Fermented-Veggies

I haven’t mentioned it yet this year, but we belong to a new CSA, thanks to my wife. It has been a couple of years since we last belonged to one and this winter my wife decided it was time we joined another one, and this time she didn’t want to pay for it so she decided that she would give up 4 hours a week to help at the farm in return for a worker’s share. So thanks to her we have plenty of produce filling up our fridge this summer. THANKS HONEY!!!!!

For a few weeks we were getting salad turnips in every delivery. If you haven’t had salad turnips before, and you probably haven’t, you need to search them out. They are fantastic, like a combination between turnips and radishes. They have a peppery bite, but not as peppery or spicy as radishes, but they also have that deep, mellow earthy flavor of a turnip. And the best part is they are great raw. In fact I don’t even bother to peel them. Just wash well, scrubbing away and dirt, then slice and eat, or pop the whole thing in your mouth. Of course they also make a great addition to a salad.

One day I was in the mood to get a couple batches of fermented pickles going and I wondered what the turnips would be like pickled. Doing a quick internet, and cookbook search, I didn’t come across very much about pickling turnips. Either that meant that they weren’t a good vegetable to pickle or people out there just weren’t writing about it. I choose to believe the latter as I really wanted to experiment with these and see what would happen. I’m a huge fan of Dilly Beans so I figured if I fermented them that way no matter what they would still turn out okay.

We had also received a few bunches of carrots and I had a number of jalapenos on hand so I figured, since I was going to be making up some brine I might as well make up a batch of spicy carrot sticks also. Again, since the carrots were fresh, and young the skin wasn’t terribly thick or bitter so I figured, with a good washing I would just leave the skins on again.

Ingredients Needed
1-1 1/2 pounds Salad Turnips
3/4 pound Carrots
1/4 pound Jalapenos
3 cloves Garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 heads Fresh Dill and numerous dill fronds
3 Tbs. + 1 tsp. Kosher Salt
8 cups Water

So, to ferment your vegetables you first need to make a brine. Combine 8 cups of water with 3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon of either kosher, sea, or canning salt. If using sea salt and it is in large flakes crush it up a bit first. Also make sure that your salt does not contain any other ingredients; no iodine or anti-caking agents as these will ruin your ferment. Bring the water and salt to a boil to dissolve the salt then let cook to room temperature. Meanwhile wash and sterilize 2-1 quart canning jars, along with their lids. Wash your salad turnips and quarter them. Stuff into one of the jars along with half of the garlic and the dill. How much dill you use is all dependent on how “dilly” you like your veggies. I found 2 heads and about 4-6 large fronds were about perfect.

Cut the carrots into sticks, what every size you like although I would keep them no larger than 1/4″ square. Slice the jalapenos in half, remove the seeds and ribs and cut into sticks. Arrange in the second jar and add the garlic.

Pour in the room temperature brine, making sure that all the vegetables are covered by at least 1/4-1/2″ of brine. Place the lids on and just give 1 turn to the ring of the lid. You don’t want to tighten it down completely as during the fermentation process CO2 will be made and it needs to escape. Place on a tray, to catch any liquid that might escape, and place somewhere warm, but not hot, out of direct sunlight to ferment. Fermentation will take any were from 5-14 days, depending on the temperature and how sour you like your vegetables. During this time your brine will turn cloudy. This is normal in most fermentations especially if you have hard water. Usually it is nothing to worry about. After about 3 days, quickly open the jars and ensure that all the veggies are still submerged. If you see a bit of white mold on top, carefully skim it off. Close up the jars again. After 5 days you can start tasting your veggies. The longer you ferment them the less salty and more sour they will become. The vegetables will also start to soften a bit. If you want your veggies nice and crisp then 5-6 days is probably about how long you want to go. If you don’t mind losing a bit of crispness and want a more sour pickle then let them go a few days longer. Once they are where you want them at place them in the fridge but leaves the lid loose for another 24 hours as it will take time for the fermentation to slow. I usually then allow my pickles to sit another week in the fridge as the flavors will mature and mellow a bit as they sit.

I let both of these go for 1 week. I would have like to have had them a little more sour but we were heading off on vacation and I thought another week would be long and was worried that they would spoil in that time frame without me there to check them every couple of days.

