“Mighty Rad Gumbo”…

Or so sang “Little Feat” in this song about gumbo and his mamma being in the “Seafood Hall of Fame” because of her cooking. It was this song that was my original inspiration to create a gumbo recipe. If you have ever read this blog, you will know that I am no stranger to driving, a LOT, whether it was my epic 4 hour round trip to commute to my last job or the months I had to drive north to western Pennsylvania before we moved there. Along those same lines, I recently completed a move to North Myrtle Beach and, as can be imagined, there was a great deal of driving involved as we shuttled items from western Pennsylvania to the beach. When the weather is nice and people aren’t driving while sitting on their shoulders, I listen to my iPod and when this song came up my mind went into overdrive!  I had never done a gumbo, sure there were stews and soups and such but gumbo?  In my head, it was kind of exotic.  You know the stuff that chefs in New Orleans (Neawleans as pronounced) do with their voodoo spices and tantric cooking practices. So, I did not want to do a “safe” regular gumbo but wanted to do something that brought together a whole host of other flavors (kind of a combination creole-gumbo, a “cre-umbo”, if you will) and since I was cooking for a large group, I wanted it to make a decent quantity so you may have to trim down the amount of the individual ingredients if you are making for fewer than 8. You may notice that there is no added salt or an excess of seasonings as all of the flavor comes from the Andouille sausage with which you start the recipe. This recipe is the result of all that time in the car. I loved it and so did the folks who were eating it (one had it for breakfast the next morning).  As you may, or may not, know the first to taste a new recipe has the honor of creating the name.  My niece Caroline (the southern one), because of the Olympics in Rio gave the recipe its name, “Brazilian Blowout Gumbo”.  (special note: next up is a honey mustard, tarragon glazed chicken but that will be later this week)

Brazilian Blowout Gumbo

(Makes 6 – 8 servings)

Gary Bechard – The Well Fed Cyclist

Ingredients:

3 – Boneless-skinless chicken breasts, cubed

14 ounces – Andouille sausage, sliced crosswise

16 ounces – Cooked tail off shrimp, defrosted, 51 to 70 count

1 cup – Fresh okra sliced

1/3 – Medium sweet onion, rough diced

1/3 – Red bell pepper, diced

1/3 – Yellow bell pepper, diced

1/3 – Green bell pepper, diced

1 ½ stalks – Celery, diced

1 – 28 ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes

1 – 28 ounce can of tomato sauce

1 – 28 ounce can of diced fire roasted tomatoes

2 – 15 ounce cans of fire roasted corn

1 handful (about 3/4ths cup) – Fresh Parsley leaves, finely chopped

3 – Cloves garlic, finely chopped

8 ounces – Chicken stock (or vegetable stock if the spirit moves you)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I say this amount but it should only be enough to swirl around the bottom of the pot a couple of times during the cooking process)

1 tbsp – Coarse ground black pepper

2 tsp – Thyme (I used dried ground)

A brief note before the construction instructions: I normally chop my vegetables and meat ingredients ahead of time because it makes for easier cooking and cleaning.

Construction Instructions:

In a big stockpot, pour a nice “figure 8” of olive oil on the bottom. Turn the heat to mid range (5 or 6 on most electric ranges) and bring the oil up to temperature remembering that olive oil has a low smoke point and does not withstand high heat very well without breaking down. When the oil is hot, add Andouille sausage slices and cook them until they are done and they have rendered their fatty goodness on the bottom of the pan. Remove the slices from the pot with a slotted spoon, set aside and add a little bit more olive oil and bring the oil back up to temperature. Next add the chicken cubes and cook them until they are done and repeat the process of removing the cubed chicken and setting aside. Once again, drizzle a little bit of oil in the pot and with a wooden spoon scrape some of the tasty bits off the bottom and add your garlic sautéing this until the garlic softens making sure that you do not allow the garlic to turn brown. Lower the heat to low medium and then, add the onions, peppers and celery sautéing these until they soften. With all of that goodness going on in the pot, add the okra slices and pour in the chicken stock covering the vegetables. Cook the okra until it is tender then add back the chicken and the sausage. Once this is done, add each of the cans of tomatoes, tomato sauce and the fire roasted corn (water and all) and stir all of these together allowing the ingredients to get acquainted. Next add the parsley and the thyme, re-stir, to distribute the herbs evenly. Lower the heat so that the mixture is at a low simmer (the liquid will lightly bubble and not be a rolling boil) and make sure that you are constantly stirring to make sure the heat stays even throughout the mixture and to start breaking down the whole tomatoes. You can aid in breaking down the tomatoes by cutting them through with the edge of the wooden spoon with which you are using to stir. The process will take about 30 to 40 minutes and you should notice that your liquids cooking down a bit. In the last 10 minutes, after the whole tomatoes have broken down, add the shrimp and cook for another 10 minutes until they are heated thoroughly.

