A Tater Tot Tribute

While others are adhering to New Years resolutions to eat better and loose weight, I’ve been experimenting with my new deep fryer far more than a person should. 

This weekend I was inspired by my friend, Chef Eric Williams, who appeared on-and won–Guys Grocery Games on Food Network.  He got his start at his Mod Mex restaurant, Momocho.  But he has since made an even bigger name for himself with tasty tater tots and gourmet topped hot dogs at his two Happy Dog locations, and followed it up with Momocho’s sister location, El Carnicero, and pair of Jack Flaps (Urban Breakfast Shoppe and Luncheonette).

I took a look at what I had in the fridge on a cold Sunday afternoon…among the things that caught my eye…a couple of stadium dogs, a bunch of potatoes, couple of jalapeños and the last of a nice chunk of smoked Gouda.  I decided to figure out some sort of tasty topping for the hot dogs, and take a crack at home made cheesy tater tots using the Gouda and jalapeños…in honor of Eric’s appearance on the show. A fromage homage, if you will.

GGG potatoes in cheese cloth

I peeled and shredded 5 small potatoes, then wrung them out using a cheese cloth. To that, I added 1-2 T. seeded and finely diced jalapeño peppers, and 1/2-3/4c. shredded Gouda. To bind it all, I added a beaten egg and 1/2 c. flour. After I seasoned the mixture, I formed it into two 2 inch round logs, on parchment paper, and placed it in the freezer to set.  (I’d give it at least 30 min)

I fired up my deep fryer, set at 350* and sliced the logs into bite-sized pieces, popped them in the fryer a handful at a time and let ’em get golden brown.

While those were working I played around with my hot dog topping.  I sliced equal parts cucumber, red peppers and radishes into matchsticks and made a quick slaw dressing using olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, a smidge of honey and pickle juice. (Heck, pickle relish belongs on hot dogs…right?! Why not play on that?)

I topped my hot dogs with this bright, crunchy slaw and added some Sriracha to ketchup for a great tot dipping sauce. Sweet Thai Chili would be good too!

GGG Chef Eric

Photo Courtesy foodnetwork.com

By the time I poured a drink and plated this at-home bar food, it was time to tune in to the show.  And Eric knocked it out of the part, scoring $16,000 in the prize round and advancing to the finale of this special tournament, (airing Sunday, January 31st at 8pm) made up of All-Stars from Fieri’s other hit show, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  For highlights from Chef Williams’ episode click here.
I was proud to witness the success of a guy who works hard, takes care of his staff, and elevates his community.  Best of luck, Chef!
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Fabulous Food Show: Cooking Competition, Culinary Gala and an Iron Chef One on One

The Fabulous Food Show is indeed that, a fabulous celebration of good food, celebrity chefs and innovative vendors.  It was an incredibly busy week for me, making good use of time and access to some big players.

fab food show chef michael symon

I got some one on one time with Cleveland’s own Iron Chef, and cast member of The Chew, Michael Symon.  We chatted about how the food show is evolving, his new cookbook (5 in 5 For Every Season) what Cleveland needs to do to continue its trajectory into the upper echelon of the food world, and spoke about the long-awaited Mabel’s, (a sore subject!) Symon’s East 4th St. barbecue joint.  He tells me it is about a year behind schedule and way over budget, but yet still on track to fill a void in the local food scene.  This will mark his 12th restaurant-he has 8 B Spot locations, Lola Bistro, Lolita, Roast (plus 2 Bar Symon locations)  The man is busy but still as gracious, and down to earth as you’d expect.

I was also an honorary table host at the Cleveland Culinary Awards Gala, which recognized industry leaders and icons.

Culinary Ambassador: Michael Symon

Restaurant Vangaurds: Parker Bosley from Fresh Fork Market, and Sokolowski’s University Inn

Beverage Trailblazer: Paulius Nasvytis of The Velvet Tango Room.

culinary awards menu

I was treated to a four course meal and the company of some of the most creative and delicious dinner companions I could dream up.

fab food show contestants

The “main event” of the weekend for me was a Media Cooking Competition on the main stage, pitting WDOK 102.1 FM personality, Jeremiah Widmer and Chef Matt Fish, of Melt Bar and Grilled against me and Chef Matt Mytro from Flour Restaurant.

fab food show cooking with matt mytro

We were given a surprise “main ingredient” to work with, salmon, plus access to anything in the main stage pantry and fridges.  Which, if I’m being honest, was pretty meager.  It was the last cooking event of the last day of the show.  The cupboards were awfully bare.

