Fried Pickles

first pickle pic

Fried pickles are  common bar food found more so in the south than other parts of the country, but they are gaining popularity at nearly the rate that Miley Cyrus gains Twitter followers.  Legend has it that Fried Pickles were first made in Atkins, Arkansas by some dude named “Fatman” Austin.  His recipe is said to be held close to his heart and highly guarded.  They say only select members of his family know his recipe and these days it is only used once a year at the annual Picklefest in Atkins each May.  I think I need to plan a visit to Arkansas!

I have eaten fried pickles all over the country, and until recently I hadn’t found one good enough to brag about.  That’s when I tried the fried pickles on the menu at Lew’s Bar and Grilllew's pickles

right here in good old Waldo, KCMO, USA!

These are the real deal.  They are tangy, tart, crispy on the outside, all while still remaining a crunchy pickled chip of cucumber.  If you’ve never had them, you need to.  Fried pickles are a wonderful appetizer.  And they just happen to pair well with almost any kind of beer, especially cold ones.  Lew’s fried pickles are so good that I cant remember the last time I went there and didn’t order them right off the bat.  Its pretty much a given that when I go to Lew’s I get Fried Pickles.

I have often thought about trying to duplicate these delicacies, but have never put the plan in action.  Until very recently that is.  It only took me 2 tries to make a snack that I think could stand up to the Fatman in a Fried Pickle Throwdown.
I tried regular old common everyday hamburger dill slices, and I tried whole kosher dill pickles.  I opted for the whole kosher dills, slicing them myself to a thickness of 1/8” to no more than 1/4” thick. pickle2

I made a simple tempura like batter from 1/2 cup flour, 1 teaspoon granulated garlic, pinch of cayenne pepper, 1 tablespoon all purpose seasoning salt, 2 Tablespoons of yellow cornmeal and 1 cup cold water.  Mix together until smooth.pickle4Pat dry your slices of cucumbers pickle3and dip into the batter.  Remove pickle slices from the batter, shaking off any excess.  Drop into 375 degree oil and fry for about 2 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from oil and drain over paper towels to absorb any extra unwanted grease.  Serve with your favorite Ranch style dipping sauce.  pickle 1

These came out pretty good if I do say so myself, and others said they were the bomb too!  They even got two thumbs up from one of my pregnant friends.  And we all know what they say about pregnant women and pickles!
Someone suggested I try the same thing except using some sweet bread & butter pickles in place of the dills.  Great idea!   Stay tuned.
Try these yourself and let me know how ya like me now!
Cook!  Eat!  Repeat!

Pork Rillettes

“Rillettes”…..”Pork Pate”……..”Pig Jam”….

20140804-124603-45963791.jpgCall it whatever you want, it tastes incredibly good by any name. In fact, in all of its simplicity. Purity, and elegance, Pork Rillettes is without a doubt one of the top 3 appetizers I have ever made in my life.
Pork, wine, salt, and time. Oh, and patience. That’s pretty much all you need to make this mouthwatering spread. Once you experience this decadence you will see how Pork Rillettes is sort of the French version of what we love to call “Pulled Pork”, turned into a spread, only better. This stuff is pig in its finest, purest form. “Confiture de Cochon” , or “Pig Jam” is what the French call Rillettes. I like that name: Pig Jam! For some strange reason I find myself saying it over and over again. But that’s another story. So now I’m going to give a quick and easy crash course on how to make something sooooooo good it it’ll be worth the wait.
The first thing you need is some pork. I use pork belly and pork butt, skin removed, and diced coarsely.

20140804-124935-46175495.jpgI like to use a ratio of 2 parts lean meat to one part fatty meat. This makes the spread something special, to be stored away and savored for a while. Make sure you get some fresh pork, not that altered product that someone decided to inject with seasonings and preservatives, aka chemicals. The number one thing to remember when you’re making this is how good, simple, and elegant the pure porkiness is. The sheer humbleness of this stuff is what makes it so amazing. Literally it is meat, fat, and a little seasonings and some salt. That’s all that’s needed to carry the flavors down the road, over your tongue to its final destination of taste town. I’m getting hungry already. You will also need some ground black pepper, mustard seeds, salt

20140804-125136-46296648.jpgBay leaves and crushed garlic cloves.

20140804-125256-46376163.jpgAnd white wine.

20140804-125409-46449145.jpgPlace the pork in a heavy pot.

20140804-125538-46538159.jpgAdd mustard seeds, pepper, salt, garlic and the bay leaves.

20140804-125718-46638949.jpgMix well. Add wine.

