells like burning cardboard, you went too hot and need to start again.)

Add the milk to the roux and stir while you continue to simmer.  This will turn into a velvety rich cream.

Adding the cheese will cause the sauce to cool a bit.  That’s fine, because we want it a bit cool before we add the egg yolks.  After you’ve added the cheese and egg yolks, take the egg whites and whip them until they’re nice and frothy.

The rest is simple.  Just toss everything together in an oven safe dish; pasta, cheese sauce, roasted tomatoes and garlic, parsley and egg whites.  Top it all off with a sparse, but noticeable layer of parmesan and cover it.  Place the covered dish in an oven that has been preheated to 350º and bake for 30 minutes.

NOW!  Like I said, some of my personal timing was off.  Like an idiot, I tried to work out while this was cooking, and I let it go for close to an hour.  While that made for good burnt cheese sides (yumm!) it also dried everything out a bit.  I rolled with the punches and tried to moisten it up with late addition of cold, clean olive oil, which really breathed a breath of freshness that elevated everything to the next level.

So serve, scoop out a good portion, top with some chopped fresh basil and a good drizzle of fresh olive oil.

There you go, dude.  It may sound like a bit much for Mac ‘n Cheese, but it turned out wonderful.  Jenny and her mother both said it was better than the Velveeta version.  And that’s something I can actually be proud of.

from Jamey W. Bennett
to me

YUM! I do not believe one can go too far with mac n cheese. I always tell people when raving about Stone Brewing Company to drop the $18 on their mac n cheese, because it’s worth every penny. Sounds like you have $18-grade mac n cheese!

As far as the roux and burnt cardboard…I think that’s where I went wrong on my mac n cheese back at Easter. I knew immediately what you meant when you said that.

(Pickled) Scotch Eggs

from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin

Hey Dude,

We’ve talked a bit about your pickled eggs and your enjoyment of sausage. Well, I’m going to tell you how to make awesome Scotch eggs, and it’s super easy. In fact, if I were a betting man, I’d bet that you already make some kick ass Scotch eggs for your hikes. (Actually, I pickled Scotch egg is, I guess, called a Manchester egg. Or at least that’s what Google seems to tell me.)

Here’s all you need:

  • Pickled eggs – For the batch in the picture, I had three pickled chicken eggs, and 10 pickled quail eggs. I had regular pickled eggs, fermented beet juice pickled eggs, sweet Sriracha pickled eggs, and buffalo pickled eggs. More on that another time…
  • 1 lb breakfast sausage – Tube sausage, or get fresh stuff from Whole Foods or somewhere and squeeze them out of the casings. I like sage in my breakfast sausage.
  • 2 fresh eggs
  • 1 tbs Worchestershire sauce
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs
  • Deep fryer, or a pretty deep layer of oil in a skillet to fry at least 1/2 an egg at a time

1. Simple. Here’s all you do. Carefully and evenly cover each of the eggs with sausage. Put them on a plate or a tray as you cover them, and stick them in the freezer for about 15 minutes.

2. Crack the eggs into a bowl and add the Worchestershire sauce and whip up until it’s all mixed in. Have the bread crumbs in a separate bowl.

3. Take out the eggs, and one at a time, dip them in the egg/sauce mixture and then the bread crumbs. Throw them in the deep fryer at 365 for about 5-7 minutes, until the Scotch eggs are browned all over.

Let cool about 10 minutes before serving. Serve whole or sliced in half (the long way) with spicy brown mustard, hot sauce, or just by itself. Great the next day hot or cold, and perfect to take on a hike for an afternoon snack on the first day.

from Daniel Larkin
to jamey w. bennett

Some friends of our have done “Bar Food Night” a few times, and this seems like a natural fit.  Fried meat-wrapped meat.  Perfect!  And I finally get to knock Scotch Eggs off my bucket list!

from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin

Of course, you don’t have to pickle the eggs first. Any hardboiled egg will do. I just like the flavor the pickled eggs add to the mix.

I thought of you when I was googling the history of Scotch eggs. Like many things related to food, nobody knows for sure. But the story I liked best said that Scottish shepherds invented them so that they could go out into the field for an entire day, and all they’d have to take is a sack with a little loaf of bread and a couple of Scotch eggs. The eggs were a big boost of protein, but not messy and something that wouldn’t spoil in a few hours. And of course, they’d be lighter on the way out…

Kristin’s Spiced Pancakes

from Daniel Larkin
to Kristin Larkin

Did you have that whole-wheat pancake recipe you made when I visited a while back?  I tried to make some the other day with a 1-1-1 mix of whole-wheat flour, buckwheat flour and brown rice flour; and they kinda sucked.