The pressure was on.  The judges were Gail Simmons of Bravo TV’s Top Chef, Food Author and Host, Mark Decarlo plus newly minted judges from the World Food Championships.

We had 30 minutes.  The instructions from my partner, “stay busy and entertain the crowd.”  I did my best to assist in our salmon poached in chili oil, with a butternut squash puree and creamy apple/celery slaw… including trying to distract our competitors, and bribing our judges with ice cream.

When time was up, we tasted everything we’d made (the most important key to good cooking according to Mytro) and presented it proudly to the judges.

In the end, team “Euctownninjas” (we’re both from Euclid) came up short.  But even as the loser, I still feel pretty good because I have to pay up on a bet I made with Jeremiah, and participate in their station’s annual charity radioathon, benefitting  UH’s Rainbow Babies and Childrens Hospital.

 FFS panel

To cap off a very busy and productive couple of days, I was invited to participate in a panel discussion about the Cleveland culinary scene.  I got to sit alongside Chefs Michael Symon, Chris Hodgson, Jason Roberts, Izzy Schachner and Rocco Whalen to talk about what the city is doing right, what challenges they’re facing as restaurateurs and what they’d like see next for the local food scene.

fab food show jen and jeremiah

After an eventful week filled with such incredible and talented people , I’m exhausted and hungry for more involvement in the local food scene and beyond.  Look out, world.

Which Friendsgiving style are you?

I am now of the age and stage in my life where I’m participating more in the execution of Thanksgiving. Contributing more dishes, even hosting. It can be intimidating to try and live up to the Thanksgiving traditions of the past.  So don’t! Create your own. 

My dear friend and fellow creative type, Rachel, has helped me come up with three distinctive styles for Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving gatherings. Use any or all of our ideas to pull off a stylish event, with savory and sweet elements, plus cocktails! Just add turkey!

Moody Modernist Menu

These offerings use things I already have on hand in new and tasty ways, incorporating Rachel’s Mid Century Modern décor for presentation. We started with a bold-patterned runner, added metallic candleholders and layered in elements of gold to tie things together. Using a sleek martini glass dresses up the soup and gives guests the green light to go bottoms-up at the table.

Buttercup Squash Soup, inspired by Martha Stewart’s version of butternut squash soup.

Sweet Potato Skins, a nod to the classic candied yams dish, as adapted by me. It scratches the itch without tipping the scales. (recipe below)

Stuffing in a Bundt Pan, Kim’s Healthy Eats and A Spicy Perspective both posted such ideas on Pinterest. I used those instructions to give it a shot, using the recipe for stuffing from Fresh Fork Market. 

Cranberry Ginger Champagne Cocktail, 2 oz. ginger infused vodka (I shaved small slices of fresh ginger and placed them in a jar of vodka in the fridge for about a week), 4 oz. cranberry juice, a generous splash of champagne, and a dash of lime juice.

friendsgiving pecan pie bark

Pecan Pie Bark, like Rachel’s contribution to this blog, the recipe comes from a guest blogger on Wishes n Dishes incorporating all the flavors and a fraction of the effort it takes to get those distinct flavors of the traditional dessert.

Comfort Food Chic Menu

Every dish in this menu incorporates one or more element of leftovers! Great for an evening gathering during the long weekend. Keeping it casual, the packing paper serves dual purpose as a runner and a place for guests to scribble what they are thankful for. Wood, wicker, copper and linen add texture and warmth, while a tiered stand lets the food take center stage. (recipes below)

Sriracha Fried Mac n Cheese Bites take leftover macaroni and cheese and give it new life, and a kick! Served with Sriracha Ranch Dipping Sauce.

friendsgiving comfort food dishes

Stuffing Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms Didn’t polish off all the stuffing at the main event? No problem. Use my version as a starting point and make it your own.

friendsgiving brie and cranberry

Mini Baked Brie Bites, proof that cranberry is a perfect complement to creamy Brie cheese. Take what’s left of the Thanksgiving cranberry sauce and make this satisfying appetizer.

