Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Caveman Cajun Ragout

I was treated to a fabulous birthday dinner last weekend at the 1200 Chophouse on Gulf Boulevard. My dear friends, Jim and Denise, insisted that I order the 2.5 pound Tomahawk Ribeye. That gnaw on the bone caveman-sized rib was heavenly delicious, but way too much for one little old person like me. Consequently, a big chunk of that steak followed me home.

Years ago I had a recipe for a left-over beef ragout that turned out real well. That recipe seems to have disappeared in the mists of time. "Now what?" thought I. Eureka! How's about a Cajun Chicken Ragout, but with bite sized chunks of ribeye and beef stock instead of chicken stock? Well, why not? This recipe easily converts to a beef ragout with two cups of left-over beef steak in bite sized pieces and beef stock instead of chicken.

Pictured is the beef ragout

Cajun Chicken Ragout

  6              slices  bacon -- cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  1              cup  onion -- diced
  1              cup  celery -- diced
  1              pinch  salt
  1/2           cup  green bell pepper -- diced
  1/2           cup  red bell pepper -- diced
  3              cloves  garlic -- minced
  1/3           cup  all-purpose flour
  1              teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  1              teaspoon  paprika
  1/2           teaspoon  dried oregano
  1/4           teaspoon  cayenne pepper -- or to taste
  1              cup  chicken stock -- divided
  1              teaspoon  Worcestershire sauce
  8              ounces  andouille sausage -- sliced 1/2-inch thick
  2              cups  cooked chicken -- shredded
  1/4           cup  green onions -- 1/4" thick
                  salt and pepper -- to taste

Cook and stir bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer bacon to a bowl with a slotted spoon, reserving bacon fat.

Return skillet to medium heat; add two tablespoons bacon fat, cook and stir onion, celery, and a pinch of salt until onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add green bell pepper, red bell pepper, and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until bell peppers are soft, about 5 minutes.

Pour two additional tablespoons of bacon fat into the onion mixture, sprinkle in flour, and cook until flour is browned and mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon black pepper, paprika, oregano, and cayenne pepper and stir to combine.

Pour 1/4 cup of chicken stock into vegetable mixture; cook and stir, scraping any browned bits off the bottom of the pan, until combined. Add remaining stock and Worcestershire sauce. Increase heat to medium-high and simmer until sauce is thick and reduced slightly, about 10 minutes. If sauce is too thick, add more stock.

 Reduce heat to low. Add andouille sausage, chicken, and reserved bacon. Cook until hot.

Remove from heat, stir in green onions, and season with salt and black pepper to taste.

Serve over cooked white rice.

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This recipe can serve two very hungry eaters or four dainty diners. Recipe takes about an hour from start to finish.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Home Cooked Asian Dinner

We didn't feel like dining out last night and since I had thawed out a pork tenderloin, my bride and I decided to dine in. I channeled my great-great-great Asian grandmother and got her recipe for my great-great-great Asian grandfather's favorite dish. Grannie seemed more than a little surprised that I dropped in on her since, as she pointed out, my heritage is actually German.

She was kind enough to give me the recipe anyway with the admonition, "Don't be buggin' me ever again, dummkopf."

 Asian Pork Tenderloin

  1 1/2          pound  pork tenderloin
  1               teaspoon  sea salt
  1               teaspoon  black pepper
  1               tablespoon  all-purpose flour -- for dusting pork
  2               tablespoons  peanut oil
  1               cup  Asian soy salad dressing

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Trim any excess fat from pork and pat dry with a paper towel.

Season with salt and pepper.

Dust with flour, shaking off any excess.

In a large oven proof skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of peanut oil over medium-high heat.

Sear the pork in the oil, rotating to brown evenly all sides.

Remove skillet from the heat and pour the dressing evenly over the tenderloin, rolling the meat to coat on all sides. Cover with aluminum foil.

Bake, covered, in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until pork is no longer pink in the center.

Start to Finish Time: 1:00
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NOTES : Several prepared salad dressings are available at your local super market. I use Ken's Steakhouse Lite Asian Sesame with Ginger & Soy, primarily because that is the only one carried by the local W.D and it's similar to Grannie's recipe.

I layered the pork on top of a mound of jasmine rice surrounded by mixed Oriental veggies.

Buen provecho, y'all.

Monday, September 7, 2015

A Besito At WestShore

The Belle of Gulf Boulevard and I had to leave our stately pleasure dome by the sea (actually, the gulf) this weekend to visit the Big Guava on the other side of the bay. Since we were back in Tampa it was decided that we should try that new upscale Mexican eatery in WestShore Plaza.

According to their website, "Besito, translated as little kiss, strives to delight guests with the warmth of a private hacienda offering thoughtful details and cuisine regarded by the New York Times as excellent." Since the Times, as everyone knows, is the source of esoteric reality on all things Mexican, we knew that we had to dine at Besito.