If you could send me the recipe, I’d love to post it on TwoDudesFood.  I know a blog with a dozen followers isn’t any real incentive, but it would be fun to have a guest cook!

from Kristin Larkin
to Daniel Larkin

Ok so I found it! These pancakes are very tasty, and even my kids love them. Your grains can be switched around a bit, as long as your total going in equals one cup. For instance, I sometimes cut the oats or the cornflour in half and add 1/8 cup of freshly ground flax seed. See what you have around and use it to your advantage!

  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons raw sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons whole plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons water

Mix dry ingredients in one bowl, and wet in another. Pour the wet into the dry and mix until it’s just moistened. Heat a skillet over medium heat, and coat with cooking oil or butter (I like butter, almost always :). Pour about 1/3 cup of batter per pancake onto the skillet.

Cook until bubbles begin to form in the center, then flip and cook until browned on the other side. Top with fruit, syrup, honey or whatever floats your boat!

Sheila’s Amazing Beer Chili

from: Jamey W. Bennett 
to: Daniel Larkin

Dude,

My friend Sheila in Nashville makes what is possibly the best chili I’ve ever had. Last year, she gave me her recipe to use in a chili cook-off at church, and she has given me permission to share it with the world.

She sent me a follow-up email about a meatless version she makes. She said she does it pretty much the same way as below, except for no meat and more beans.

Cheers,
Jamey

From: Sheila Uselton
Subject: Re: chili
To: “Jamey W. Bennett” 

Okay Jamey. Here is my attempt to remember how I make chili.

First I brown a pound or so of good quality ground beef. (ground round or sirloin, etc.) AND a pound of hot sausage like Jimmy Dean’s or whatever. While that is browning I also throw in a chopped poblano pepper (or two if they are really small.)

After the meat is brown I start adding stuff. I add my chili mix, which is usually the Wick Fowler chili kit. Just get one or two if you are making a big batch.I like chili mixes that contain masa. Then I add a large can or two of crushed tomatoes. I always get two cans in case it needs it. Then add your beans. I use black beans and light red kidney beans. I also put in a can of yellow hominy to pay homage to our love of New Mexico southwestern style cooking. I always add a bit more garlic and ground cumin too.Then take two beers out of the fridge. Pour in one beer and make sure it is not a sweet beer. Drink the other beer. At this point, just eyeball it and add whatever else you think it might need.

Now, here is the secret that I just discovered that is amazing. Buy a can of chipotle chilies (smoked jalapenos) and add those. It gives it the most amazing flavor. You will find these little devils in the Mexican food section of your store. Or go to the Mexican grocery store if it’s close by. The ones I used came in a small can with some kind of red sauce in them. Put the chilies AND the sauce in. I think they also can be found in a dried form, but I did not want to have to mess with rehydrating them due to my laziness. Keep in mind however, that this will make your chili HOT, so be discriminating as you add these. Your judges might be pansies from the East who can’t take the heat.

Call or text me if you have any questions. Hope you win!

Love,
S.

[Editor’s Note: Don’t forget the sour cream, cheese, Fritos, hot sauce, or whatever else you like with your chili.]

Whole Food Veggie Tacos FTW!

from Daniel Larkin
to jamey w. bennett 

I finally did it!  Veggie tacos made with real food!

My main qualm with vegetarian options at home is that they usually involve some sort of processed fake meat.  Not that I’m staunchly opposed to using them (my Skyline Chili knock-off and my chicken-less tacos both rely on faux-meats) but I’ve always wanted another option.  What comes next in this email is an approximation of what I did.  I didn’t do any prior research, I took no notes, and I’m writing this three weeks after the fact.  I tried to mentally tally everything, but you may still have to rely on your ninja skills of adaptation.

In all honesty, I’m not really going not on memory for all of the measurements, but rather guessing at how much I would add if I were to make this again.

Here’s a list of what made up the filling.  It’s kind of like refrigerator soup, in that I just used whatever I had on hand.  But as anyone who’s read about nutrition knows, variety is the best recipe.  The key to making this more taco-meat-esque is to chop all whole foods very small before cooking.  Obviously, you don’t need to chop the beans or corn, but you get the idea.