Apple Pie on the Rocks This seasonally spicy sipper will even satisfy the vegan in the crowd. Source: Vegan Yack Attack

friendsgiving pumpkin roll ice cream sandwich

Pumpkin Roll Ice Cream Sandwich A scoop of butter pecan ice cream smooshed between two thin slices of my favorite fall dessert, with some fall sprinkles for color.

Friendly Farmhouse Menu

friendsgiving friendly farmhouse table

To me, this collection makes for a great brunch menu, perfect for those hosting out of town guests during the holiday. No matter the time of day, always include fresh floral on your table. We threw sunflowers in a grey pitcher to complement the ticking stripe napkins. Stacked plates and a silverware caddy let guests grab what they need without interrupting a busy host.

Sausage Stuffing Quiche created in individual “minis” or bake a large one to slice up at brunch. The “stuffing as crust” idea courtesy of a post on Food.com but, like I did, you can use whats around to add to the egg.

friendsgiving sweet potato chips

Sweet potato chips with garlic aioli, the recipe for the dipping sauce came from a fellow blogger, Our Life Tastes Good. I deep fried the thinly sliced-sweet potatoes, but you could bake them instead.

friendsgiving green bean casserole cups

Green Bean Casserole Cups (this could also make use of leftovers). Take your family’s version of the thanksgiving staple and serve it in a new way. For step-by-step instructions courtesy of Pillsbury, click here.

Apple Cider Mimosas, make the bottomless brunch beverage more seasonal by swapping OJ for cider.

friendsgiving candy bar cookies

Loaded Halloween Candy Cookie Bars, a childhood friend and fellow food blogger, Michelle, of  The Secret Ingredient Is helped me out with this one.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving please share your creations with us @cheftovers @roaringacres #friendsgiving #thanksgiving.

RECIPES:

Sweet Potato Skins

Ingredients: 4 yams or sweet potatoes (baked ahead of time and cooled), 8 T. melted butter, pinch of salt, 2 T. Brown sugar, ½-1 tsp. each of ginger and cinnamon, ¼ t. nutmeg, marshmallows

Directions:  Slice potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out about half of the inside. (Careful, as the skins of these are more delicate than russet potatoes). Melt the butter in a small sauce pan and add brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. Stir until it forms a syrup, then remove from the heat. Brush the mixture over the potato skin and place in the oven to broil on HIGH for about 5 minutes, until the edges start to get crispy. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with mini marshmallows. (5-7 per potato) Place back under the broiler, on LOW, for 2-3 minutes, until marshmallows are toasted.

Sriracha Fried Mac n Cheese

Ingredients:  Leftover mac n cheese, flour (seasoned), 1 egg (beaten), Sriracha hot chili sauce, panko bread crumbs, salt and pepper, blended oil, ranch for dipping

Directions:  Place spoonfuls of mac n cheese onto a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper or foil. Put the tray in the freezer for at least 25-30 min. Heat a deep skillet (cast iron if you’ve got it) to medium high and pour in about 2 inches of oil. Remove tray from the freezer and dredge each mac n cheese pile in flour. Add 1 T. of Sriracha (more or less depending on how hot you like it) to the egg, and coat the floured bites in the mixture. Finally, cover each one in panko bread crumbs. Fry the bites in the oil until golden brown, turning once. Place on paper towel to drain. Serve with ranch for dipping. (Add a dollop of Sriracha to that too if you so desire.)

Mini Baked Brie and Cranberry Bites

Ingredients:  Frozen puffed pastry (sheets or squares), leftover cranberry sauce (preserves, like blackberry, can also be substituted), Brie cheese (wedge or round)

Directions:  Preheat oven to 400 (or the temperature listed on the baking instructions for the puff pastry, if different). Thaw frozen puff pastry dough for 20-25 min. Cut the pastry into 2-3 inch squares. Place a pastry square over each cup of the mini cupcake tin and gently push them down, so as not to tear the dough. Insert a cube of cheese into each one, about 1-2 inch squares. Gather the corners of the squares to the center.  Some of the cranberry will still be exposed. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Cool for 3-4 minutes, then gently pop each bite out with a butter knife.