And how did they turn out? Really good!!! The turnips were great, although they could have been a bit more sour. The dill flavor was just about right on. The carrots taste great but the jalapenos lost a good bit of their heat which disappointed me a bit as I was looking for something spicier, but as I said I really like the flavor.

cheftalk_logo

It’s been awhile since I’ve mentioned one of my major sponsors for this blog, “Chef Talk-a food lover’s link to professional chefs.” As many of you are aware, not only do I write this blog but I am very active on Chef Talk, writing articles, cookbook & product reviews, and helping to moderate their forums. I recently wrote an article on the major regional styles of barbecue that can be found here in the US, entitled “A Brief Tour of American Barbecue.” Just click on the title to take you to the article. If you are new to the world of barbecue you will definitely want to check it out, and if you are an old pro then check it out also and add your 2 cents to the comments.

I also recently wrote an article on how to make Romesco Sauce, a wonderful condiment that combines roasted red peppers, garlic and nuts all ground into a wonderful paste. By its description it may not sound all that appetizing, but trust me, this something you need to try, especially now with all the great, fresh produce coming in from the garden. Just follow this link.

In addition, I’ve written a number of other articles since I last updated you on my works at Chef Talk, both food articles and cookbook reviews. Too see all that I have written recently stop by my bio page where I list all the articles and reviews that I write. You can find the link to there here.

I do need to mention a few other goings on over at Chef Talk. First, fellow writer, and friend, Jim Berman has written a few very insightful, no holds bar, articles about the restaurant industry. You can check them out here, here, and here. Jim is a fantastic writer, and teacher. Both his essay articles and all of his “how-to” articles are well worth checking out.

And, finally, every month, on the forum boards we have a Monthly Challenge. This month the challenge is Eggs. There are lots of great ideas to check out and I encourage all my readers to, not only check it out, but join the forums and get involved. It’s a great place to get inspiration and ask some of those food related questions you might have. You can find this month’s challenge at “August 2014 Challenge-Eggs”

14. August 2014 · 1 comment · Categories: travel · Tags: , ,

West-Side-Market2

I just got back from vacation yesterday. We spent 5 days in Cleveland, Ohio. It may not be the most exciting destination in the world, but my wife has lots of family there, both on her Mom’s and Dad’s side. Besides, its been 14 years since we had last been there so it was time. And I have to admit (but don’t let my wife know or I’ll never live it down) I like spending time with a lot of her family. It was a mellow trip with a bit of sightseeing and a bit of drinking, but mostly it was about hanging out with family. While there were a lot of highlights, to the trip, for my wife and I, one of our favorite highlights was our trip to West Side Market, for my wife because it was a trip down memory lane, and for me because it is foodie heaven. There is just something about the moment when enter the place as a cacophony of aromas hits you square in the face; baked goods, produce, seafood, herbs, and meats, both raw and smoked, all creating this pungent yet comforting mix smells. Built in 1902, the market actually stretches back to the 1840′s, but it was in 1902 that the building that houses the market was built. Since then it has been added to, renovated and restored, but still holds onto it’s turn-of-the-century charm.

If you have never experienced West Side Market, and you find yourself in Cleveland, it is a must do. You’ll find butchers of many different ethnicities cutting and smoking pork, beef, poultry, lamb and goat, and the Hungarian sausages found here are not rivaled in this country. There are bakers here, specializing in breads, cakes, cupcakes, macaroons, and a variety of ethnic sweets I’ve never heard of or seen.

West-Side-Market1

West-Side-Market4

West-Side-Market6

West-Side-Market3

West-Side-Market5

There are vendors there selling a huge variety of olives, oils, vinegars, and herbs, as well as a couple of fish mongers and a store that specializes in all things ethnic, from Chinese to German and everything in between. Nor can you miss the fabulous cheese purveyors. And that’s just on the inside. Outside you will find many produce vendors selling just about any fruit or vegetable you could desire. You can come and do all your weekly shopping or do as my wife does and buy a roll from one of the bakers, a 1/4 pound of freshly made liverwurst from one of the butchers and a few of the beautiful olives from another stand, and make yourself an impromptu lunch.

Rasberry-Pie-Ice-Cream

It’s July, and all around this country that means that raspberries are in season. While I love all berries, I am especially fond of raspberries, especially black raspberries, which are becoming more and more difficult to find. As a kid, growing up in Vermont, wild black raspberries grew all around the village I lived in. We’d bike around the village, hitting all the little raspberry patches we could find, hoping that we’d get there first, before the other kids cleaned the patch out of all the ripe ones, often coming home with sticky fingers and purple stains on our tee shirts.