20140804-125919-46759191.jpg Bring to a boil, reduce to a very slow simmer and cook, skimming any foam, for 30 minutes. Add some sliced bacon and some water, return to a very slow simmer, cover and cook for 2 1/2 hours, stirring once or twice during this time.

20140804-130041-46841865.jpgUncover and increase heat to medium. Cook 20 to 30 minutes more until any liquid is pure fat, not water.

20140804-130217-46937478.jpgYou can tell if you look at a spoonful of the liquid and there are no little water bubbles. Taste the fat and adjust the seasonings if needed; do not under-season because the rillettes will be served fairly cold. Set aside to cool 1 hour. Remove bay leaves. Mash and shred the mixture, using your fingers, a couple of forks, a pair of nice sharp French knives, or what works really well, even a pastry cutter.

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20140804-130729-47249890.jpgTransfer to a crock or glass jar with a lid that clamps tight, pressing down so there are no air bubbles. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight.

20140804-131028-47428542.jpgRemove from refrigerator 30 minutes before serving. Serve on crackers, crispy bread, toast, in an omelet, or if you’re really wanting a change in your lunch, spread it on your bread when you make your favorite sandwich. Soooooooo good!

20140804-131302-47582541.jpgI warned you- it’s addicting.

20140804-131514-47714494.jpgThanks for watching, folks! And remember: “Cook. Eat. Repeat!”

Sriracha Sauce (Steve From Scratch Style)

20140615-192156-69716165.jpgIf you’re a foodie, a hipster, a swankster, a fashionista, or even a wankster, I’m sure you have at least heard of Sriracha Sauce, if not eaten it. Some people call it “Rooster Sauce”, some even call it “Chinese Ketchup”. If you are one of the few who hasn’t tried this “King of Kondiments”, beware; it’s extremely addicting. This stuff is made in massive quantities in California by a company called Huy Fong Foods. It was created in 1980 by a Chinese-Vietnamese guy name David Tran. They receive 30 tractor trailer loads of red chili peppers every day and start the process of washing, grinding, and aging the mash in giant blue barrels. Later the mixture gets a dose of garlic, sugar, and vinegar and is cooked and pureed before bottling in that all too familiar bottle with the Rooster and the Green Squirt Cap.

20140615-192256-69776253.jpgMost, if not all of you reading this blog know how I feel about the “Big Batch Boys” of food products. I believe that anything they can make, I can make better. And if I can make it, so can you. Hence the name, Steve From Scratch. Besides, who needs all of those chemicals, preservatives, flavor enhancers, and other hard to pronounce things in their food. Food should be simple but elegant, just like me! So enough rambling, lets get to it. From what I’ve seen on the internet and television video sources and documentaries, this stuff can be made 2 ways, fermented, or unfermented. We will make them both because they are both so simple you wont believe you haven’t tried it before. The first thing you need is your chilies. Huy Fong makes their signature sauce from Red Jalapenos. I like to use Red Fresno Peppers.

20140615-192753-70073332.jpgThey have a slightly more tangy flavor and a less tough skin. You will use the whole pepper, just snip off the stem and leave the green cap at the top of the pepper intact.

20140615-193030-70230824.jpgYou will also need some fresh garlic cloves

20140615-193136-70296283.jpgSome brown sugar

20140615-193209-70329488.jpgSome Kosher Salt

20140615-193243-70363621.jpgAnd Some White Vinegar.

20140615-193320-70400326.jpgTo make the “Fresh” or Non Fermented” recipe you need to put the peppers, garlic cloves, brown sugar, salt, and vinegar in a medium saucepan and add a small amount of water.

20140615-193616-70576153.jpgBring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and let simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes until everything is soft and the “sauce” starts to thicken.

20140615-193726-70646109.jpgTake the pan off of the heat and let the mixture cool. Put the cooled pepper mixture in a food processor or blender and pulse until it is fairly smooth but not liquefied. You want a slightly chunky consistency. Add a little more water to the mix if you think it’s too thick.

20140615-193857-70737960.jpgPut a fine screen strainer over top of a medium sized bowl and pour the pepper puree into the strainer.

20140615-194007-70807678.jpgUse a rubber spatula or the back of a metal spoon to press the mixture thru the strainer. Keep pressing and scraping until you are left with a thick mass of pepper seeds and solids in the strainer.

20140615-194128-70888244.jpg Discard this mess carefully. I usually press and scrape mine 2-3 times in small batches.
Store your sauce in a clean, sanitized, and airtight jar or container. Keep this in the refrigerator and it is good for 6 weeks, if you don’t use it all by then.

