Thursday, January 5, 2017

The California Dreaming Salad - Holiday Eats redone at home



I read someone recently write that they could not seem to eat a salad that did not have as many calories and as much fat as a Cheeseburger and thus salads were never really a healthy alternative for them. This seems to be my burden as well. Try as I might I have to make things taste good or I just don't like them.

Now that's not to say I haven't eaten my fair share of awfully healthy meals when trying to improve my diet or lose weight in the past. But I have come to a place in my life where life itself seems a little more fleeting in the wake of my brothers illness and all. In fact, right before this happened to him, we were having a discussion about how one really needs to enjoy one's time here. Because let's face it, we never know when we will no longer have the chance to enjoy life and the ones we love.

As such and in that vein I offer up to you a recipe to remake maybe my favorite restaurant entree salad of all time. I mean, I love a Brown Derby Cobb Salad, and to say that the Hillstone Thai Steak and Noodle Salad would not also find itself at the top of that list would be silly (See Food and Wine Magazine article online for the restaurant's own recipe printed up in an article celebrating my favorite restaurant chain and favorite go to eatery in NYC.)

But the California Dreaming Salad stands on it's own as a miracle in modern American restaurant recipes. It's beautiful and it's served with a freshly baked croissant slathered with honey butter. It's dressed with a hot sweet and sour bacon dressing and topped with everything an old fashioned chef's salad should be. It is an a word perfection. Doubt it? Visit any California Dreaming restaurant and try this salad and write me back it it isn't De#uckingliscious! Sorry about the swearing but I am that passionate about this salad.

Of course you don't have to travel from where ever you are to make this salad because I am about to give you the golden ticket to make this on your own. Now I've done my research and I have supposedly gotten all the scoop on the ingredients. If I'm wrong please let me know but don't write nasty things about my research and how I don't know what I'm talking about. Just make the salad and then shut your mouth cause, it's that good! Try this and be the hero. Feed your loved ones and friends some salad tonight. You can feel "kinda" good about it. But they will just love it. I promise.

The California Dreaming Salad- A T&T Home Version
(makes 4 servings of entree sized salads)

1/2 head of iceberg lettuce shredded
1/2 head of Romaine chopped
1/2 small red onion finely diced
3 eggs boiled and finely chopped
12 oz. of Armour 1877 Ham cubed and then chopped in the food processor to shred
12 oz Smithfield Smoked Turkey chopped into thin thin strips
8 oz of Armour Smoked Bacon cooked crisp and finely chopped (Grease held in a dish)
2 Medium tomatoes seeded and diced
6 oz of finely shredded cheddar cheese

Frozen Croissants baked and slathered with honey butter.

Hot Bacon Dressing (This is the good stuff, but it's not necessarily good for you...but eh..life's short)

1/2 cup warmed bacon drippings
1 large or two small shallots very finely minced
3/4 cup salad oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons Dijon or brown mustard
1 tablespoon mayo
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Mix everything really well except the bacon drippings
The right before serving mix together and dress salads

To make the salad

Dress greens with dressing till wet. Portion out to into 4 bowls.  (Put extra dressing in a bowl on the side)

Layer on the toppings artistically starting with the cheese or mix and mound on the top leaving a few pieces to use as garnish, like tomato pieces and ham and maybe some egg.

Serve this salad with the croissants. Enjoy!!






Friday, December 30, 2016

Holiday Fondue, it's a Retro-Family thing



Fondue, it's a very Winter Holiday, Ski Lodge, Group Meal kinda thing. I think when we think of fondue generally nowadays it's got a sort of "Retro" feel to it. 

It's a dish I first really experienced at the homes of family friends while growing up. It was one of those dishes that people would make for open house parties in the 70's and 80's when large groups of friends from work or the neighborhood would pass by for a drink, a nosh, and a chat.  Fondue was simple because it could be prepared and then placed in a big fondue pot or crock pot and left warming for guests to help themselves. As a kid I loved it because it was unlimited melted cheese goodness on crusty bread cubes. I mean what's better?