We were also lucky as there were a couple of small patches of black raspberries on our property. I’d spend the month picking ripe berries, which Mom would then freeze until my brother and I had picked enough to make a pie. They were small berry patches so it usually took the entire season to accumulate enough for that pie. I probably could have hastened the process by saving the berries we picked around the village, but it was an unspoken rule that those random, wild patches were there for the eating by us kids and it just didn’t seem right to harvest them for any other purpose.

So you can imagine that after about a month of picking, the pie that Mom made seemed like the best thing in the world. And I still feel that way. I’ve made many a raspberry pie as an adult, but none seem to live up to the memory of those pies from my youth, even when I can get my hands on wild, black raspberries.

Raspberries

Making berry pies is a pretty simple process and at it’s most basic doesn’t require a lot of ingredients. Especially when it comes to raspberries I don’t like to add a lot of other flavors although if you are inclined, a pinch of cinnamon or a dash of ground ginger would be a fine addition to this recipe. Also, while I would love to have made a Black Raspberry pie, all I could get my hands on were your standard red raspberries. I’m not talking your standard grocery store raspberries, which more often than not, lack almost any kind of flavor, but fresh, local raspberries picked at one of the local U-pick places that pop up each summer.

Raspberry Pie
makes 1 pie (9-9 1/2 inch)

1 1/3 cup Sugar, granulated
5 cups Raspberries, fresh
2 1/2 Tbs. Instant Tapioca granules
2 1/2 Tbs. Cornstarch
1 Tbs. Butter, diced
Your favorite pie crust for a 2 crust pie

To measure out your raspberries, first gently crush them. The idea is not to smash them into oblivion, but merely to compress them so that you get an accurate measurement. The way I do it is to pour my raspberries into a 2 cup measuring cup and tamp them down with a potato masher, adding and mashing until I fill it up to the 2 cup mark. I then dump the raspberries into a large bowl and repeat until I have 5 cups of slightly smashed berries. Mix in the sugar, tapioca and cornstarch and allow to sit for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile preheat your oven to 350°F and line your pie tin with your pie crust. Pour the berry mixture into the prepared pie tin and cover with the other pie dough. You can either do a weave topped crust, or if you go for a solid crust make sure to cut a number of steam vents into it. At this point you can leave the crust plain or you can brush it with about 1 Tbs. of cream and sprinkle it with approximately 1 Tbs. of sugar. I do it both either way depending on my mood that day. Place in the oven, with a tray on the rack below to catch and juices that might spill over. Bake for approximately 50-55 minutes or until the crust is browned and the juices are bubbling. Once done remove from the oven.

Raspberry-Pie-Baked

Now comes the hard part. You really need to let this pie cool for at least 3-4 hours for it to set up. If you cut into it too soon the tapioca and cornstarch will not have finished doing their job and you will end up with juice running all over the bottom of your pie plate. It’s hard but resist the urge to cut into it too soon. And, of course, don’t forget to serve with ice cream!!!

Raspberry-Pie

Coke-Battered-Cherries

It’s been a while since my last post, but I hope that all is forgiven once I share this fun recipe with you. The original idea for Coca Cola Battered Cherries came about last year while I was working at my Kiwanis group’s annual fundraiser, the World’s Largest Walleye Fish Fry at Walleye Weekend in Fond du Lac, WI. Over the course of 3 days we will thaw, clean, bread, fry and serve approximately 2500 pounds of Walleye. While it they are long days and a lot of work there is also quite a bit of down time during which I usually find myself getting into all sorts of trouble. My wife, who had come out to help, had brought along some snacks. Included in those snacks was a bag of Bing cherries. I don’t remember who originally came up with the idea, but sitting around, surrounded by all that beer batter, I started to wonder what beer battered cherries would be like. From there it wasn’t a great leap to consider replacing the beer with Coke and adding a bit of sugar to make the batter a little on the sweeter side. Well the experiment turned out quite good with a number of people really enjoying the fried cherries, but I never really did anything with it.