20140615-194241-70961133.jpgTo make the Fermented Style Sauce you will need a little more patience, and about a week waiting time.
Place the peppers, garlic, brown sugar, and salt into a food processor or blender

20140615-194617-71177270.jpgand pulse until the peppers are finely chopped but not pureed.

20140615-194818-71298477.jpgTransfer this mixture into a clean, sanitized jar with a lid and let sit on your counter or wherever you want to put it so that you don’t forget it and end up with some type of all natural gas bomb / personal protection spray. Let it sit there for 7 days to ferment.

20140615-195019-71419373.jpgOpen the jar every day and give it a quick stir. After a few days you should see bubbles forming

20140615-195145-71505160.jpgand the mash will start to grow in volume. This is a good thing.
After 7 days pour the mixture into a blender and add the vinegar. Puree until smooth. Place a strainer over a medium sized sauce pan and pour the pepper puree into the strainer. Use a rubber spatula or the back of a metal spoon to press the mixture thru the strainer. Keep pressing and scraping until you are left with a thick mass of pepper seeds and solids in the strainer. Discard this mess carefully. I usually press and scrape mine 2-3 times in small batches.
Once you have pressed all of the mashed peppers and garlic, bring the mixture to a boil.
Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes, until the sauce clings to a wooden spoon.
Take the pan off the heat and let the sauce cool.
Pour this batch of sauce into clean, sanitized bottle or jars, airtight, and keep this one in the refrigerator as well. This type will last in your refrigerator for up to 6 months, although I doubt you will be able to keep it in there that long.
Try and see. I bet you will find yourself reaching for the jar and putting it on all kinds of foods. Let me know. Thanks for looking, now get cooking!

20140615-195455-71695495.jpgCook. Eat. Repeat.

One Pot Pasta

By now I’m sure that most of you reading this have seen those recipes floating around the internet and social media touting the benefits of “One Pot Pastas”, the “Wonderpots”, the “Meal to Make When You Just Don’t Have Time”. I have personally seen several of these recipes, and each time I saw one, I had my doubts. Then I started thinking about it from a culinary standpoint, and my “Chefbrain” took over. That’s when the doubts started to gain credibility. I mean, one of my favorite pasta dishes to make is an old Italian classic, Pasta Cacio E Pepe, which uses some of the pasta cooking water as a fairly important part of the recipe to form, bind, and thicken the sauce. Makes sense, right? Isn’t pasta starchy to begin with anyway? So the other night I decided to try this method and see just what happens. I mean if the Italians used this principle it must be good.
So I chopped a half a sweet onion, minced 4 cloves garlic, cut 6 Roma tomatoes into chunks, sliced 2 cups of button mushrooms, and tore up 6 leaves of fresh basil

20140526-183838-67118301.jpgI put a 14 ounce box of rotini pasta into a large sauce pot.

20140526-184053-67253293.jpgThen I dumped in the vegetables and herbs along with 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1/3 cup olive oil, and 1 teaspoon salt.

20140526-184331-67411102.jpgAnd stirred until everything was evenly mixed.

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Then I added 5 cups cold water, stirred thoroughly, and set the heat to high.
Bring to a boil, stirring every few minutes to prevent sticking.

20140526-184506-67506578.jpgCook for 12-14 minutes or until the pasta reaches your preferred level of tenderness. Turn off the heat, stir the pasta and sauce together and let rest for 4 minutes.

20140526-184625-67585016.jpgI served mine topped with some grated Romano cheese and it was every bit as good as I hoped.

20140526-184743-67663423.jpgEasy, clean, fast, tasty, and the best part of it – All Natural! No unwanted, unnecessary, unwelcome chemicals, preservatives, etc. Try it, you’ll be glad you did. I will definitely make this again. And be adventurous – use any combination of flavors, herbs and vegetables that you want.
P.S. – The leftovers (if you are fortunate enough to have some left) are even better the next day! <— Hint–Good place to use some of that leftover steak butter, toss some in the pasta when reheating!
Cook. Eat. Repeat!

