Monday, February 24, 2014

Down where the Würzburger flows.

Veal goulash with sauerkraut. © Ryan Schierling
I've had a stuffy little red cookbook in my possession for a while now that's been begging to breathe. Compiled by Jan Mitchell and first-published by Doubleday in 1952, Lüchow's German Cookbook – The Story and the Favorite Dishes of America's Most Famous German Restaurant – is important because at the time, there was nothing like it.

And there was certainly nothing like August Lüchow's restaurant, established in 1882, in New York City.

Described by Ludwig Bemelmans – writer and illustrator of the classic and much-loved Madeline series of children's picture books (and an internationally-known gourmet) – Lüchow's attracted a diverse clientele of "...priests, students, national figures, diplomats, politicians with Italian friends in race-track suits with pearl stickpins in their neckties, theatrical folk with broad-shouldered blondes who have brought along Mama and Papa. It is alive with children and dogs." He called it "the most kaleidoscopic restaurant in New York." 

The cookbook is a time machine to the past, to a genteel and gracious establishment that unfortunately no longer exists. Lüchow's shuttered after more than a century of serving proper and traditional European cuisine on East 14th Street at Irving Place.

The very first recipe of the book is Pickled Beef Head Salad, which is followed by Pig's Head Cheese Vinaigrette.

There isn't anything easy about this book, but there is nothing more authentically and satisfyingly German.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hot meat dip.

Hot meat dip - queso with smoked beef brisket. © Ryan Schierling
You've all certainly heard of the Great Velveeta Shortage of 2014 by now. "Increased seasonal demand" and a shifting of production lines from one plant to another led to a shortage of the famous pasteurized prepared cheese product, especially the more moderately-sized eight- and sixteen-ounce loaves. Moderately-sized... how cute. Your Super Bowl party is screwed. 

Thankfully, here in Texas, every grocer worth their inflated sodium content has a year-round endcap with nothing but #10 cans of Ro*Tel and five-pound chubs of Velveeta. No man, woman or child will ever go without queso here because, in The Great Republic of Texas, queso is a birthright

Back in the Ghetto Melrose days of Seattle, hot meat dip mysteriously became a party staple. I'm not sure how it all started, but browned ground beef, Velveeta, a tin of tomatoes with green chiles and a secret mix of spices would bubble away in an ancient, volcanic crock pot next to a gigantic bowl of tortilla chips. It was easy, and it was always a hit. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Cornbread Florentine Benny

Cornbread Florentine with sour cream hollandiase. © Ryan Schierling
One of my favorite breakfasts is Eggs Florentine with hash browns. I developed this strong affection when we were in Seattle and lived walking distance from The Shanty Cafe, whose straight-forward Florentine Benny and hash browns were delicious comfort on many a chilly Northwest morning. I'll resist making this a diatribe about the rarity of finding really good, crispy, diner-style shredded hash browns in this town (no, really, it's invariably "home fries" in these parts), because today I'm all about sharing another way to enjoy runny eggs and spinach greens.

There's something all sparkly-sawdust about living in Austin that causes us to eventually give all of our favorite dishes a Texas twist. In this instance, a not-too-sweet cornbread finds its place in lieu of the traditional English muffin, and the hollandaise is modified to include a touch of lime and sour cream.

The cornbread recipe is my adaptation of “Yankee Corn Bread” from Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads, but using a hot cast iron skillet method for baking. I omitted the bacon, of course. I also added some masa harina (a type of corn flour used for making tortillas and tamales) – because if you know me well, you know that I am loath to bake anything containing corn that doesn't include a bit of masa harina for the delicious flavor it imparts. Hell, I even put it in my pizza dough. Ahem... I've also reduced the amount of sugar considerably, because I don't need or want a sweet cornbread for this preparation, and the addition of frozen corn kernels naturally adds a bit of sweetness. And – to digress for the second time in this paragraph – this cornbread is also pretty awesome to use for making stuffing/dressing during the holidays.

We like the Cornbread Florentine with my Southwest Sour Cream Hollandaise because, well, how can you not offer up a bit of the rich yolky goodness that makes poached eggs happy the world around. This is essentially a blender hollandaise with lime juice in lieu of some of the lemon and sour cream in place of some of the butter. It's a little "softer" than the traditional variety and compliments the cornbread. Ryan generally doesn't dig regular hollandaise sauce, but this one he finds delightful. Go figure. That said, if busting out the blender seems like too much of an stretch on a given morning, I won't hesitate for a second to just use plain ol' sour cream and a good hot sauce drift. I assure you it is really quite good both ways.

We typically make this with cornbread that was baked the night before, so it makes for a relatively quick and easy breakfast. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Thank you for another delectable year.

So this is the new year. © Ryan Schierling
Happy new year! It’s hard to believe that we’ve got one more year under our belt here at Foie Gras Hot Dog. Our third annum closed out with the end of 2013, and while we slowed things down a bit blog-wise to focus on family and fun, it was still a wonderful whirlwind that we're carrying with us into 2014. Here are some of our highlights from the last 365 days...

We love cookbooks, and believe that if you truly want a comprehensive understanding of a family or community, read one of their collected cookbooks cover to cover. Find the most dog-eared, sauce-splattered pages, cook those recipes and you will know the way to their hearts. Last spring marked the publication of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance cookbook, a beautiful offering that was kind enough to include our recipes for Papaquiles and Damir’s broccoli. 