This year, during Walleye Weekend, while frying up fish, I had forgotten about last year’s creation so I didn’t get a chance to repeat it. Then about a week or so ago I was surfing around the web and came across a recipe for Fried Coke, which had been popular as a fair food for a few years around 2006. It reminded me of my experiment with the fried cherries and I thought, “What a great way to jump back in with my first blog post in a few months.” So here it is!

In this recipe I used sweet, Bing cherries. I have not tried it with sour cherries, but I imagine it would be pretty good also. If anyone gives it a try with them let me know how it goes. Also this recipe makes more batter than you will need. Not to fret, though, the batter won’t go to waste. It makes a great funnel cake, so after the cherries are fried make a few up. Finally, because the cherries are so juicy you will want to serve these pretty quickly after frying as moisture will quickly soften the crust. Finally, don’t expect a blast of Coke flavor, it is very subtle, but if you ever had Fried Coke you will remember that the little fritters weren’t overly flavorful and relied on a drizzle of Coke syrup to give them much of their flavor.

Coca Cola Battered Cherries
serves 6-8 people

1 pound Cherries, sweet such as Bing
2 Eggs
1 1/2 cups Coke or other cola
2 Tbs. Sugar, granulated
1 1/2-2 cups Flour, all purpose + more for coating cherries
2 tsp. Baking Powder
pinch Salt
Vegetable Oil

Pit the cherries and set aside. One of the best gadgets I own is my cherry/olive pitter. It makes pretty quick work of pitting lots of cherries or olives. If you haven’t seen one before, below is a picture of the 1 I own.

Cherry-Pitter

In a medium sized bowl, beat the eggs then add the sugar and the cola. It will foam up quite a bit, but will eventually go down. In a large bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups flour with the baking powder and salt. Mix well then pour in the liquid ingredients and mix until combined and the flour is well hydrated. The batter should be of medium consistency, about the consistency of cake batter. Add the remaining flour if necessary to get the right thickness.

Coke-Batter

Meanwhile fill a large pot with 3-4 inches of oil and heat to 375°F.  Working in batches, toss a handful of cherries into flour to coat.

Floured-Cherries

Then toss into the batter and stir to coat.

Battering-Cherries

Using a pair of tongs, remove the cherries, 1 at a time from the batter and drop into the hot oil to fry.

Frying-Cherries

Fry until a deep golden brown, approximately 3 minutes. Remove from oil and place on paper towel to absorb excess oil.

Fried-Cherries

As you get a couple of batches done place them on plate and dust, liberally, with powdered sugar and serve immediately.

Coke-Battered-Cherries2

Grill

I’ve been a slacker this winter, I have to admit. I am usually a year round griller, but this year I didn’t do much grilling. It might have been because Wisconsin had a record 54 days below zero. It could have been because propane prices skyrocketed. Or it could have been just because I was lazy and wimp. But it was probably a combination of all of those things.

So my grill got its first workout in several months. I had been hoping to cook up some wild Ramps, but my recent scouting mission should me that I am probably 1-2 weeks away from being able to forage for them. I still had chicken breasts and a bunch of asparagus though, and with the nice weather, I had to get out and grill.

I have often ranted against store bought sauces and dressings, but I will admit we do purchase them. I try not to use them much in my cooking, but they can make a great base for sauce or glaze especially on a week night, after a long day of work, when you want to get a nice dinner on the table in relatively quick time. In this recipe, the glaze for the chicken, has as its base store bought raspberry vinaigrette. If you have homemade raspberry vinaigrette or raspberry vinegar in your panty then by all means use that.

Ingredients

I wanted to grill out while it was still daylight so that I could get a few nice pictures, which meant that I would have to save some for my wife who would be home an hour or 2 later. Unfortunately, one of our dogs, Buford, found his way into the kitchen and ate all the remaining chicken breasts while I was outside with my daughter practicing her baseball skills.

Buford

Imagine my surprise, when my wife got home and I went to make her a plate, only to find the plate of chicken completely empty. Luckily, Buford doesn’t like asparagus or those would have been gone also!!!

Grilled Chicken with Raspberry-Horseradish Glaze
serves 4

1 Whole Chicken, cut into pieces or the equivalent in other chicken pieces (I was using boneless skinless chicken breasts)
1/2 cup Raspberry Vinaigrette
1/2 Tbs. Horseradish
1/2 Tbs. Dijon Mustard
1 tsp. Honey
Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper

Prepare your grill for direct grilling over medium heat. Meanwhile, combine the vinaigrette with the horseradish, mustard and honey. Liberally season the chicken with salt and pepper and place on the preheated grill.