Stuffing Stuffed Mini Portabellas

Ingredients:  Mini portabella mushrooms (washed, stems removed), leftover Thanksgiving stuffing (the kind with sausage is the best!), grated fontina cheese, truffle oil (optional), extra virgin olive oil

Directions:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place mushroom caps upside down on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Stuff each mushroom with a spoonful of stuffing (about a tablespoon, depending on the size of the mushroom). Fill it up and pack it tightly. Drizzle a bit of truffle oil on top (optional). Sprinkle cheese on top to cover. Bake for 25 min.

 

 

Door to Door Organics: #joydelivered now in Northeast Ohio

To me, getting a fresh organic produce delivery is as good as flowers delivered to my doorstep.  Because in my house, food is love.  And I love what I’m feeding my family now that Door to Door Organics is filling up my fridge.  The food geek in me was pretty excited when the first boxes arrived.

DTD boxes

As part of their effort to spread the word about their new presence in the Cleveland/Akron area, Door to Door Organics, https://ohio.doortodoororganics.com/ offered me the opportunity to try their service and products (complimentary) then provide a review.   I’m a Kicthen Maven!  #kicthenmavenCLE  And what’s best? I have $50 gift certificates and discounts to give away to Cheftovers readers and followers!!  All you have to do is follow my blog, share this post, or comment.  I’ll be randomly selecting winners from those who support Cheftovers and Door to Door Organics. (@dtdorganics, https://www.facebook.com/DoorToDoorOrganicsOhio)

Here’s how the process works: You sign up via their website (linked above) and chose the size produce box you’d like to have delivered to your home or office, (fruits, veggies or a combo) and the frequency (weekly or bi-weekly).  Then you can customize!

What I really like about this service versus traditional CSA’s (community supported agriculture, where you get a grab bag of local, in-season produce delivered regularly) is that you can set your preferences and substitute items.  The complaints I always hear from CSA participants is when something is in season, they often get too much of it, whether they like it in the first place or not.  Door to Door Organics allows you to set preferences when you sign up.

I don’t want anything to do with Brussels sprouts.  I think they taste like feet, no matter how much bacon you cook them in.  So I put those and a few others on my “Don’t Want” list.

On the other side of the coin, I got to put together a list of fruits and veggies that my family thinks are awesome.  Since we are not an “all organic” household either, I chose produce that I believe are worth eating organic (and left out those which don’t matter as much to me).  In addition, you can substitute items.  A few days before your delivery comes, you’ll get an email listing the items that’ll be in your box of #joydelivered.  You’re allowed up to five substitutions.  There are many to chose from and it’s easily spelled out what you can get instead for the same price.

This week I’m planning to make a new enchilada dish (subsequent post and recipe coming soon!), so I substituted something I wasn’t interested in, and added a couple jalapenos.  I also noticed that my “Bitty Box” would have another pound of organic carrots in it.  We hadn’t yet finished the bag that came last week, so I substituted that too.

To finish, I shopped for things I’ll need for the recipe I’m developing, like rice and black beans.  This saved me a “bonus” trip to the grocery store where I’d end up buying more things I probably didn’t need.  I think a dozen organic brown eggs are going to be added to my order every week!  Yum.

DTD organics meat and dairy

I was also pleased to see that the dairy and meat I added to my order came in a well insulated box, as it sat outside on the back patio until I came home that evening.  (the meat that could be frozen, was, adding to the “chill” factor in the “add-ons” box).

DTD cooler box

I am a new customer to the organic groceries world.  So in the interest of honesty and full disclosure, I must say…the price on some of this stuff is significantly higher than I’m used to.  But the “convenience” factor cannot be ignored.  And those who already shop and eat organically are familiar.  I also value and appreciate that the produce is local (when possible) along with products from several vendors.  I love that.

