Sweet Potato Gnocchi

from Daniel Larkin
to jamey w. bennett 

As you obviously saw from my Instagram photo yesterday, I made sweet potato gnocchi last night.  It was my first attempt at any kind of gnocchi, and it was WAY easier than the online reviews made it sound.  These were actually a kind of trial run for something I’ve wanted to take camping for a while, but they turned out so well, I think I’ll bring them into the regular rotation at home.

The gnocchi was simple.

  • 2 one pound sweet potatoes
  • Approximately 1-1/2 cups (maybe more) of all purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • Salt
  • Cinnamon
  • Shredded parmesan

I peeled two large sweet potatoes (peel deep, because there’s a thicker layer than you think)

Then I sliced the naked spuds into 1/2 disks and baked them at 400º until done – flipping once.  (I suppose you could just bake the potatoes and then scoop the meat out)

I let the potatoes cool before mashing them, and then I tossed in one egg, a tablespoon of salt, a few shakes of cinnamon and a large pinch of grated parmesan.  Then I mixed in about 1-1/2 cups of flour until I had a good doughy consistency.  (Start with a good heaping cup of flour and add the rest slowly until you can work the dough ball without too much sticky mess on your fingers.)

When the dough was ready, I quartered the ball. I split each quarter again and rolled these smaller dough balls into 1/2-inch dowels on the counter (I was constantly flouring the counter to prevent stickage).  From there I just cut the dough-dowels into 1-inch pieces.  (Most posts told me to accent the gnocchi by pressing it with the prongs of a fork, but I couldn’t do that without mashing them)

With the dough split into such small batches, I was able to boil the gnocchi in rounds as I cut.  I dropped the gnocchi into the boiling water and let them go for a minute or two after they start to float.  When I took them out of the water they were done and ready to eat, but I wasn’t finished yet!

Since I didn’t sweeten the gnocchi dough, I wanted to toss it in something sweet.  And what I came up with was perfect.

  • 2 tbs unsalted butter
  • Approximately one ounce of pure maple syrup
  • Approximately 3 ounces of apple juice

I just mixed and reduced all of these ingredients until it was a good gooey syrup.  Then I pan fried the cooked gnocchi in this mix until they were golden brown.  I didn’t end up using all of the syrup, but it’s good to have some extra in case we needed it.

The last, and most perfect, detail, was to garnish with a generous sprinkling of toasted almonds. (I kept extra almonds on the side, and people added them as they wanted)

Dude, this was awesome.  We ate it with snap peas sauteed with garlic and soy sauce, and grilled duck breast that had been marinating in John’s secret sauce.  (It’s a secret because even he doesn’t know the recipe; he just adds stuff until it tastes good.  I do know that it uses olive oil, sherry, lemon juice, rosemary, corse ground mustard, shallots and soy sauce.)

Anyway, I ate well last night and it made me think of you.

How’s Lent going?

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Fried Foods! Yay!

Daniel Larkin to jamey
10:57 AM 

So I sent you pictures of our Bar Food Friday last weekend, but I wanted to share the goods.  The chicken nachos were decent; we made them using my veggie taco recipe with real chicken.  We started drinking before cooking, so we were a little rosy by the time we got to the cheese, and it ended up more like a Mexican mozzarella than queso fresco. But I’m not really writing you about the nachos.  You know how to do nachos.  What I’m talking about are the fried pickles.

October is over, so I’m assuming you can splurge on some good old fashion horrible-for-you food.  I use this batter for just about everything fried – chicken, onions, pickles, etc. – and it’s never let me down.  I actually learned the recipe from a popular bar I worked at in Charlotte named The Penguin.

The batter is simple, though my recipe may not be 100% accurate, since I’ve never measured my spices.  Ever.  I actually taste as I go, mostly checking salt and heat levels.  (I know some people have an aversion to tasting raw flour, but it’s the only way I’ve been able to get it spot on every time.)  Consequently, all of my measurements here are guesses, and you can add/subtract to it as you see fit.

  • Two cups of flour
  • 2 tbs. garlic powder
  • 1 tbs. chili powder – maybe more
  • 1 tbs. red pepper – maybe less
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tbs. cayenne pepper
  • A few grinds of fresh black pepper
  • Enough Lawry’s Seasoning Salt to cast a thin red layer on the top of the mixture.

Mix ingredients, insert a wet fork, and taste.  Again, I taste for salt and heat.  You want to taste the salt, but the heat needs to be background noise.  You don’t want it too spicy.

That’s the best I can describe the recipe.