Chicken-Raw

How long it takes to cook your chicken will depend on the pieces you use, their thickness, and exactly how hot your grill is, but you can expect most pieces to take about 20 minutes. With about 5-7 minutes cooking time left start brushing on your glaze. Brush it on the top side, cover the grill, cook one minute, then flip the chicken and brush the other side. Repeat so that you have glazed each side at least twice, but make sure that you are not doing this over too high heat as the glaze will want to burn.

Chicken-Cooked

When done remove to a serving platter and offer up any remaining glaze to your guests. Serve with the grilled asparagus (recipe below).

Asparagus-Grilled

Grilled Asparagus with Balsamic Onions
serves 2-3

1 bunch Asparagus
2 Tbs. Tarragon Vinegar
2 Tbs. Balsamic Vinegar
4 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 quarter Red Onion, thinly sliced
Freshly cracked Black Pepper
Salt

Cut, or snap off the lower 1-2 inches of your asparagus as this part tends to be pretty fibrous. Combine the 2 vinegars with the olive oil, some salt and at least 1 Tbs. of freshly cracked black pepper, or more if you really like pepper. Toss the asparagus with the dressing and place on the grill over medium heat. Grill, turning every couple of minutes, until the asparagus is tender and slightly charred. Meanwhile combine the red onion with the remaining dressing and allow the onions to soak it up. When the asparagus is done, toss with the onions and dressing. This can either be served warm or room temperature.

Grilled-Chicken-and-Asparag

05. April 2014 · 1 comment · Categories: sides · Tags: , , , , ,

Steak-Tartare

WARNING

This post is all about the consumption of raw meat and eggs. If the above and below images make you queasy then stop reading.

Tartare-Closeup

If you are a militant vegan or vegetarian you might want to stop reading.
If you are grossed out by eating raw foods you might want to stop reading.
If you work for the USDA you might want to stop reading or at least take note of the disclaimer below.
If you are a lawyer you might want to stop reading or take note of the disclaimer below.

DISCLAIMER

As much as I dislike having to put up this disclaimer, I feel that, in this society where no one wants to take responsibility for themselves and are always looking for ways to make a quick buck by suing others, I must provide this.

This post contains a recipe that includes the use of both raw beef and raw egg yolks. The USDA recommends that both eggs and meat be cooked to specific internal temperatures to render them safe from food borne pathogens. Since this dish is raw those temperatures are not reached and as such, may be unsafe for consumption (per the USDA). You have been warned. Eat this dish at your own risk. By re-creating this dish at home you assume full responsibility if you get sick. Don’t blame me.

All right, now that the USDA and the lawyers have been appeased, we can get on with the good stuff.

It’s been awhile since I thought about Steak Tartare, that classic of French fine dining in the US, in the 60′s, 70′s and 80′s. When I first started cooking you could still find it on a few menus, either in places that held firm to those old classic dishes, or in places that would put it on the menu in an ironic way. Yes, people were doing that long before “hipsters” made it a thing. But Steak Tartare’s time in the spotlight was coming to an end. First, there was Carpaccio, the Italians answer to Steak Tartare. In fine dining restaurants across the country chefs dropped the tartare and replaced it with Carpaccio as an Italian food became the new trend. And then, somewhere along the line, Americans became scared of their food. Warning labels went up, all over the place, warning us that eating undercooked food was dangerous to our health. And with the way that modern, American factory farms worked there was some truth in the concerns. Suddenly, Steak Tartare seemed to be headed for extinction, except in small isolated areas.

But, as with most trends, there has been a resurgence of people rediscovering many of these old classic dishes, and today you can find a number of recipes, and lots of pictures of Steak Tartare on the web. Unfortunately most of them are pretty bad interpretations of the dish, and some are just god-awful, and scary looking.

I have to admit, although I used to love the dish, I hadn’t thought about it in a while, until a friend of mine told me that she had her first taste of the dish while on vacation. From that conversation on I couldn’t get the stuff out of my mind and so one Saturday afternoon, I worked up a little magic and prepared some for me and my wife, who also had never had Steak Tartare before.