In April, we got called up to play in the big game. RL Reeves, Jr. invited us to his East Austin Salsa Shootout at Tamale House East, and our version of Margo’s salsa took home first prize. “When the smoke cleared, and all the votes were tallied Ryan and Julie of Foie Gras Hotdog had shown their Texas bona fides in a big way..."  It's taken us a few years and while we don't quite feel like Texans yet, we definitely are Austinites

Other notables: We taught a class called "Rig It," at the AFBA Photography Camp in September. A giant chub of beef bologna was smoked into Oklahoma prime rib and I turned fried baloney sandwiches into something even more crazy than fried baloney sandwiches. We're not going to talk about the scrapple. Julie made avgolemono and fried artichoke hearts so delicious we ate it for a week straight, and her lemon-chèvre-béchamel "boss sauce" may someday be added to the canon of mother sauces. 

Our top five most popular posts of 2013 – as determined by page views – were a mixed bag. Last year’s top five posts were all essentially, exceptionally vegetarian. This year, you wanted some meat, and our number one post was... 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Steamed Chocolate Pudding

Steamed chocolate pudding with cinnamon-clove sauce. © Ryan Schierling
For Christmas every year my Grandma Munroe makes a single petite steamed chocolate pudding with an intensely-spiced cinnamon-clove sauce for dessert. It's a tradition. A tradition that goes back a long way. As in, my grandmother will be celebrating her 95th birthday in the new year and this recipe came via her mother, who we think got it from her mother-in-law. It has been a Christmas tradition for all these years – one tenacious little gem in the pantheon of English steamed puddings, uniquely stovetop "baked" cakes which are know to have originated sometime before the mid-1600s.

My first memories of this steamed chocolate pudding are vague, and more of an impression than anything else. I remember always thinking it should be an unconventional flavor combination – the chocolate with the cinnamon – yet tasting the flavorful spices of cinnamon and cloves as they saturated each dense little slice were such a delight! For me it has become a truly special holiday treat.  

My grandmother is the only person I've ever known to prepare this (although I have confirmed that one or two of her siblings have made it, as well). A few years ago, knowing my fascination with this particular dessert, someone in my family gave me a steamed pudding mold for Christmas. It took me a while to try using it, and my first attempt was something of a disaster due to my misinterpretation of the recipe and a failure to research the essential concepts involved when using a steaming mold. I won't go into details, but I have since corrected, and clarified, the essentials for my future self and others who may visit this post. You see, the original recipe is written in that familiar vernacular which assumes the process and nuances are already known to the cook – where the ingredients and instructions are but mere reference notes to self, passed from one cook to another. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Following the fete.

(Bottles L-R) Limoncello, plum bourbon, Rainier cherry bump. © Ryan Schierling
We kind of skipped the ever-inundating pre-Thanksgiving food-blog blast this year, instead opting to toast to some post-feast palliatives. You already know what to do with your turkey, you know how to make the classic sides and the not-so-classic sides, you know how to crank out handcrafted heirloom sweet potato ice cream with back-woods small-batch maple syrup and homemade marshmallows, obviously.


Get started on a few of these tipples now and you'll have plenty of practice time before next season's holiday haze begins. 

There are menu pages of before-dinner drinks available. Some people just call those drinks. The French have a couple of words that have become synonymous with the intake of specific alcoholic beverages before and after dinner – apéritif and digestif – which basically mean "to open" and "a digestive." In America, we call apéritifs "happy hour," and that's unfortunate, because it literally translates to "half-price well drinks and non-import draft beers, cheapskate."

Apertifs are usually herbal recipes meant to stimulate the appetite. I don't typically need a reason to be hungry, so here at home we occasionally like to sip on the after-dinner beverage – the digestif

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Old school brownies.

Brownies with black raspberries and Chambord whipped cream. © Ryan Schierling
Who doesn't love brownies? 

Granted, there are a few of you who would trade one for a lemon bar any day of the week, but I'm a chocolate-lover, and brownies – with their gooey-cake middles and crusty tops – are about as delightful a thing as I can ever imagine happening to chocolate in the span of thirty minutes. 

When it comes to old, familiar foods, the goodness is always going to come in equal part with nostalgia around here. For me, there is one brownie recipe, and that is this one

Brownies are one of two desserts that I recall being quintessentially attributable to my dad. The other is the Fruit Cocktail Cake I wrote about last year. Both recipes share the qualities of being expedient to make and requiring very few ingredients. But, while the Fruit Cocktail Cake was usually a planned dessert, brownies always seemed a spontaneous gesture of joy and decadence conjured from ingredients already in the pantry. I know my mom made them too, but I've forever associated these brownies with him because "Dad in the kitchen" was always something of an event.

A few months ago, my folks surprised us by sending the actual cookbook these were always baked from – the Grand Diplome Cooking Course, Vol. 1. There might have been a couple of other recipes or instructions in there that were referenced over the years, but it's clear from the stains on the page that brownies were the purpose of this book's existence in our household. It's a working document, as manifest by the notes in my mom's handwriting for quick reference when using cocoa powder instead of squares.
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