We had reservations for early evening and we were promptly greeted and seated. Claudia was our most gracious, charming, and professional server. She patiently answered any questions that popped up and was quick to offer suggestions as we muddled through the menu.

The first order of business had to be margaritas, and Besito has margarita variations out the kazoo. We really like the taste of tequila, so we requested a more traditional version of this Mexican classic and that was what Claudia recommended, the Classic Margarita, on the rocks with a salty rim. The margaritas were refreshing and well prepared.

We were pleased to see Tableside Guacamole on the menu, so that had to be the start to our fiesta Mexicana.
Claudia wheeled the guac cart around and preceded to whip up this appetizer in the traditional molcajete. This treat is served with warm tortilla chips and a tomato salsa. Claudia, in this case, will adjust seasonings to accommodate the palates of all at the table. For the more adventurous, additional heat will be provide on request.

A few more appetizers were ordered by our table. Two of us requested the Ceviche del Dia. Today's preparation featured shrimp in a tomato based marinade and served with plantain strips and corn chips.

In the coastal regions of Latin America this dish is typically made from fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices, such as lemon or lime, and spiced with ají or chili peppers. That was what I was expecting, so this ceviche was a bit disappointing and certainly not the Yucatecan Mexican I was hoping for.

Another aperitivo presented to the table was the Empanadas de Hongos, crimini and button mushrooms with goat cheese and salsa verde cruda.

While these empanadas were deemed to be good, they were not elevated to memorable. But, let us move on to the platos principales.

The Alambre de Res was similar to a kabob with grilled New York strip steak, chorizo, rice, cilantro, salsa verde, and salsa ranchera.

With the colors of the Mexican flag, this was an attractive dish that was described as "athletic", meaning it was a tough chew.

The Enchiladas Mixta was a dish prepared with skirt steak, grilled chicken, chorizo, guajillo cream salsa, plantains, queso fresco, and cilantro.

Then there were the Enchiladas Sulzas, or Swiss style enchiladas with shredded chicken, tomatillo cream sauce, and queso Chihuahua. Who knew the Swiss did enchiladas?

Maybe in the Big Apple the Enchilada Mixta and Enchilada Sulza spoke Mexican to people, but there was nothing Mexican about either of these two dishes. And, like the empanadas, they were not memorable.

The one dish of the evening that received accolades was the Enchiladas Carnitas, roast pork baked in a black bean jalapeno salsa, a salsa molcajete, crispy bacon, queso fresca, with onions and cilantro.

Finally, a dish that spoke Mexican, with tender, juicy pork, a rich sauce, and the complex flavors of Central Mexico.

Two desserts were requested, a vanilla Tres Leche and a chocolate Tres Leche.

Both desserts provided a sweet ending to a rather uninspiring meal.

We split the bill at the table and for two personas la quenta was $90.29. Claudia was deserving of the 20% plus gratuity we added. I can't envision a return to Besito; although, as we were leaving we were presented with a complimentary bag of tasty churros and a teeny, tiny worry doll to place under our pillows at night to ward off evil spirits or something.

Besito Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Editor's Update 9/8/2015: I was recently informed that the correct expression is "out the wazoo, not the kazoo."


Thursday, September 3, 2015

Laugh Often and Wine A lot

The Tampa Bay Times featured an article the other day about a wine shop at 828 Dodecanese Boulevard in Tarpon Springs. Wine at the Docks intrigued me with the descriptions of wines by the glass, wines for tasting, and wines by the bottle to go. After reading the Times review I knew I had to go.

Wines at the Docks is located in the Riverwalk Shops on the sponge docks in Tarpon. They feature free wine tastings daily with Florida and international wines, accessories, art, cheeses, olives, jellies, candies, chilled domestic and international beers.

The Belle of Gulf Boulevard and I stopped by after a dandy lunch at Dimitri's. Susan greeted us as we walked in and offered to help us in choosing just the right bottle of wine for whatever we were in the mood for. Susan is a sweetheart. Hopefully she will be on duty when you stop in.

Wines by the Docks has an unbelievable selection of fruit wines from Florida and elsewhere. We hurried past, but you may choose to linger.

Since we had already consumed a tad or two of Retsina at Dimitri's we decided to pass up the wine bar.

We wandered past an impressive display of wines, because we were on a specific mission.

The Belle and I hit the tasting bar and with Susan's assistance, explored the possibilities presented by a few bottles of superior Greek wines.

After an unbelievably fulfilling Greek odyssey a few years ago, my bride and I have become believers that the Greeks have their feces amalgamated wine wise. We fell in love with the island of Thera and Santorini's wines. We couldn't pass up a 2013 bottle of Assyrtiko from that island. Also in our wine bag we brought home an Achaia Chardonnay, and a dry red Vin de Crete.

Wine at the Docks has a bunch of kitchey stuff one might expect in a touristy location, but it is still a serious venue for wines. Stop in and laugh often and wine a lot.

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