Frying onions and pickles are essentially the same.  Chicken isn’t even that much different either.  The key to all is small batches.  You don’t want to drop the temperature of the oil too quickly, and you don’t want the items to stick together when they’re in the oil.

For onion straws, slice a sweet onion thin (I use my julienne slicer for thin uniform cuts) and soak it in buttermilk.  When it’s time to fry, just pull a small handful of onions out of the milk, dredge them in the batter, shake off the excess batter, and drop them into a pot of your favorite frying oil.  They’re done when they’re a light golden brown.  These onion straws make any burger 100x better.  Seriously.

For pickles, buy a jar of dill pickle chips and pour out the juice and replace it with buttermilk.  (I know this sounds gross, but it’s fine.  Buttermilk is curdled to begin with.)  When it’s time to fry, pull out a small handful of chips and shake off some, but not all, of the extra milk.  Toss the pickles in the batter mix to fully coat them.  Next, pull the chips out of the batter and shake them around in a sifter over the remaining batter.  This breaks up any globs of flour, and prevents the chips from sticking to each other in the oil.  Toss them in the oil, and they’re done when they float to the top with a golden brown color.  Serve in a bowl lined with paper towels, and have some Ranch dressing on hand to dip them in.  Oh, and prepare to be in heaven.

For chicken, I cut my breast meat into thin slices and soak them in a mix of buttermilk, one egg, and a few splashes of Texas Pete hot sauce.  Aside from the extra wet ingredients, the only thing I do differently with chicken is to double batter it.  Soak, toss, soak, toss, fry.  It gives it that supreme crunch that chicken tenders need.

I hope this all makes sense.  It’s an easy recipe, and it kills me how good it is every time I try it.  The pickles are especially gratifying, since no one outside of The Penguin can seem to make a decent fried pickle.

IPA-Crusted Pizza

Dude,
It was good to talk to you tonight, and a bit of an encouragement just to share stuff with ya.

So the verdict is in. The pizza was really good. I’m still way amateur when it comes to homemade pizza, but theconsistency and presentation on this one was pretty good.

Basically, I kinda just winged it. I really wanted pizza, but I wanted to stick with my October Unprocessed commitment. So at Trader Joe’s I picked up unbleached whole-wheat flour, and some good, basic mozzarella with no crazy anti-caking agents or anything. I had bacon from Whole Foods, local hot sausage from the farmer’s market, and some jalapenos I pickled myself (inspired by your pickled eggs bit).

For the dough, I used 4 cups flour, 1 tsp. baking powder (this is the only iffy thing on processed foods), 1-1/2 tsp. salt, a packet of yeast, 2 tbs. olive oil, and a can of beer. Mixed it together (had to add a little water), kneaded it and covered. After about 2 hours I split it in two, rolled it into a ball, and then flattened that shit.

I did my own pizza sauce, too (sorta). I got the idea from AllRecipes.com, but I did things my own way. Basically, I took about 4 oz. tomato paste, 3 tbs. grated parmesan, a couple garlic cloves, 2 tbs. honey (instead of sugar), ¾ teaspoon onion powder, and ¼ tsp. of each of the following: oregano, marjoram, fresh basil, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and red pepper flakes. Then I slowly poured crushed tomatoes into the mix, stirring constantly, until it tasted how I wanted. I also salted to taste. It was sweet and yummy.

One pizza was a spicy Hawaiian-style. I used bacon, sausage, pineapple, and jalapeno.

The other pizza was full of caramelized goodness. I caramelized slices of heirloom tomatoes (!!!!!) in my skillet, and caramelized some onions – all with my local, organic, raw butter. Threw that on a pizza with cheese. DAMN. I think tomorrow I might just caramelize some tomatoes to eat like candy.

Sprinkled oregano on top, then baked at 400 degrees. I always bake in a pan, then for the last couple minutes I pull the pizza off the pan with my pizza peel and put it directly on the rack.

I’m interested in your pizza tips one day.

Cheers,
Jamey

P.S. Oh yeah, and I brushed melted butter on the crust. It was awesome.

A Call to Raise the Bar

from Daniel Larkin
to jamey show details 12:13 PM (1 hour ago)

First off, congratulations on your wedding.  The photos I’ve seen are fantastic, and Alison’s dress looked stunning.  I hope the celebrations went off without a hitch, and I hope the sauerkraut was a hit.  Your presents are still sitting on our kitchen counter waiting to be mailed.  Hopefully that will happen today.

But down to business, I think it’s time we upped the TwoDudesFood bar.  Not that our recipes have been lackluster; everything I’ve made of yours has been dead-on delicious. But here’s what I’m thinking, instead of (or more appropriately, in addition to) writing post-meal notes, we should occasionally meet a challenge head on.