I served this over whole grain brown rice with jalapeno-cheese bread slices.

Enjoy!

The Well Fed Cyclist

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You always remember your first…

There are all kinds of firsts; first car, first girlfriend, first kiss, etc., etc. but there is a first for a food blogger (I think that is what I am, at least part time anyway) and that is the restaurant review. I will preface this review with the fact that I have been a dishwasher, bus boy, waiter and wine steward for various restaurants where I have had the good fortune to be able to learn from folks that made restaurants their life’s business. What I witnessed and experienced at this restaurant pushes the boundaries of what these folks told me regarding making sure that the diner has a great experience. Please keep in mind that this is only one night and that it may not be representative of the restaurant’s overall performance. Now on with the review.

I am here in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and we, as a group, decided to go to a place called Nacho Hippo. It has a very “beachy” vibe with a relaxed , laid back atmoshpere and lots of outdoor seating.  The volume of the music was a tad too loud for me because it made casual conversation with folks at the table a bit difficult but it could be overlooked since there were a large number of people (You might want to add that I am “old” too). The sign out front stated that they normally had live music which started around 7:00pm. The wait was typical for the beach during “in season”, about 40 minutes (we arrived at around 5:00pm so if you are going later be prepared).  Please note that the restaurant staff states that after 7:00pm the place gets “nuts”. The Hippo has a decent menu with some interesting items like their Fritter appetizer. The food offerings seem to be a fusion of Southern California, local South Carolina and American twists on nachos, burritos and tacos.  Service was decent but it appeared that they were a bit short staffed on knowledgeable servers since in some cases chaos and mixed up orders reigned supreme.  Plus, it is a long walk from the kitchen to the dining area so there may be one of the causes. The food tasted good with a nice mixture of flavors but the tacos arrived cool and the black beans and rice were one step above being removed from the refrigerator.

Based on the experience, I cannot wholeheartedly reccommend this restaturant but I will most likely give it another try and see how they do. You should too.

The Well Fed Cyclist

Unexpected Pairings?

A funny thing happened on the way to the refrigerator.  I was looking for something that I could kind of have for dessert but did not want anything that was too terribly sweet. A current resident of the fridge was a sixpack of Strongbow Hard Apple cider and I was kind of wanting one of those after cleaning the house from the top to bottom but there were also those hyper thin, triple ginger cookies I got from Trader Joe’s.  I was almost ready to have either one or the other but, not being terrribly thoughtful about the process, I decided to have a stack of these nifty thin cookies AND a Long Bow over ice.  I was not quite sure that this was going to work or if I was way off the mark with regard to the flavors but the result was unexpected and amazing!  What a great dessert! The cool crisp of the hard cider combining with the sweet and spicy of the ginger was excellent!  A substitute for the Trader Joe’s cookies would be the Moravian ginger cookies from Old Salem (near Winston Salem, North Carolina). I highly recommend this pairing.

Enjoy!

There were the 300…

And there were with Leonidas the 300 who fought to the death for Greece and Sparta.  Ah but there will not be that kind of carnage here in this space, unless of course the vegetables rise up against the proteins in mortal combat, but, I am really not expecting that to happen. This is more the story of a man cruising the aisles of Trader Joe’s stalking a jar of fire roasted artichokes.  For weeks, I saw them, pining to see what they had to offer in the way of taste but, I did not have a recipe in which to use them and to get them just to get them might be a waste.  What to do, what to do? As with most stories, the saga does not end there. This past week, tired of chicken and fish, I found some turkey tenderloins which looked pretty good and thought that I could treat them like a pork tenderloin and stuff them in a Mediterranean way but without the cheese. Having picked up a container of spinach and artichoke dip, I thought that if I were to combine at least the two major ingredients from the dip, everything would turn out okay and it did.  The result is this recipe.  I had great success with this and hope you get to try it too.