My first experience with real Swiss Fondue as an adult came through the invitation to dinner at a Swiss family's house in the town where I was working. The wonderful thing about Fondue in Switzerland is has none of the intimate romantic notions that surround it here in the US. Somehow,  here in the states fondue and fondue restaurants created the cache for Fondue as a "lovers mealtime". It was proffered in restaurants and nightclubs as  a sexy way for two people to share a meal. 

Not so in the land where cheese was born. It is a communal meal meant for simply for sharing and creating yummy convivial times with family and friends. The rules traditionally are simple, if the lady drops the bread in she had to wash the pot which she used to prepared the fondue, if the gentleman drops the bread in he has to wash the pot and kiss the lady! Kinda fun and I guess somewhat romantic but when it's a family around the table it's just fun good eats and if Mama doesn't have to do dishes and gets a kiss out of it so much the better.

So Fondue, is according to Wikipedia SwissFrench, and Italian dish of melted cheese served in a communal pot (caquelon) over a portable stove (réchaud), and eaten by dipping long-stemmed forks with bread into the cheese. It was promoted as a Swiss national dish by the Swiss Cheese Union (Schweizerische Käseunion) in the 1930s but its origins stem from an area that covers Switzerland, France (Rhone Alps) and Italy (Piedmont and Aosta valley).

Since the 1950s, the name "fondue" has been generalized to other dishes in which a food is dipped into a communal pot of hot liquid: chocolate fondue, in which pieces of fruit are dipped into a melted chocolate mixture, and fondue bourguignonne, in which pieces of meat are cooked in hot oil.
Konrad Egli of the Chalet Swiss Restaurant is credited with introducing it as a mainstay in New York in the 1950's. He also is credited with the introduction of beef Fondue at Chalet Swiss and the  invention of chocolate Fondue which made it's appearance in the 1960's. 

Throughout the 50's 60's and 70's home cooks entertained with Fondue pots and other cookware that could make them the champions of table side cooking for their dining guests. Such meals like the famous "Steak Diane" made the guests feel like they were part of the "action" and certainly Fondue was one of those meals. 



So here is a simple Swiss recipe I have from my host family in Switzerland I have carried around all these years. As you entertain this holiday season think about Fondue as a wonderful way to share a meal with friends and loved ones. 

Easy and Authentic Swiss Fondue (serves 2 to 4)
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 clove garlic 
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded Emmentaler cheese
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) Gruyère cheese
  • 4 triangles double cream (laughing cow) cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon cherry brandy (Kirsch)
  • Cubed French bread, ham and vegetables 
Method:

  1. Rub garlic clove into the inside of the fondue pot. Bring wine and lemon juice to a low boil in a heavy saucepan; add cheeses, pepper, and nutmeg. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring constantly, 5 to 7 minutes or until cheese melts.
  2. Whisk together cornstarch and cherry brandy. Stir mixture into cheese; cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes or until thickened. Transfer to a fondue pot, and keep warm. Serve with cubed bread, cubed ham, raw mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and steamed brussel sprout halves.
  3. Enjoy Ya'll!!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas, 2016 and Keeping the Faith

2016 has been a hard year for the Hedden Family. We have a a long year of recognizing how fragile we are as humans. A seeing of how dependent we really are on our faith in God's providence and power. Oh, and how wonderful it is to love and be loved unconditionally. But also how hard that is to make manifest in one's world or sometimes to live up to that ideal and very sweet thought in real life.

Some of you who follow this may know that in May my brother Christopher had a brain aneurysm which resulted in his being in a coma fro 10 weeks. We had almost given up hope of his waking up when he finally came out of the coma. It was somewhat of a medical miracle that he had survived.

What has followed is a long and arduous journey for my family. My mother, myself, and of course my brother. The real heroine in all of this has been my sister in law, Jenny. She has proven to be the most amazing care giver and a stauncher support for my brother than he could ever have wanted or needed. Being married for 25 years and having a great marriage, relationship and love may have been a platform for this but her love and devotion and strength has proven to be beyond what one should expect or ever be asked to do. But sometimes that is life. It just asks a lot of you. I continue to be inspired by her.