The idea is more or less inspired by this post from my friend Peanut:

We should both tackle this Nacho-Burger dilemma, and compare recipes/results.  You’ve got a honeymoon to attend to and we’ve got a vacation on the books, so it may take a few weeks before we get there.  But I know we can do it.  My first thought was, “How do I keep nacho chips from becoming soggy on a burger?”

Spinach Enchiladas

from Jamey W. Bennett
to Daniel Larkin 
date Fri, Mar 25, 2011 at 10:02 PM

Dude,

I’ve got something for your Mexican night, mostly invented tonight. The best part about this is not the enchiladas themselves, it’s the sauce. Now, you might ask, what made you think to do this, Jamey? I’m glad you asked, and I’l tell you. I went to the grocery, trying to spend between $10 and $20 for a fat ass platter of verde enchiladas (recognizing that a few of the ingredients were already on hand). When my bill was over $30, I knew something was up. Turns out, the three cans of verde enchilada sauce were $4.49 each.

I put the cans back, and came up with this. Here’s how to make the sauce.

  • 28 oz can of tomatillos
  • 1 small can of green chiles
  • 1 tsp. cane sugar
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • a handful of cilantro
  • the juice of two small limes
  • 1 cube of bullion dissolved in 1/2 cup of hot water (I used chicken/tomato)
  • a couple of jalapenos
  • salt to taste

I mixed all of this in the blender, then I threw it in a skillet and simmered for about 15 minutes.

While I was doing all that, I was constantly mixing in fresh spinach in a pot with a little bit of butter. As it cooked down, I’d add another handful. I don’t know how much I put in there, but it was at least a pound, if not 1-1/2 pounds.

To make the enchiladas, I microwaved about 25 corn tortillas for 1 minute. This is important because they will break if you use them cold.

I chopped an 8 oz block pepper jack into rectangular blocks. I also had 2 bags of 8 oz. shredded “Mexican taco” cheese.

Another can of green chiles.

One diced tomato.

Each tortilla got a pinch of tomatoes, green chiles, some chunks of pepper jack cheese, some shredded taco cheese, a spoonful of the simmering enchilada sauce, and a forkful of spinach. Roll it up and throw it in a oven-worthy dish. Once you’ve filled the dish, you’ll probably have to move to another one. Then sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of all of the enchiladas. Finally, pour the enchilada sauce over the top.

Throw that into a 350 degree pre-heated oven, and when the cheese appears to be melted, it’s time to eat!

Alison told me she thought it needed salt or something like that. I thought it was perfect.

Enjoy.

Thai Yellow Beer Curry

from Jamey W. Bennett
to Daniel Larkin

Dude,

So tonight when I was texting you about my yellow curry, I didn’t expect it to be as good as it was (though there is certainly room for improvement), so I didn’t expect to be writing this. But damn. It was good, and my secret is beer.

Since I’m not so experienced in preparing Thai food, I’ve picked up a few books, one of which is Quick and Easy Thai by Nancie McDermott. According to my friend Christopher, she is the go-to Thai food author. Since I had some yellow curry paste on hand, I decided to do a yellow curry. And since we are in the middle of a fast, it had to be vegan-ish. So I took two of her recipes, compared them, and made my own.

  • 1 tsp of each: cumin, coriander, cinnamon, curry powder
  • 2 cans of unsweetened coconut milk
  • Yellow curry paste (to taste)
  • Various veggies
  • Coconut oil
  • 1 lb. seitan
  • 1 lb. shrimp (tails off, pre-cooked)
  • Chicken bullion cube
  • 2 tbs. Fish sauce
  • 2 tbs. Lemon or lime juice
  • 1 tbs. brown sugar
  • Rice (I’m not going to tell you how to make rice.)

First, I took a teaspoon of cumin, ground coriander, cinnamon, and curry powder, and toasted them in a skillet. It didn’t take long, and I burned it a little. Turns out that wasn’t bad thing.

Second, I took a can of coconut milk and poured it into the skillet with the seasonings, then I added 3 tablespoons of yellow curry paste. As I stirred this in, I decided it needed more curry, so I think by the end of it I probably used like 8 tablespoons. Probably a bit too spicy for some….I maybe cooked this for 10 minutes and set it aside.

Third, I sauteed 1 medium chopped onion (big pieces) in coconut oil. I’ve been enjoying using coconut and macadamia oils for high heat cooking and a slightly different flavor. (Plus, when we fast in the Orthodox Church, we ditch the olive oil, too.) I love the flavor of the coconut oil, and figured that you can’t have too much coconut in this recipe. After a few minutes, I added a variety of vegetables, including bell peppers, peas, bamboo, mushrooms, and water chestnuts. Oh, and I had a handful of those long dried red peppers…but I soaked them in water for a couple hours beforehand, then chopped them up.