Door to Door Organics Bitty Box, feeds 1-2 adults for $25.99

Door to Door Organics Bitty Box, feeds 1-2 adults for $25.99

I have been meaning to try a CSA for several summers now.  But honestly, adding another errand to my to-do list (driving to a pick-up location at a designated day, time and location) is not appealing.  But getting #joydelivered through Door to Door Organics has been great.  Easy, healthy and delicious.  I plan to continue it!

My readers and followers can get a discount on their first order.  Use https://ohio.doortodoororganics.com/signup?gift_cert=CHEFTOVERS15O    

Cinco de Mayo Hangover Soup

I’ll admit it.  On the week of Cinco de Mayo, I’ll always fall prey to the marketing ploys of grocery stores (ex. limes, tortilla chips, Mexican beer, and guacamole components displayed prominently at the front of the store)  I’ve also been known to throw back a few more than I should on a day that doesn’t really have any significance to this Italian/Slovenian girl.  Hey, “when in Rome….errrr, Mexico City…” Right?  This recipe is for those of you who fall into one, or both of those same categories.  

Earlier this week I made chicken fajitas with fresh guacamole, hands down my favorite dish to order at a Mexican restaurant and one of my favorites to make at home as well.  So on day two, I found myself with some leftover chicken, black beans (both cooked), jalapenos, avocado, roasted corn and cilantro.  Rather than transforming the flavor profile of the meat (silly, since it was already heavily seasoned) I chose to make something new with some of the same ingredients I worked with the day before.

leftover chicken fajitas

I don’t know about you, but when I’m working through a hangover, I often like to “sweat it out.”  So I decided to bring the heat…and put these, and a few other ingredients, together to create a Cheftovers version of tortilla soup.

simmering mexican veggies

I chose a dutch oven for this project, and started with chopped garlic, jalapenos and onion.  I sauteed those in some canola oil until the onions were translucent, just a couple minutes.  Then I tossed in the roasted corn and season chicken (chopped into small pieces) I had leftover from “fajita night.”  Next, I cracked open a can of petite diced tomatoes and poured those in.  And since this was a soup, it certainly needed some stock.  I added a carton of chicken stock, making sure to season it generously with salt, and chipotle chili pepper to add some more, smokey heat to my “soup-to-be.”

adding ingredients to cinco de mayo soup

Finally, I tossed in a few sprigs of fresh cilantro, and squeezed a couple of lime wedges’ worth of juice into the pot to give it some brightness and acidity.

simmering cinco de mayo hangover soup

I brought the soup to a boil, then reduced the heat and let it simmer at a medium/low for about a half hour.  Toward the end, I tossed in the leftover black beans (didn’t want them to get too mushy or break down from being in there too long).  I tasted my soup and decided to add just a little more chipotle pepper and a bit more lime juice (a preference thing).  Now, it was time for some elaborate garnishes, since I had some on hand.

finishing the cinco de mayo soup

After scooping out a couple ladles full of my Cinco de Mayo Hangover Soup, I sliced up some fresh avocado and jalapenos, then tossed in a few more sprigs of cilantro.

cinco de mayo hangover soup

You could also add some crunchy baked tortilla strips for texture, or some shredded cheese.

Vamos a comer!  Let’s eat!  This soup should make you sweat as much, or as little as you want…and help you get to Seis de Mayo.  Now, I gotta ask…What’s your favorite hangover meal?

 

Duck, part deux: how I made lasagna out of cassoulet leftovers

I had a pretty awesome birthday this year, topped off by a dinner out at a fantastic French restaurant.  When I have the pleasure of dining there, I order the cassoulet. (a rich, slow cooked casserole of sorts, with duck confit, pork belly and white beans) It’s decadent and delectable.  This time I also indulged in a recommended appetizer, so I couldn’t man up and finish the entire cassoulet myself.  So, I doggy-bagged that dish and brought it home to enjoy again.  But how?

leftover cassoulet

There were a lot of white beans there, which were creamy and beautifully cooked.  But I can’t just eat spoonfuls of them.  I pureed them along with some olive oil and the other stragglers -a couple of carrots and some parsley-and decided I was going to turn this doggy bag of delight into lasagna!

white bean filling

I had some lasagna noodles in the cupboard, so that covered one layer.  I decided the white bean puree would serve the same purpose at the ricotta usually does. (it had the same texture and consistency)  And I had an Italian cheese blend in the deli drawer of my fridge.  All that was left to tackle was the sauce.