As I said, there are a lot of bad versions of Steak Tartare out there. Probably the biggest crime is sending it to the table in a deconstructed form and allowing your guests to make their own. You’ll know these versions by the picture of a pile of chopped meat with an egg yolk perched on top and all of the condiments set around the side. Unless you are going to mix the whole thing up, yourself, table side forget doing it this way. What your guests will end up with is raw meat, with globs of raw egg yolk and poorly distributed condiments. Doesn’t sound too appetizing to me. The second one crime I see, and probably the most severe crime is recipes that call for ground meat. First of all, unless you grind your own you will have no idea what you are getting, and when eating raw meat you had better know exactly what you are eating, and secondly, the texture is just disgusting. No, Steak Tartare needs to be hand chopped to get the right texture, consistency and flavor. If you want to use the short cut of using ground meat just make hamburgers instead. The final issue are recipes that over dress the meat. Believe it or not, raw beef is somewhat delicate in flavor and very easily overwhelmed. The sauce and condiments should compliment the beef not hide it. It is always best to start with too little and then add a bit more until you achieve the right taste.

A final word before I go on to the recipe and it has to do with what cut to use. Many recipes call for using tenderloin, but I find tenderloin to not have much flavor and it can be a little mushy in texture. My cut of choice is usually from the sirloin or an inside round. The meat can be a little tougher since it is diced so small, although I would avoid really tough cuts with lots of fat and sinew.

it also goes without saying that you need to purchase the freshest beef and eggs that you can, from a reputable source. If you can get locally raised beef and eggs then even better.

Steak Tartare
serves 4-6 as a first course

12-16 oz. Beef, preferably sirloin or round
1 each Egg Yolk
2 tsp. Dijon Mustard
1 large Shallot
1 1/2 Tbs. Capers
2 Tbs. Parsley
3 dashes Worcestershire Sauce
1 splash Tabasco
Salt
Pepper, freshly ground (coarse)
2-4 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Tartare-Ingredients

Finely mince the shallots, capers and parsley.

Tartare-Caper

Tartare-Onions

Tartare-Parsley

In a bowl, mix the egg yolk with the Dijon mustard, Worcestershire and tabasco. Drizzle in 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the capers, shallots and parsley. Season with salt and copious amounts of black pepper.

Remove all fat, connective tissue and sinew from the beef and dice as small as possible, but no larger than 1/4 inch. You should have 12 ounces of prepared beef when done. Pour dressing over beef and mix to coat. Add olive oil, a bit at a time, if the meat seems to dry. The dressing should just barely coat the meat with no excess dripping off of it. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

To serve either mound onto a single plate and have your guests help themselves or divide among the number of plates you need. Serve, immediately, with toast points.

Steak-Tartare2

Steak Tartare needs to be served as soon as it is prepared. It doesn’t take long for the meat to start oxidizing, turning an off gray color and it’s flavor quickly deteriorating and it is definitely not a dish that you want leftovers as it will not be any good the next day.

So, Steak Tartare may not be for everyone, but if you’ve always wondered what all the fuss is about, I encourage you to try this recipe and decide for yourself whether the dish lives up to its hype or not.

grandcafe_brand

It was Saturday morning and neither me, or my wife, felt like cooking breakfast, nor was I in the mood for just cereal and/or bagels. I wanted something substantial, which meant gathering everyone up and heading out for breakfast. But none of the restaurants, in our town, appealed to me. We have some decent breakfast places here, in Fond du Lac. The problem is, they are all pretty much the same. Change some of the wording, on the menus, and they are pretty interchangeable, and while good, for what they are, none of these places are really known for their creativity. To be fair, these places are all “family restaurants” and part of their charm and appeal is their familiarity. Unfortunately, this is all we have, in the way of breakfast places and so if you are looking for a different experience you have to head out-of-town.

Much to the annoyance of my wife, I suggested we head out-of-town and drive an hour south to Wauwautosa, WI to check out Café Hollander. I have been reading quite a bit about this place recently, checked out their menu, online, and really wanted to check out their brunch.

We got there around 10:30am and the place was packed, which I expected. Not only was it late morning, but the Lucky Leprechaun 7k Run had recently gotten done and many of the runners had stopped in for a post run beer or Bloody Mary. We knew it would be busy so I dropped the wife and daughter off, so that they could put our name in while I went and found a parking spot.