Steak Butter aka Beurre Maitre d’Hotel

Not much beats the sight of a melting mound of Garlicky Steakhouse butter slowly fading away on top of your favorite perfectly cooked steak. This wet wonder of flavor is easy to make, and perfect for steak, chops, chicken, and even seafood. No rules, right?
This special mixture is a butter / sauce that is found in a lot of good restaurants, on top of cooked meats. But have no fear, it is easily made at home. Where it came from or got its start is not easy to pinpoint, but these days it is fairly common on menus, even if no one refers to it by the same name.
I’ve heard this good thing referred to as Herbed Butter, Compound Butter, Hotel Butter or Steak Butter. To be more proper its real name is Beurre Maitre d’Hotel. This is somewhat of a “foodie” term that simply means Hotel Butter. Bottom line it is a mixture of chopped herbs and seasonings and most importantly Butter. Start off with a stick of regular unsalted butter, cubed, room temperature.

20140525-184117-67277294.jpgWith a spoon or mixer, mash, whip, and cream the butter until it is soft and spreadable.

20140525-184313-67393598.jpgAdd your desired selection of chopped herbs

20140525-184440-67480203.jpgand seasonings.

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20140525-184825-67705978.jpgMix well.

20140525-184948-67788938.jpgLay out some plastic wrap in a rectangular shape. Place the butter mixture on an edge of the plastic

20140525-185144-67904983.jpgand roll to the other edge of plastic

20140525-185253-67973481.jpgforming a log shape.

20140525-185335-68015400.jpgRefrigerate until firm.

20140525-185426-68066214.jpgCut into small rounds

20140525-185640-68200042.jpgand serve on top of your favorite grilled meat or fish.

20140525-185725-68245577.jpgAs it melts it will form a savory “sauce” that mixes with the meat juices, giving it a free ride to Flavortown. Now let’s not stop here and get stuck in that proverbial “box”. We all know that I am always trying to “push out into the blue”, “speculate”, or “think outside of the box”. Normal scares me. Some typical ingredients in Hotel Butter are parsley, lemon juice, garlic, salt and black pepper. However, I will say this again as it bears repeating, “There are no rules when it comes to cooking”. Think about what tastes good to you. Think caramelized onions, cooked bacon, Blue Cheese, chives, chopped spinach, coffee, sauerkraut, mushrooms, olive tapenade, Sriracha sauce, brown sugar, horseradish, crabmeat or lobster meat (make sure to cook these first), crushed Doritos, truffles, jalapenos (raw or roasted), or even try a BLT Butter (Chopped cooked Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato)…..I could go on and on and on….
This leads to other uncommon, unnatural, and unusual uses for Hotel Butter. After you’ve used it for that grilled protein of course. It makes a good spread for toasted crusty bread, bruschetta, biscuits, or even folded into your favorite omelet or pasta sauce. Sauté some vegetables or plain pasta in the leftover Hotel Butter. Hard to go wrong there. It’s a good way to put a different spin on a familiar dish; think about it…???…Cook. Eat. Repeat.
Happy Memorial Day- Go Grill Something to go with your Buttah!

Back In The Saddle Again

So…..I’m Baaaack!
No I haven’t been on vacation, I haven’t been on a trip around the world to “find myself”, I wasn’t on some super secret spy mission that I wouldn’t be able to tell you about, and No, I haven’t been salmon fishing in Alaska!
What I have been is busy. The past few weeks have been one of those periods in time where real life issues get in the way. One of those time periods we have all experienced at one time or another where our full time “paying” job requires a little extra attention.
So in the spirit of getting back on track, and posting more than just snapshots on Instagram or Twitter, this post is going to be a series of views from my eyes, in my kitchen, over the past few weeks. We have served numerous Social Balls, Fundraisers, Weddings, Conventions, Off Property Caterings, Drop off Meal Services, Holiday Meal events, Client Appreciations, and just about any other type of event where food is needed. The events ranged in number from 25 people to 1100 people. One recent Friday at lunch time we served 1100 meals in one ballroom, while at the same time serving 8 other ballrooms each with 80-90 people. We gave new meaning to the phrase “organized chaos”!
Here we go. Ladies and Gentlemen the Chef has turned on the Fasten Seat Belt Sign. Seat backs and trays in the full upright position. Buckle up, it might get bumpy! If you have any questions about our flight today or any other day, please do not hesitate to leave a comment.
Now that we have reached our confortable cruising altitude lets bring on the first course:

20140512-121502.jpgTomato Mozzarella Caprese Canapés

20140512-121804.jpgFingerling Potato, Caviar & Crème Fraiche Hors d’oeuvres

20140512-121907.jpgPea & Parmesan Appetizers
It was Good Friday so what better way to eat seafood– The Southern way. We fired up the pots

20140512-123904.jpgThrew in required vegetables

20140512-124102.jpgAnd had a Crawfish Boil.

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20140512-124348.jpgInstructions included.

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Found time for a little humor, or good advice, depends on how you look at it.