leftover duck confit

I decided the duck leg from the cassoulet would substitute for the ground meat I usually work into a lasagna sauce.  So I chopped the meat off the bone, but reserved the bone (figuring it could come in handy later)

Now, a traditional lasagna sauce starts with garlic, onion and olive oil to flavor the browning meat.  Then you add tomato and spices.  So I too began with garlic, onion and olive oil and sauteed that until the veggies softened.  Then I added about 15 oz of canned tomato sauce I had in the cupboard.  I stirred in some salt and pepper, basil and oregano then tossed in the duck leg bone to incorporate that rich meaty flavor.  When the sauce got to a nice simmer, I covered it and let it mature for about 30 min on low.  duck lasagna sauce

Next, I tossed in the chopped duck meat to make for the chunky, meaty sauce that I’m used to.  I let that sit on the stove for another 15 min, also on low.

layering the lasagna

Now it was time to layer.  I started with a thin layer of my sauce.  Then I placed a no-bake lasagna noodle on top, followed by a layer of my white bean puree and a heavy handed sprinkling of Italian cheese blend.  I repeated this process twice more, ending with a layer of sauce and white bean puree mixed together.  Then a last helping of shredded cheese.

duck lasagna

I covered this French-Italian fusion experiment with foil and popped it in the oven at 350* for 35-40 minutes (until it was bubbly).  Voila!  That’s French, right?!

If I’m being honest, I could actually eat cassoulet (leftover or not) a couple times a week.  So it wasn’t my first instinct to mess with “perfection.”  But the idea of zapping this beautiful collection of ingredients into a microwave on day two made my heart hurt.  So, getting creative (or crazy) with these classic French elements was the next best thing the next day!

Mangia Mojo Shrimp Skewers

Shrimp cocktail is a real treat…one you shouldn’t waste when there’s excess. (I’m still unsure why there ever is!) But it has a short shelf life.  So when there was a bowl full of shrimp leftover from my birthday dinner (Thanks, Mom) I moved quickly to execute some Cheftovers magic. 

shrimp cocktail

I recently connected with the fine folks and fellow foodies at Mangia Dry Rub(http://www.mangia.tv/) They invited me to try a couple of their products and incorporate them into some of my Cheftovers concoctions.  Since one of them was labeled “Shrimp Mojo Dry Rub,” I took this as a sign!  It’s packed with Cajun flavors (Ingredients: onion powder, garlic powder, salt, sugar, spices: paprika, celery, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper and turmeric)

mangia dry rub

I followed the instructions on the package, and mixed two parts spice mix with one part oil (I used canola) then added that to a Ziploc bag full of the  cocktail shrimp for a kind of “reverse marinade” since the shrimp was already cooked.  I stuck that in the fridge for about an hour until I was ready to grill ’em up.

marinating shrimp

When it was time to fire them, I found some wooden skewers and a long grill pan.  I threaded six or seven shrimp on each skewer, and was pleased with how well the Mangia Mojo rub stuck to the shrimp. I hate when all the marinade (and the flavor) is left in the container you marinated in, instead of on the meat.

bringing shrimp up to temp

Here was the tricky part.  The shrimp was already cooked, and it’s really easy to over cook it, of course.  So to prevent tough, overdone shrimp, but also grill in that “mojo” I let the shrimp sit out on the counter for a few minutes to bring it up to room temperature.  I cranked up the burners below the grill pan to high.  What I was going for was a nice sear or grill marks on the outside…just a quick fire to change the flavor of the shrimp.  It only took a minute or two on each side.  (it’ll depend on the size of the shrimp you’re working with)

grilling shrimp

It was as easy as that!  I grabbed a nice pasta salad (also made with leftovers https://www.facebook.com/Cheftovers) from the fridge to accompany it.

pasta salad

Suddenly this meal was starting to feel like I was bringing the cook-out indoors.  The Mangia Mojo Dry Rub gave the shrimp cocktail a new personality, and it helped turn an appetizer into a satisfying supper.

mangia mojo shrimp skewers

mix one part