Archive for April, 2010

TAQUITOS

Cinco de Mayo is around the corner, and there are few hors d’œuvre in the Mexican repertoire better suited for munching on with a nice cold cerveza or margarita in hand than a crunchy, rolled taquito.  If the only kind of taquito you’re familiar with comes in a box from the frozen food aisle, then you’re in for a serious treat.  These are the real deal.  No microwaves, no ovens and no mystery meat here;  just the ear shattering crunch and savory interior of a freshly fried, homemade beef taquito.

Truth be told, I happily ate my healthy share of frozen taquitos for years. In fact, growing up I didn’t know many households that didn’t have a case buried somewhere in their freezer for snack emergencies. Throw them on plate, pop them in the microwave for a minute or so and go to town.  Let’s face it: they’re quick, convenient and the perfect vessel for your favorite condiment.  As a kid, I’d go as far as to dip mine in ketchup! It wasn’t until I decided to try a homemade version that I realized what this Mexican fingerfood could be. Where the frozen lack any serious depth of flavor and always end up being somewhere between chewy and soggy on the texture scale, the homemade is a knockout crispy treat.

These taquitos are the perfect way to use up leftover barbacoa.  In fact, I’ll even make an entire batch for the sole purpose of rolling up a few dozen of these bad boys.  If you really like them (which you will), go ahead and make a double batch and stash them in your freezer for the ultimate late night snack.  Like the kind from the box, but oh-so-much better.

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PESTO PIZZA WITH ROASTED GARLIC & POTATO

Mention potatoes on pizza and you’ll get one of two responses. From the folks who’ve tried it, you can expect an enthusiastic thumbs up. From everyonce else: a resounding “huh?” That’s the thing about pizza with potato – it sounds strange, until you try it, and then you just get it.

Tasting the ‘You Say Potato’ slice for the first time at Escape from New York Pizza on Haight Street in San Francisco was this moment for me.  Still in high school at the time, far out pizza toppings went about far as bacon and clams as in my Dad’s favorite New Haven-style pie from Pepe’s in New Haven, Connecticut.  A diehard pepperoni fan, I was blown away by the idea of putting a potato on a pizza.  Actually I probably wouldn’t have tried it had my vegetarian buddy not touted it as being “the best” slice of pizza he’d ever eaten.  He was right. Tender yet toothsome potatoes and savory whole-roasted garlic cloves come together in a one of a kind pesto pizza experience.

Over a decade later, I finally got around to trying it at home.  Don’t wait as long as I did; add this unbeatable flavor combination to your pizza-making repertoire now.  Then when someone mentions potatoes on a pizza, you’ll know. Read more

BANH MI SANDWICH

If you haven’t tried Vietnamese banh mi by now, you’ve been missing out on a truly remarkable sandwich. At once exotic, but at the same time decidedly familiar, these guys are unlike anything in the American lunchtime lineup.  No cheese or mustard here, just the perfect marriage of sour, salty and savory Vietnamese flavors on a sweet, light-as-air, French baguette all harmoniously coming together in one killer snack.

Topped with crunchy pickled carrots and daikon, cool sliced cucumber, aromatic cilantro and spicy chilies, a good banh mi is a melange of flavors and textures. Not unlike a BLT, banh mi are salty, crunchy and juicy with a nice counterpoint of warm meats. Packed with savory roast pork or my version with grilled five-spice chicken shown above, the real beauty of this sandwich is its variety of delicious proteins.  From grilled lemongrass beef or sardine, to the deli combo loaded with roast pork, mortadella and paté there are plenty of options out there to satisfy any hankering. Here in San Francisco, Saigon Sandwich on Larkin Street is home to some of the finest banh mi around.  At $3.50 apiece, I defy you to find a better quality, more filling sandwich for cheaper anywhere in the city.  This is the Asian sandwich.

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JALAPEÑO POPPERS

If you are looking for a jalapeño popper that looks like this, then sadly, this recipe is not for you.  If, however, you are a popper purist looking for the authentic, crispy-fried variety, then you have come to the right place.

I’ve been looking for a good jalapeño popper recipe for some time now, and, after several failed attempts to find anything I could truly be proud of, I’ve finally cobbled together a version that lives up to the high bar set by frozen versions sold in bars around the country.  I tried everything: versions with fresh jalapeños, versions with cream cheese, fine breadcrumbs and egg batters.  These same iterations, were either raw, greasy or simply exploded in the frying oil. My winning version utilizes a combination of quality pickled jalapenos, a combo of cheddar and jack cheese, hot sauce and a buttermilk/panko batter.  Served alongside some buttermilk dip, and you have a appetizer that has few equals in the fabulous world of fried food.

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MEATLOAF SANDWICH

Like roast beef, I’ll sometime make meatloaf just for the sandwiches.  Funny, considering I wouldn’t touch them as a kid.  I’m not sure if it was a texture thing or the idea of eating a ‘loaf’ in between two pieces of bread that threw me off, but whatever it was, I made sure they never ended up in my lunch bag.  These days, however, leftover meatloaf is a godsend and something that rarely lasts more than a day in our fridge. You see, as good as meatloaf is straight from the oven, something magical seems to take place after an overnight rest in the cold.  Not only do the savory flavors concentrate, but the consistency of the loaf changes as well, firming up a bit for easy sandwich slicing.  Served warm or cold, a good meatloaf sandwich seems to hit all the right notes.  You don’t need a recipe for a meatloaf sandwich, just the inspiration to make one.

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