Needless to say, our experience didn’t start too well. As I said, they were packed. While I parked the car, my wife and daughter waited in the bar area for our table to be ready. Immediately my wife tried to get the attention of a bartender to order a couple of drinks, Bloody Mary’s for us and chocolate milk for the daughter. 10 minutes later, when I walked in my wife had still been ignored. I tried to hail a bartender, but the one that finally noticed me said that she was just a bartender for the service bar and a regular bartender would be with us eventually. Finally, after another 10 minutes we were able to flag down a bartender and get us our drinks. I understand that they were very busy, but numerous times the bartenders, both those taking care of the bar and those running the service bar, made eye contact with us and then promptly ignored us. Sure they were busy, but a brief acknowledgment and a quick “Someone will take care of you shortly” would have gone a long way. I was starting to regret my decision to make the trip down here.

Once we did get to order our drinks, they came up pretty quickly and I was impressed with the Bloody Marys. I am quite a fan of a good Bloody Mary and while easy to please, I’m hard to impress and I have to say that Café Hollander makes a damn good Bloody Mary. Things were looking up. Soon after that our pager went off and we were seated.

Looking at the menu created another dilemma. It was full of new and interesting takes on the standard breakfast fare. I’d read the description of an item, decide that was what I wanted, then read the description for the next item and wanted that one. My wife had the same problem and it took us longer than usual to decide what we were going to eat. Maybe, just maybe this place did deserve the hype it has received.

Our server was quick to greet our table and see that we already had drinks so she left us to our own devices as we tried to decide what we wanted to eat. Luckily, we had a hard time deciding what we were going to have as it was awhile before our server returned. Don’t get me wrong she was a wonderful server; pleasant and upbeat, but struggling somewhat to handle the large number of tables she had. We had no plans, and nowhere to be so we took the slow service in stride.

Finally we ordered. We started with an appetizer of Sweet Potato Frites.

Hollander-Sweet-Potato2

The Frites come with one of Café Hollander’s dipping sauces. We order 2; the Roasted Garlic Aioli and the Siracha Ginger BBQ sauce. Both sauces were excellent; the aioli had a nice garlic flavor but wasn’t overpowering like aioli can often be if not made correctly, while the BBQ sauce had a nice heat which was balanced by its sweetness. The frites themselves were good. While I’m not positive I am guessing that the frites are not house made and come frozen. I can forgive this as Sweet Potato Fries can be very difficult to make from scratch. I have had numerous versions that are either soggy and limp or over fried, almost to the point of being burnt. I’d much rather have a frozen product, which can be quite good, than eat poorly made Sweet Potato Fries, just because a place is determined to make everything “in-house.”

Hollander-Sweet-Potato-Frit

I chose the Biscuits and Gravy. Their take on this southern classic is to use Mexican Chorizo in place the standard breakfast sausage, in the gravy. I was intrigued. I love Chorizo and have used in numerous different applications but had never thought of making breakfast gravy with it. I had to try it.

Chorizo-Gravy

The biscuit had been toasted on the griddle, topped with fried eggs and covered in the gravy. This was then topped with a Sweet Corn Relish and served with a side of their breakfast potatoes. The dish was awesome and something I plan on experimenting with at home. The gravy was spicy and flavorful, the biscuits, buttery and the corn relish played a nice counterpoint to the rich spicy gravy. The potatoes were nicely browned and crispy. They were good. Not great, but good. There was nothing special about them, but they were a solid rendition of American Fries.

South-Coast-Benedict

My wife opted for the South Coast Benedict; a take on the traditional Eggs Benedict, this one replacing the English Muffin with roasted Portobello Mushrooms. The Canadian bacon got replaced by slow roasted turkey, which, in turn got topped with a tomato relish (halved cherry tomatoes), avocado, poached eggs and Hollandaise Sauce. The dish might not be much to look at, but it sure tasted good!!!

The daughter opted for the Kid’s Waffles, 3 wedges of Belgian waffle accompanied by real maple syrup, butter and some fruit. I was impressed that even the kids are served real maple syrup instead of “pancake syrup.” It was a solid version of waffles and my daughter ate it all up heartily.

So what is my overall opinion of Café Hollander? Despite the few service issues we experienced we loved the place. The atmosphere is vibrant, the food is excellent and creative. They could have used another server on the floor and another bartender behind the bar. These issues could have turned into real problems but the staff, for the most part, seemed like they really enjoyed what they were doing, and that positive attitude can go a long ways in smoothing over issues. I want to get back there one night to try their dinner menu and explore their beer list, and we, most definitely will be heading back to check out their brunch again. There were just too many, tasty sounding dishes that need to be tried.