Faith is a funny thing. Sometimes you don't know how much you have until it's tested. Sometimes you lose it. Sometimes you find it when you least expect it. I can say that I have experienced each of these relationships with faith during the last 8 months. But one thing has remained and that is that I have found faith to be a necessity during this time. Faith is not always just in God. It's the faith you have in people, the doctors, your family members, your friends and even yourself. Faith is finding the vision and strength to go on even when you don't think you can. It's that part of ourselves which somehow exceeds what we see as our limits. It is the thing that we hope for and that drives us on. it's the thing we hope to find when we can't see a way forward any more.

I have only been a supportive bystander to the horror show that has consumed my brother and my sister in law's lives. As such I have tried to go and support them in person. Weakly giving time and attention to my brother while he was in was in the hospital and trying to support Jenny with dinners out and time spent holding her hand while my brother lay unconscious. Trips that were no pleasure, but hopefully helpful, to the west coast but were the only way I could give my brother any support. I went gladly but still found that being so far away proved to be very hard in helping my sister in law with any of the day to day needs she had while tending to my brother.

My mother also needed tending to. And so that brings me to Christmas. In July after helping her to travel out to California, staying with her, and driving her around for the 10 days she was visiting out there, I felt like she was drowning in the pool of helplessness she was feeling. I cannot imagine the feelings a mother must have seeing a child go through the health issues my brother has been facing. She is a tough person but this was almost too much to bear. So as the holidays approached we discussed what I should do. The thought of going out to again a 4th time to California seemed like it was on the table until I realized that my mother really needed some love and attention. So I decided that the holidays would be for her. And my journey there which, while lovely, had seemed to become routine in the past years, now seemed both important and needed.

So I have come home for the holidays and am spending time with my mother. I am making food to bring some joy and pleasure and conversation to bring some laughter and cheer to this house which has known too many tears in the past year. I plan on sharing some of these dishes with you all over the next two weeks so stay tuned.

May you all find faith and peace along the roads you travel. And may you find ways to make food and conversations with people who are important to you or those you encounter who need some love in a world that this year has known too many tears for all sorts of reasons. I wish you all Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Peace.












Sunday, December 11, 2016

Cheese and Relish Tray- An Easy How To for Your Holiday Entertaining



So you're having friends over. And I have to say I am always surprised how many people are not sure how to put things together to make cocktail hour simple and tasty. and sexy.

SO I'm offering up this quick cheese and meat and pickle board to help you offer your guests a tasty and simple and good looking board.

So here's what you need for 2 to 4 ppl.

1/4 to 1/2 wheel of soft french style cheese like a brie but there are more interesting and funky one's just ask your local cheese monger.

1 big dollop of a soft sharp or herby flavored cheese spread. Like wine cheese or horseradish or Boursin Cheese normally found in the cheese selection in your grocery store.

10 to 15 pickles can be any like you have or like here I used cornichon or little french ones but you can use sweet and sour or bread and butter pickles whatever is your favorite. I would suggest a sour pickle because it plays against the creamy and fatty flavors of the cheese and meats.

Smoked ham, speck, salami folded on the board or artfully shingled or arranged. Be sure to have serval kinds so people can taste different things with each one.

Mustard. Well Dijon is a winner here but some German or Swedish types are also nice. Just be sure like the pickles you avoid sweet mustard. Unless that's your thing. Again there are no rules just what you like.

Bread or crackers. Again whatever you like. There are no rules. Here I have butter crackers which I adore. But baguette or water crackers are also great.

A few other things like are weird but good could be thin rounds of sliced red onion or try rounds of cucumber instead of crackers of bread.

To set it all up you want to create some drama by dropping your big dallop of mustard on your board and then dragging your spoon through it artfully to create a nice swirl. Suggestive of the paint on a painters pallete.

Next cut you cheese and stack and fold and crimp you meats into a nice arrangement. Mound the soft cheese in the center and garnish the board with the pickles. \

Place out with a knife and paper cocktail napkins and maybe some plates and you are good to go.