Spartichoke

(Mediterranean stuffed turkey tenderloin)

(makes 2 – 3 servings)

The Well Fed Cyclist – Gary Bechard

Ingredients:

1 – Turkey tenderloin, boneless, skinless

1 ½ – Grilled, marinated artichoke, chopped fine

1 ½ cups – Frozen chopped spinach, cooked

½ – Medium sweet onion, fine diced

1 ½ tsps – Lemon juice

1 ½ tsps – Coarse ground Kosher salt

1 tsp – Dried mint leaves

Coarse ground black pepper (to taste)

Greek seasoning (for the outside the roll)

Filling:

In a medium skillet, do a couple of turns around the pan with olive oil and over low/med heat sauté the onions until softened and become translucent being careful not to fully caramelize them. When these are done set them aside. Next cook the spinach. I used the frozen to cut down on preparation time and so that I could put them in a microwave for the requisite 4 minutes but you could wilt fresh in chicken stock, cool and then finely chop. In a large bowl put the grilled artichokes, spinach, roasted red bell pepper and sweet onion and fold together so that all the ingredients are evenly distributed. Next, add seasonings, lemon juice, salt, pepper and mint and mix until seasonings are evenly coating the mixture. When this is complete, place mixture in the refrigerator for a few minutes to try to get it to the same temperature as the turkey tenderloin.

Tenderloin Preparation:

Take the turkey tenderloin and place on some plastic sheeting, cover with plastic sheeting and gently pound with a meat hammer moving from the center (where the tenderloin is thickest) to the edges working the meat until it is about ¼ inch thick. Make sure not to break through the meat because then the stuffing would fall out. The tenderloin should end up being the size of a regular dinner plate. Note: you can always do a second tenderloin if you are making this for more than 2 or 3.

Construction Instruction:

Take the tenderloin and place on a large, flat area covered with plastic sheeting or a large dinner plate. Next take the stuffing that was created and spread this evenly over the tenderloin. Then, starting from one side, roll the tenderloin up to create a roll. When you have your roll take some 100 percent cotton string (the kind that can be used for cooking) and truss the roll to keep it together.

In a large skillet, do a couple of good turns around the pan with olive oil and put to medium heat. Next gently take the tenderloin roll and place in the pan and sprinkle Greek seasoning on the top. Brown all sides of the tenderloin and when complete take the roll and place in a baking dish in which there is 1/8 inch of water. (keeps this moist). Bake at 340 degrees for 40 minutes.

-Meal served with tomato and cucumber salad and baked rice.

Enjoy!

Back in the Saddle Again…

It has been a long while since I posted last but I am hoping to change that with a slight change of direction for the blog. I will try to include musings, if you will, on some of the local food scenes I tend to visit, commentary on cooking and preparation or possibly some of the quirky ideas I have regarding food combinations. Don’t worry, I will still do recipes as I convert them from the scribblings of a “madman” (that’s me by the way) to electronic format.  How about that, I do have a recipe prepared for today. By way of an explanation regarding my absence from the blogosphere, I guess one might say that stress and being preoccupied with other aspects of my life took over and I am now deciding to take my life and what I enjoy back.  I hope you enjoy the new direction.  For me, this seems to be a comfortable way to proceed and get back on track with my food love affair.

“Ever eat a pine tree? Many parts are edible you know.”, as some of you older folks may know, Euell Gibbons used to ask this in his commercial for Grape Nuts (a fine cereal, in my opinion). He went on to explain that pine nuts were a part of the tree which could be eaten and then he began to expound on the virtues of the cereal. As you may or may not know, pine nuts are an integral part of pesto sauce but I have always found that the flavour was not as pleasing as some other types of nuts. The taste of traditional pesto, yes even the homemade, had a slight “varnish” quality that I could not get past.  I struggled with that for a long time but decided to substitute pistachio nuts and some other ingredients to change the taste.  The result was the my version of basil pesto. If you try this I hope you enjoy it and please let me know!