Spinach-Arugula-Salad

It’s a typical March week here in Wisconsin. One day it’s up to 40°F (short sleeve shirt weather up here) and the next it’s cloudy, gray, foggy and snowy. But what do you expect, it’s Springtime in Wisconsin and that means the weather can change in a heartbeat. I’m just praying for more nice weather. I usually enjoy winter but it’s been a long, cold one and I’m ready for Spring, and not just the occasional teaser. I’m ready for some sustained nice weather.

Late winter-early spring can be a rough time to find good produce, even in this day and age of rapid transport. It tends to be a time when the southern climes are in a lull between plantings and for those of us in the north, the weather isn’t warm enough to be planting and growing much. A couple of the earliest items that often get grown in early spring spinach and arugula. Often grown in hothouses and cold frames, these leafy greens are usually some of the earliest local crops available. Paired with segments of grapefruit and toasted pecans this makes a perfect salad to help chase those Springtime gray skies away.

Spinach and Arugula Salad with Grapefruit
serves 4-6

3-4 cups Baby Spinach
3-4 cups Arugula
2 each Grapefruit
1/4 medium Red Onion
3/4 cup Pecan halves
Grapefruit Vinaigrette (recipe below)

Preheat your oven to 300°F. Roughly chop the pecans (I usually just break them up by hand to make sure they stay nice and big). Place on a sheet tray and place in the oven. Bake for 12-15 minutes, stirring twice. Watch carefully so the nuts don’t burn. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, using a knife peel the grapefruit. Cut the top and bottom off and then, following the curve of the fruit cut off the peel and white pith beneath.

Grapefruit-Peeled

Using your knife, remove the segments of the grapefruit by cutting towards the center on either side of the membrane that holds each segment together so that you end up with supremes of grapefruit that only contain pulp and flesh, and none of the membrane. Be sure to catch all the juices and save for the dressing.

Grapefruit-Supremes

Cut the red onion into a paper-thin Julienne. Mix together the spinach and arugula. Place on a platter or in a large bowl Arrange the grapefruit, pecans and onion over the greens and serve with the dressing on the side so that guests can dress their own.

Spinach-Salad-Closeup

Grapefruit Vinaigrette
makes approximately 1 3/4 cups

1 1/2 cups Grapefruit juice (should be able to get most of that from the leftover pulp from cutting the supremes)
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
1 1/2 tsp. Dijon Mustard
Salt
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper

In a non-reactive sauce pot, bring 1 cup of the grapefruit juice to a boil. Reduce to just less than 1/2 cup. Set aside to cool. Once cool mix in the remaining grapefruit juice, the mustard, some salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Slowly drizzle in the oils, whisking constantly so that the dressing emulsifies. Check for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Grapefruit-Dressing

Guinness-Cream-Soda2

It’s St. Patrick’s Day and I feel like such a loser. My wife cooked up a big pot of Corned Beef and Cabbage yesterday, but after a long day of work, I dug into it without taking any pictures. Both my wife and I are big fans of Corned Beef and Cabbage yet we only seem to make it on or around St. Patrick’s Day which is a shame. We really should make it more often, not only for the main meal but the leftovers, afterward get turned into both Reuben’s and Corned Beef Hash. But will I don’t have anything to show for it, I did eat very well, so a big “Thank You” goes out to my wife!!!

Guinness-Stew-4105

But so not to leave you all totally empty handed here is a recipe I posted just over 4 years ago, Beef & Guinness Stew. While it might be a little late for St. Pat’s Day, it will be the perfect way to use up any leftover Guinness from your night of celebrating the fact that on today, we are all a little bit Irish, or at least pretend to be.

And finally, I leave you with a poem dedicated to one of the world’s greatest beers-Guinness.

An Old Irish Tale

author unknown

Some Guinness was spilt on the barroom floor

When the pub was shut for the night.

When out of his hole crept a wee brown mouse

And stood in the pale moonlight.

He lapped up the frothy foam from the floor

Then back on his haunches he sat.

And all night long, you could hear the mouse roar,

“Bring on the goddamn cat!”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!!!

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