So I hope if you are looking to make your cheese board look beautiful this helps this season. Enjoy. And Happy Holidays from Taste and Tales!!

Friday, December 9, 2016

California Dreaming on Such a Winter's Day - San Diego Chilliquiles For Breakfast



Ok lets face it making breakfast for the family during the holidays is not always an easy thing. I mean it's early, it's cold, it's your holiday too! But none the less those of us who are the designated breakfast makers know that we have to come up with tasty filling fun food that will delight and uplift and celebrate the spirit of the holiday season for those we love.

Traditionally my family like most have gone a true American direction embracing the traditions of those who went before us and making up mounds of pancakes, waffles, frittatas, hash brown casseroles or sweet breads baking fresh and served up warm and sugar ridden. They take work, prep, overnight rising, setting up and while all good are often a lot of work.

So this year I offer up an alternative to that whole all American breakfast effort. I discovered a dish while in San Diego this past Summer visiting my friends Tom and George that was so tasty and easy that I've decided to make them into a holiday season breakfast. Maybe not for the big day. That's still the domain of Monkey bread and Truffled Scrambled eggs and bacon, but for any of the other days when we are having people over for brunch or breakfast these will be on standby. What is this dish? Well if you read the title you know it's Chilliquiles!

SO for those of yo who don't know chilliquiles are really a breakfast scramble of fried tortillas and eggs, cheese and other Mexican ingredients. It's basically a big mess of good stuff served up hot and delicious. And what's the best part my version of them (which is far from authentic) is SO easy. And they have a mild flavor and are not offensive to people who don't like spice.

Basically you start with some basics then go holiday fridge diving and add whatever you have that make sense. Like gouda cheese, well not maybe Mexican but hey this is a melting pot dish throw it in. Last nights horseradish sauce, hm....not so much. So you get the idea.

So here's the recipe and I hope that this will help you with that holiday breakfast preparation for your crew. It can be expanded for more than the 6 the recipe feeds. Just add in more of everything and get a really big pan! Or make two batches, yeah maybe that's better. Happy holidays everybody.

Easy Chilliquiles

1 Bag Tostitos Brand Scoops Dipper chips
10 eggs
2 teaspoons chilli powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup cheddar cheese 1 /2 cups if only using cheddar
1 medium onion diced
3 medium tomatoes diced
1 8oz jar salsa from the store ( I like Chi chi's brand...don't laugh) Medium heat
4 green onion diced
3/4 cups extra cheese like gouda, brie, swiss, even cream cheese anything mild and not strong
2 tablespoons sliced pickled jalapeno peppers from the jar ( optional ) as garnish
hot sauce
1/4 cup cooking oil like safflower or corn

Method:

Beat eggs with the spices and sour cream till creamy and combined
Add oil to a very large Saute pan with high sides
Add onions and tomatoes and cook till almost soft
Add 3/4 Chips and stir coating with the onion mixture and oil
Cook till well coated and starting to soften
Add 1/2 of the Salsa and combine
Stir in cheeses and let start to melt
Stir in Egg mixture stir the pot calmly so as to not smash the chips but constantly till the egg is just soft cooked and the cheese are melted into the egg
 (this may seem strange not to cook the eggs hard but please don't because they will form a sauce sort of like a hollandaise. The eggs will continue to cook in the hot chip mixture)
Fill 6 large wide bowls with the rest of the chips and salsa divided between the bowls
Serve into individual bowls over the chips and salsa in each bowl immediately, and top with a few really good shakes of hot sauce (unless you have eaters who would rather add their own)
Garnish with the chopped green onion and jalapenos ( if using)
Enjoy right away while hot

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Leftover Turkey Enchiladas - Thanksgiving Gone South of the Border



So last night two friends came over and brought with them the fixings for Margaritas! So I accommodated them by making my Guacamole and some Turkey Red Sauce Enchiladas. They were very happy and we all found it a fair trade!