20140512-124617.jpgCut some pineapple for 900 people.

20140512-124728.jpgSome healthy, tasty food was also on the menu

20140512-124838.jpgRoasted Chickpea & Red Quinoa Salad

20140512-125001.jpgOne of the big Non Profit Organizations even made a model of me for their fundraiser.

20140512-125105.jpgThe theme was “Recipe for Success”.
Tried our hand as Sandwich Artists

20140512-125219.jpgMade a few Fried Wild Mushroom Risotto Bites

20140512-125322.jpgAnd some Sesame Crusted Shrimp Skewers

20140512-125428.jpgSmoked Corned Short Ribs

20140512-125603.jpgThese were so good that they shouldn’t be legal.

20140512-130058.jpgHere’s a look at one corner of one of our walk in coolers.

20140512-130214.jpgOf course there were tons of dishes, pots, and pans to be washed, Seems like they could never get caught up.

20140512-130345.jpgMade a few Veggie Spring Rolls

20140512-130516.jpgAssembled some Boxed Lunches.

20140512-130617.jpgWe do lots of “Food That Travels”!

20140512-130704.jpgLocal Cheese Displays

20140512-130806.jpgHouse Smoked Meat Platters

20140512-130846.jpgA super Funky Farro Salad

20140512-130947.jpgLots of Ratatouille

20140512-131047.jpgPan Seared Chicken Breasts

20140512-131142.jpgCarrot Cake Cookie Sandwiches with Crème Filling

20140512-131246.jpgFlourless Chocolate Torte Squares, G-Free and To Die For!

20140512-131328.jpgCandied Walnuts

20140512-131423.jpgSalads on the plating belt for 1000 people

20140512-131549.jpgMini Shrimp Ceviche Cocktails

20140512-131633.jpgMore fruit

20140512-131801.jpgAcorn Squash

20140512-132538.jpgGuacamole Salad

20140512-132627.jpgI know this isn’t technically IN my kitchen, but it’s in my back yard! The Mighty Morel!

20140512-132714.jpgBBQ Shrimp & Pork T-Loin Tacos

20140512-132754.jpgWith all the fixins!

20140512-132831.jpgSome Black Eyed Pea Vinaigrette

20140512-132950.jpgTo go with this Fried Green Tomato Salad

And some nice knife work on these pretty cut vegetables.

20140512-133309.jpgThat’s what I’ve been up to lately!

@Steve From Scratch Made Chocolate Ice Cream

20140407-212046.jpgI have been craving Ice Cream as of late. That’s a rare thing for me. Normally when I get this craving it is in the summertime so I usually make the trek to Sheridans Frozen Custard. This place is hard to beat. But I can. And I will show you how. Here’s my “Steve From Scratch Chocolate Ice Cream.” Its easy and fun to make, rich and creamy and the best part is that it has no fancy ingredients or chemicals or other things you cant pronounce. It’s packed with goodness. Follow along……Combine Milk and heavy Whipping Cream in large saucepan and bring to simmer over medium heat.

20140407-212200.jpgRemove from heat and stir in unsweetened cocoa powder

20140407-212419.jpgand whisk until incorporated.

20140407-212551.jpgStir in semi-sweet chocolate chips

20140407-212633.jpgand whisk until chips are melted and smooth.

20140407-212755.jpgSet aside. Whisk some egg yolks in large bowl

20140407-213013.jpg until smooth.

20140407-213118.jpgGradually add some granulated white sugar

20140407-213352.jpgand whisk

20140407-213444.jpguntil it turns pale yellow and is thickened, about 4 minutes.

20140407-213649.jpgSlowly pour 2 cups of the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the hot chocolate does not cook or scramble the eggs. This is known as “Tempering” in the bizzness!

20140407-213751.jpgPour the tempered mixture

20140407-213920.jpgback into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the spoon.

20140407-214129.jpgA good way to tell when it is cooked and thickened enough is to draw a line thru the chocolate on the spoon. When the chocolate is ready it will leave a mark or path, and not run back together.

20140407-214324.jpgRemove from heat and strain the mixture thru a fine mesh strainer and stir in some vanilla extract.

20140407-214445.jpgPlace in refrigerator to cool, uncovered for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. After an hour stir and cover the mixture and allow to chill at least 4 hours before freezing in your ice cream maker!

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20140407-214838.jpgAin’t she a beauty! After 40 minutes or so of cranking we had soft serve, so then we repacked it in another vessel and Voila…..

20140407-215302.jpgCook. Eat. Repeat!!