•    1 can of black beans (rinsed)
•    about a cup of frozen corn kernels
•    about 1/2 cup of carrot (finely chopped)
•    the tips off one head of broccoli (finely chopped)
•    One or two pablano peppers (finely chopped) — add more or different peppers if you like it hotter
•    1/2 onion (finely chopped)
•    3 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
•    a handful of walnuts (you guessed it, finely chopped)
•    1 pack of firm tofu (it’ll break into small pieces when added and stirred) — extra firm tofu won’t break up enough and silken tofu will just dissolve
•    (I wanted to add small cubes of sautéed sweet potato, but I forgot.  I still think that would be good!)
•    1 tbs soy sauce
•    8-ish oz Guinness Draught
•    3-ish tbs tomato paste
•    2-ish tbs chili powder
•    1-1/2-ish tbs cumin
•    Pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg
•    A few sprigs of chopped cilantro
•    Salt and red and black pepper to taste

Sauté garlic and onion for a minute in the oil of your choice.  Mix all other veggies and sauté for about 10 minutes.  Then add the liquid and spices – again, tasting as you go because I didn’t measure shit.  Simmer everything for 30 minutes, and add walnuts and cilantro in the last 5 minutes.

Fair warning, this made a ton!

Now I didn’t want to just top the tacos off with lettuce and be done with it.  I wanted to go fancy pants.

So I filled a large mixing bowl with green cabbage sliced thinly and evenly with the mandolin.  Then I threw in a good handful of chopped cilantro, and an half-and-half mix of plain greek yogurt and sour cream —enough to make a slaw-type consistency.  I mixed in some salt and pepper, about 3 tbs of granulated sugar, about 1 tbs red wine vinegar and the juice from 2-1/2 limes.  (I used the other half lime to keep the avocado from browning) Then I tossed it all by hand until it was even and put it in the fridge to settle for about an hour.

The final setup went like this; tortilla, veggie filling, cheese, cilantro slaw, sliced avocado and hot sauce.  And it was phenomenal!  The mix of veggies and tofu was the perfect consistency, and the small crunch of walnuts kept the texture interesting.  The fresh slaw was a perfect compliment, and was way more interesting that lettuce and sour cream could have been by themselves.

These tacos made me realize that vegetarian eating doesn’t have to be about avoiding meat.  When done right, it’s really just a tasty way to eat your vegetables.  The variety of plant-based foods on this plate made for one of the most wholesome meals I’ve had in a long time.  And one of the tastiest.

West African Peanut Soup

from Jamey W. Bennett
to Daniel Larkin

Dude,

I’ve only just discovered African food in the last year or so, and I am a huge fan of what I’ve had. My exposure is still pretty much limited to Ethopian food and Harissa sauce. The nearby Whole Foods carries a couple of kinds of Harissa, and I’m in love with the one from a DC area company, Cava. Soon, I’m going to try my hand at making my own Harissa.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying a bowl of this delicious peanut soup. I got the idea from the Eating Well website, but I made a few modifications that I think made a big difference.

Here it is. I took two sizable sweet potatoes, poked a few holes in them with a fork, and microwaved them for 8-1/2 minutes. While that was happening, I sauteed the equivalent of a small red onion (diced) in my cast iron skillet with oil. As the onions were browning, I threw in two large garlic cloves, diced.

After everything looked and smelled the way I wanted, I added 1-1/2 cups of ketchup and 1-1/2 cups of water. The recipe actually called for tomato juice, but I didn’t have any, and I thought it might be reminiscent of barbecue sauce if I used ketchup. Not very West African, I know, but I think it was actually a good choice.

After a minute or so, I added a handful of jarred sliced jalapenos, 1 teaspoon of ginger powder, and 1 teaspoon of all spice.

While I let all that boil for about 10 minutes, I peeled the sweet potatoes, dicing one to small bite-sized pieces and putting the other in my food processor. I added 1/2 cup of all natural chunky peanut butter to the food processor, and 2 cups of broth. I didn’t have vegetable broth on hand, so I did the next best thing and used a tomato-chicken buillion cube, dissolved in two cups of hot water. Once blended, I put that mixture, and the chunky sweet potato into the skillet. Stirred. Lots of stirring.

Now, this is where things get a little less precise and a little more creative. I thought it was too thick, so I added another cup of water. I didn’t think it was spicy enough, so I added paprika, cayenne, and crushed red pepper to taste, along with a fairly generous amount of fresh ground black pepper.

Once everything tasted about right, I spooned it into a bowl, and garnished with cilantro.

Okay, now I’m going to go eat a second bowl.