Now some people have looked at my winter white enchilada post http://cookforrestcook.blogspot.com/2011/12/winter.html and have let me know that they think they are really good. In fact I have had at least two people I know of make them and with great success. That recipe came originally from a boy in the cast of one of the shows I did in Wisconsin. It was when I discovered that American casserole style enchiladas are really what I love.

Now enchiladas fall into 3 categories and people fall into three camps about them. First camp is red or green. In other words is your sauce base red or green chilli?  The second camp is corn or flour or what type of tortillas do you use. The last is do you include dairy additions beyond the shredded cheese or none at all. Now I have made and had all of these different types. I tend to go for a red enchilda with maybe a suiza or "swiss" style when I eat out at a restaurant. Mostly thats because I find that alot of enchiladas in restaurants are too dry and the "swiss" or "Suiza" element helps with that. Oh, "Suiza" means that there is a sour cream sauce in addition to the red sauce base.

So my enchilada making experience began in the kitchen of our house in Reston, Virginia when my father's job took us north for a few years. Old El Paso had just come out in the grocery stores in force nationally and my Mom decided to give making Mexican at home a try. We often ate in the kitchen around the breakfast table on Friday nights. It was a family fun night where the foods were likely to be some form of ethnic food ( our attempt at branching out) and the conversation ran the gamut of whatever was happening in our worlds.

Since money was tight sometimes growing up ( navy Family) my Mother and Grandmother would find foods that would be entertaining as well as tasty and filling. My brother and I had taken quite a liking to mexican foods and they began looking at ways to make them at home. We started with tacos and continued with tostadas and burritos but the real challenge was to make really good enchiladas at home. We would buy a lot of cans of enchilada sauce and refried beans and start our meal from there. Mostly these were beef or chicken dishes sauced and cheesy  and while they were really good they mostly provided a lot of fun in both the making and the eating departments.

As my culinary horizons widened over time I became aware that while ground beef and chicken was fun, there were other even dare I say, other options, that could satisfy even the most hard core beefy meaty cheesy savory seeker! So I developed a recipe for enchiladas that brought in major savory action but left out the beef. Believe me these are so "meaty" the way they come out you won't miss the beef.


Turkey Enchiladas in a Red Sauce Swiss Style

Ingredients:

2 cups chopped turkey meat (leftovers)
1 package Flour Tortillas ( 16 count)
1 medium onion
2 cups sour cream ( extra for garnish)
2 cup yellow cheddar cheese grated
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon cumin powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1/4 cup salsa
1 tablespoon diced pickled jalapeno peppers (optional)
2 cans red enchilada sauce
1 small can sliced black California olives
1 small bunch sliced scallions ( 1/2 reserved for garnish)
1 small tomato diced
1 head of iceberg lettuce finely shredded


Method:

In a bowl mix together 1 cup cheese, 1/2 cup sour cream with turkey, spices salsa, peppers, and 1/2 can red sauce

Pour 1/2 can of the red sauce into the bottom of a baking dish spread out

Warm the Tortillas in a microwave to make them bendable

Fill each with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the mix till full but still rollable

Place them tightly into the baking dish in a row the last two may have to be tucked on the side

Pour the remaining sauce over the top and let fill in the pan

Spread 1 cup sour cream over the top

Top with cheddar, 1/2 of the black olives and some scallions

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 to 40 mins till top is starting to brown nicely.

Serve on a plate and garnish with lettuce tomato black olives and scallions. Place sour cream in a squeeze bottle and pipe all over the dish. Enjoy!


Friday, October 21, 2016

Korean Chicken Fried Rice - The best fried rice I have ever made



Korean Food is hot, and I don't just mean spicy!

These days Korean food is coming into it's own as a major player in the Asian food arena. It's not only pretty new to most Americans but also strangely familiar. One of the reasons for this is that Koreans eat a lot of meat. Unlike Japan which has a strong association with the sea, Korea has a strong agricultural base in animal husbandry which finds root in it's cuisine as well.

Also the most well known Korean foods in this country are well...pretty all American. Foods like fried chicken, beef BBQ, cabbage dishes, and pickled dishes. All slightly off from the typical American versions but none the less familiar. I mean no one would confuse spicy Kim Chee with Spicy hot pickles, but they are somewhat akin. Korean Fried chicken is double fried for crunch and then sauced with spicy gochujang sauce but they are similar in many ways to our everyday interchange with the Buffalo chicken wing.