Pesto Chango!

(Basil pesto sauce)

Ingredients:

2 – Cups, packed basil leaves

2 – Cloves garlic, finely chopped

4 to 6 – Fresh mint leaves

1/4 – Cup roasted and salted pistachios

2/3 – Cup of extra virgin olive oil

1/2 – Cup finely grated pecorino Romano cheese or (if you have a lactose intolerant person in the house you can substitute 1 to 2 tablespoons of coarse ground kosher salt)

1 – Teaspoon lemon juice

Coarse ground black pepper to taste

1/2 – Tablespoon Lemon peel (grated)

Construction Instructions:

In a food processor, put the pistachios and pulse them several times to reduce them. Repeat the process with the basil, garlic, and mint. When this is complete, add the olive oil, lemon juice Romano cheese, pepper and lemon peel to the food processor and puree the ingredients together.

I use this sauce on chicken and salmon but it also works well with light pasta.

Enjoy!

The Well Fed Cyclist

Everyone needs a quest…

First, I have to apologize for not posting last week.  I was not prepared as I had too many recipes which had not been converted to electronic format and the food notebook is well, for lack of better words, something that looks like the rants and scribblings of a lunatic.  The notes do not translate well (kind of like seeing Swahili for the first time) and are not electronic.

Now I believe that everyone needs a quest or something to strive for.  Is it wrong that my current culinary quest is to stuff  everything in the cabbage family?  I have been looking at Savoy cabbage for quite some time, not in an inappropriate way mind you, and have been wondering with what I could possibly stuff it. I wanted to have something lighter than regular stuffed cabbage which leaves you with that, I don’t know, feeling that you just ate a bowling ball. I decided on chicken because the boneless – skinless breasts take on flavors well and are easy to work with and frankly, I have already done the “shrimp thing”.  Finally, I cannot lay claim to thinking of the Frank’s Sweet chili sauce as a topper for these beauties because my wife came up with the idea during her heating them up for lunch the next day.  Without further delay, here is the recipe.  Mind you, this recipe is a bit labor intensive but so very worth the effort. I shared this with some of the ladies at work and they loved them!

Putting on the Savoy

(Chicken stuffed Savoy cabbage)

(Serves 4-6)

The Well Fed Cyclist – Gary Bechard

Ingredients:

2 – Chicken breasts, boneless – skinless, baked, shredded and fine diced (I went ahead and did 3 with one of them becoming an awesome chicken sandwich the next day)

1 1/2 cups – Basmati rice, about 4 servings (I used Uncle Ben’s for simplicity) prepared according to package instructions.

1 – Small head of Savoy cabbage

1/3 cup – Green onions, chopped (Stuffing mixture)

1/3 cup – Mushrooms, fine chopped, I used cremini mushrooms (baby portabellas) (Stuffing mixture)

For the roasting of the chicken:

1 tsp – Kosher salt

1 tsp – Coarse ground black pepper

1/2 tsp – Smoked paprika

6 sprigs – Thyme leaves

1 tbsp – Rosemary leaves, fine chopped

1/4 cup – Chicken stock

Preparation – Take the chicken breasts and place in a small baking dish in which you have put the chicken stock, season with the salt, pepper, smoked paprika, thyme and rosemary. Bake them at 350 degrees for about 35 to 40 minutes or until they are done (internal temperature 165 to 170 degrees) and set aside to cool. Note: you can always do the chicken a day ahead if you would like to cut down on preparation time on the day you are stuffing the cabbage.

While the chicken is doing its thing in the oven, core the cabbage head by taking a 3 to 4 inch deep cone around the stem of the cabbage. The cone should be about the same length as a good paring knife. Place the cabbage head in water topside down and boil for about 35 minutes (nifty it is the same amount of time as the baking time on the chicken, eh?) or until the leaves begin to soften. Once the cabbage head is done, take and set in a colander to drain and cool.