Fourth, once all the veggies looked good and delicious, I spooned most of them into the curry mix in the other skillet. I threw in a pound of Michael’s Savory Seitan and a pound of pre-cooked shrimp. I browned this just a tad, before dumping in some liquids.

Which brings me to five. Her recipes called for 2-1/4 cups of chicken broth or water. I opted for a chicken bullion cube. Mixed it with a cup of water, then I dumped a 12 oz. can of pale ale in with it…and transferred the liquid to the meat. No we’re cookin…let that boil for a while, bring down the volume a bit, then I added a second can of coconut milk and the vegetable-curry mix from the other skillet. Cooked for a few more minutes.

Sixth, I combined the fish sauce, lemon juice, and brown sugar in a cup and stirred it up until the sugar was disolved. Stirred this into the mix with everything else…

And finally, I put it on the table. Rice in a bowl, and curry dish in a separate bowl and enjoyed. Plenty for leftovers tomorrow, and I’m guessing it will taste even better then.

It kinda sounds complicated, but if you’ve got a decent spice rack and you keep veggies on hand, you really only need a few things. In fact, all I needed to buy was peas, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts.

UPDATE: Upon further reflection, I think I used too much curry paste. It was delicious, but I might pull back a bit in the future.

Lamb Burgers, Dude. Lamb Burgers.

from Daniel Larkin
to Jamey Bennett

I finally remembered what recipe I was going to pass on.  Two words, dude; Lamb-Burgers.  Technically that’s a hyphenated word, but you get the point.

This is something John and I did during our “Backyard Camp” a few weeks ago.  We wanted to test out our hammocks, but we didn’t want to risk a shitty night’s sleep in the woods if it was a disaster.  So we did an overnight camp out on the giant hill behind my neighborhood.  Most of the hilltop was cleared to build homes before Saddlebrook went under.  Much of that has grown back up again, except for two areas –  a giant pile of unused corrugated sewer lines, and a small area where someone has built a concrete block fire pit.  The sights and sounds of nature mingled with the sights and smells of neglected construction.  Classy.

We hiked up with full packs, though technically they weren’t “full packs” in the backpacking sense because they were full of Boddingtons cream ale, Bombay Sapphire gin, ground lamb, buns, veggies, a can of lard, bacon, bagels and eggs.

So here’s what happened.  Before we went up, we roasted four large cloves of garlic in the toaster oven, mashed and diced them, and mixed it all with a full pound of ground lamb, salt and pepper.

I also sliced two sweet onions that I had purchased that morning at the Farmers Market.  (I used my julian slicer, so the cuts were thin and even) I set the sliced onion into a bag of buttermilk.  In a separate bag, I packed a mix of southern batter – flour, salt, garlic powder, cayenne, and red and black pepper.  ONION STRAWS!

At “camp” we ran a small fire to coals and grilled the burgers – a full pound of lamb evenly split into two artery clogging patties.  Obviously, we never pressed the burgers, but gently flipped them taking great pains to keep all the juices inside.  We grilled the buns, which were egg-bread, and we sliced the tomato, which I had also purchased at the Farmers Market.

The kicker, though, was the onion straws. While the burgers were grilling, we carefully dropped the onions by hand into the flour mix and warmed the lard in a fireside pot.  We had to mix the onions in small batches so that we wouldn’t gum up the flour mix, and we fried them in smaller batches so that the lard wouldn’t drop too much in temperature.

The final stack went like this – Grilled buns, a heavy covering of Grey Poupon Harvest Ground Mustard, mixed greens, a slice of garden fresh tomato, fried onion straws, a thick slice of havarti cheese, and the garlic infused patty.  This was, hands down, the BEST burger I have EVER eaten.  We could build a restaurant off of this burger alone.  Every flavor was present in every bite.  Nothing was overshadowed.  You could taste the garlic and the mustard, but the onion straws and cheese were still very present.

We washed it down with Dogfish head Squall IPA, which is a bottle conditioned, naturally carbonated version of the 90 Minute.  The high carbonation and ridiculous amount of hops were the perfect pair to clear the palette between bites.

Breakfast got rained out, but that didn’t matter one bit.  John and I are doing a back-country trip with our fathers this fall, but we’re canoeing in so we’ll be able to take coolers.  That means Nate will finally get to experience the glories of true Lamb Burgers!  (I guess it was two words that time)

Seriously, Jamey, try this.  Please!