So let's talk fried rice. I mean it's sometimes amazing and it's sometimes kinda dull. I mean your local chinese place either hits it out of the park on this or like most in my experience hits it into the rough. Even my favorite fried rices like the ones you get at Japanese Steak houses are good but somehow need a little kick from added those sauces they give you on the side. Why? Because I find fried rice is often just dry.

Now I have had some amazingly good homemade fried rice for example at my friend George's house. But he's Chinese and his dad was a chef so if better be good. But in general I am more of a risotto guy than a fried rice guy. I like succulent saucy gooey yummy stuff. So that's why this fried rice is so darn good. It's the secret Korean Sauce recipe that makes it.

This is a great way to use up leftover chinese chicken or even buy frozen General Tso's chicken in a bag from the store and cook and chop it up. I'll give you a recipe for my homemade version. You could also use just plain cooked chicken thighs chopped up but it's not as good. In any event youll need about a pound of chicken.

So give this a try at home. Serve it up with some cucumber sesame salad and some Kim Chee on the side.


Korean Chicken Fried Rice:

Make 5 cups cooked white rice and let sit in the fridge for a day

Forrest's Wok Fried Chicken and Asian Sauce: 

(or use General Tso's either leftovers or from the grocery prepared as on package and cooled and chopped, or just cooked chopped chicken)

1 pound boneless chicken thighs cut up into 1/2 inch pieces
peanut oil
cornstarch
Dust the chicken pieces in the cornstarch and fry till almost done remove from wok and hold on the side.
3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
2 tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar or distilled white vinegar
3 tablespoons homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon roasted sesame seed oil
1 tablespoon corn starch
2 teaspoons peanut, vegetable, or canola oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 medium cloves)
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger (about one 1-inch piece)
2 teaspoons minced scallion bottoms (about 1 scallion), plus 6 to 8 scallions, white parts only, cut into 1-inch lengths
8 small dried red Chinese or Arbol chilies (see note above)

For the Sauce: 

Combine soy sauce, wine, vinegar, chicken stock, sugar, sesame seed oil, and cornstarch in a small bowl and stir with a fork until cornstarch is dissolved and no lumps remain. Set aside. Combine oil, garlic, ginger, minced scallions, and red chilies in a large skillet and place over medium heat. Add in cornstarch mixture and cook till thick then add the chicken and coat stir fry till sticky and done. Hold on the side in a bowl and cool, then rough chop the chicken into small pieces

Wipe out the wok and get it very hot to fry the rice

To make the Fried Rice:

4 Tablespoons of butter to the wok
2 Tablespoons of minced garlic
2 Tablespoons of minced ginger
Add 3/4 cup plus extra if desired Red Korean Super Sauce
1/2 pound Brocolli rough chopped
1 medium onion finely diced
1/2 cup chopped Scallions (2 Tablespoon reserved for garnish)
2 Thai chilis thinly sliced 

Method:

Heat Wok
Add two tablespoons butter, melt
Add garlic
Cook till garlic blooms about 1 minute
Add ginger then add onion and cook stiring constantly till soft 
Add brocolli
Add the rest of the butter then the rice and stir till the rice is coated with the butter and veggies
Add 2 teaspoons sesame oil
Let rice cook getting crusty and golden and then stir to keep it from sticking
Repeat this till rice is crunchy and veggies soft
Add the chicken
Add the Korean Sauce
Stir fry till all combined and heated through
Add more sauce if too dry for your taste
Serve hot.


Red Korean Super Sauce (This stuff is no joke)

It stays good for months in the fridge

1/4 cup soy sauce
2 cups Mirin 
1/2 cup gochujong 
3/4 cup honey
1/4 cup sesame oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup pureed ginger
1/8 cup garlic puree

Puree all this together in a blender then bring to simmer in a pot till sugar is melted
Store in an airtight container.