Construction Instruction

Rice – I used Uncle Ben’s rice because it is easy and only takes 10 minutes. Cook the rice according to the package directions drain well and set aside.

Stuffing Mixture – Take your chicken and fork shred and fine dice and toss into a very large bowl. Next add, cooked rice, green onions and mushrooms. Now you are ready to fold everything together until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

 

Creating the stuffed leaves – First, make your “production line” in a pretty large working area of the kitchen with the colander that contains the cabbage, then the stuffing bowl, a large flat plate on which to stuff and fold the cabbage leaves then your baking dish. In the baking dish (a deep 9” X 13”) or similar dish (the one that I use is about 2 ½ “ to 3” deep) put about a ¼ inch (about a 1/3 cup) of chicken or mushroom stock in the bottom to keep the leaves moist during the baking process. Working from the outside of the cabbage head take a leaf and place on the plate with stem side toward you, spoon about a couple of tablespoons worth of the mixture in the center. The amount of mixture will vary with the size of the leaves.Then, take the stem side and fold over top of the mixture so that the end is at the edge of the pile of mixture, next, fold each side to the center and finally take the far end and fold toward you. Take the completed packet and place with the smooth side up in the baking dish. Repeat, this process until you have a layer of packets along the bottom of the baking dish. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

 

Plating – I plated these 2 to 3 per person and allow each person to put the amount of Frank’s brand sweet chili sauce they desire on top. I served this with a double helping of stir-fried vegetables.

 

Enjoy!

The Well Fed Cyclist

 

 

There’s a conflict in the kitchen?

I need to explain myself regarding the title. There is this small outdoor restaurant in Pittsburgh called “Conflict Kitchen” which does recipes native to a place that is in conflict with the United States.  They do the recipes for usually 3 to 4 months and then change to another area of the world with the same criteria.  The latest place was Cuba and the recipes were awesome! Perfectly cooked black beans and rice, shredded pork done in their “Mojo” marinade and shredded beef done in tomato sauce, and other yummy flavors of course, which was to die for.  I applaud the chefs who put this food out and I have to say the food was better than what I had in Miami.  This restaurant was the inspiration for my Mojito marinade.

Sorry there was no post yesterday but it was the last leaf roundup before winter sets in up here and it took a bit of time.  If you have been following the latest posts, I told everyone  that I was working on a new pork (and chicken for those who roll that way) marinade based on the rum drink the Mojito.  Little did I know that another name for “Mojo” marinade is “Mojito” marinade and everyone has pretty much the same take on it.  I wanted to do something different, my own spin, so to speak. The result is a marinade that is kind of a marriage of the rum drink recipe and a traditional Mojo marinade.  I used the marinade on boneless pork chops which I seared off in a pan before popping them in the oven at 325 degrees for about 45 to 60 minutes.  I served them with black beans and rice and a nice cucumber salad.  Without further delay, here is the recipe.

Not Your Mama’s (Mojito marinade for pork and chicken)

Covers 1 ½ to 2 lbs of meat

Gary Bechard – The Well Fed Cyclist

Ingredients:

1/3 cup – Extra virgin olive oil

1 oz – White rum or you can substitute 1 tsp of rum extract

8 to 9 – Mint leaves, chopped

1/8 to 1/4 cup – Cilantro, chopped

2 to 3 limes – Juiced, (the limes I used were pretty large as limes go so you may have to use more as you want to have about 1/4 cup of juice)

1/2 cup – Orange juice

1 tbsp – Brown sugar ( I used a minimally processed sugar)

5 – Garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 tsp – Ground cumin

1 1/2 tbsp. – Dried oregano leaves

1 1/2 tsp – Lemon peel

1 tsp – Coarse ground black pepper

1 tsp – Kosher salt

Construction Instruction:

Combine all ingredients in a large glass bowl, whisk until thoroughly combined. Cover the mixture tightly with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. You are really going to want these ingredients to become intimate. Once this mixture has set for the requisite amount of time put your pork or chicken in a large plastic bag that seals very well, add the marinade and allow the combination to set in the refrigerator for at least an hour. The longer you marinate the better the flavors are going to be.

Enjoy!

The Well Fed Cyclist