Not just cookbooks, though I can spend long hours on the couch perusing those as well, but books about food, food history, and food culture.
Books like The Belly of Paris by Emile Zola, and The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pepin have changed the way I look at food, and the respect I have for it, and the process that get’s it to my table.
The Nasty Bits by Anthony Bourdain (regardless of what I think of Tony, personally, it’s a fantastic book) and The Whole Beast, by Fergus Henderson, have sent me on a culinary adventure (usually flying solo, lol) far beyond the walls of sterilized, saran-wrapped “stuff marts” into a Wonka-esque world of offal wonderfulness.
Here’s an awesome appetizer to keep the zombie hordes away from your grill at the next cook-out. I’ve made this recipe a couple of times this month, first for out G.R.U.N.T.S. inaugural dinner, and – because it was so good – again for an appetizer for out hautemealz.com Easter feast.
The first gig was a Cuban theme and that’s how I found this recipe…well, actually, I never did find a recipe, just this description:
“Cumin spiced ground beef it mixed with olives as well hard-boiled egg and other spices then its rolled in light pastry and deep fried till golden and crunchy, its served with a habanero sauce, that is just slightly spicy and compliments the dish really nicely.”
With those in-depth instructions, I decided to use egg-roll sheets (big won-ton wrappers), Roberto Guerra’s Cuban hamburger recipe for the meat, and make my yellow sriracha sauce for dinner.
Perfect storm, baby.
Cigars del Pinar
1/2 lb ground sirloin (15% fat)
1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 lb pork/beef chorizo
1 Tbs each cumin, salt, ground pepper
1 cup black olives, chopped
1 lg yellow onion, diced
5 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
2 cups cabbage, shredded
20 egg-roll wrappers (1 pkg)
Peanut oil for frying
In a large skillet, cook meats with onion and spices, until cooked through and finely crumbled. Drain most of the excess oil and mix (still hot) with the cabbage. Add in the olives and eggs, and toss until well combined.
Place 2-3 Tbs of this mixture onto a egg-roll wrapper, and roll up (see slideshow, below) wetting the ends with a brush of warm water, to seal.
Bring 2 inches of oil to medium high heat in a large, heavy skillet. Using long tongs, add the egg-rolls in batches, leaving plenty of cooking room around each. Fry until golden and crispy (it goes quick 1-2 minutes per side, max). Remove to paper towels to drain.
Serve warm with cold Yellow Sriracha Sauce
Note: Plan to finish these up at least 15 minutes before you intend to serve them, the interiors stay freakin’ hot for a long time!
How to Roll a Cigar (del Pinar, that is…)
Yellow Sriracha Sauce
4 yellow bell peppers, diced
1 hot yellow pepper*, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 Tbs light brown sugar
Chop the peppers and place in a bowl. Add garlic, salt & vinegar. Cover and let set on the counter overnight or 8 hours.
In the morning, remove peppers & garlic from bowl and place in saucepan. Add 1/4 cup of the vinegar mixture, 2 Tbs of water and the brown sugar.
You can add more vinegar if you want it more tart and a thin sauce. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5 min. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
It’s no secret that I like good food, bizarre food, often even expensive food, but sometimes I like to get back to the basics, as well. I truly believe that if you can’t enjoy a good meal because it was cheap, common, and/or easy to make…if you can’t love a perfectly grilled cheese sandwich, or a dirty-water hot dog, as much as you do a good foie gras, or duck confit…then you’re not a foodie…you’re a food snob.
My personal definition of a foodie is someone who enjoys the foods they like…unconditionally, and regardless of other’s opinions.
On that note, I made some awesome grub back in my college days, when money was scarce (well, slightly more scarce than it is now, anyway), and I can still enjoy some of those creations.
One of my favorite “cheap meals” was a creation I called the College Calzone. Back then, the basic ingredient cost about 88 cents, nowadays you can pick them up 10 for $10 on sale, or about two bucks when they’re not. My school buddy Jeremiah, a 120lb bottomless pit, could fill himself up for less that five bucks!
Here’s how you make the College Calzone:
(I’ve used “Totino’s” in this recipe, but any brand of cheapie pizza will do. )
Step 1: Unwrap the pizza.
Step 2: Cook per package instructions
Step 3: Top with 2 Tbs of pizza sauce (optional)
Step 4: Fold pizze in half, eat, repeat as needed.
Note: If you wanna make this meal crazy good, pick up the plain cheese version and top with leftover grilled chicken, pulled pork, or thinly sliced smoked brisket (all stolen from your parent’s fridge, of course), and replace the pizza sauce with a thin brush of your favorite bbq sauce…wow!
Other great “stuffin’s” include, seasoned ground beef, pico de gallo, shredded lamb, and fresh cilantro with raw diced sweet onions.
Jeremiah used to put sliced hot dogs and pickles on his, which…um…wasn’t my favorite combination, lol.
Remember, man…even college men, cannot live on ramen alone!