June 28, 2010

6/28: Netherlands v Slovakia, Brazil v Chile

Feeling as though I've exhausted the existing selection of traditional Slovak dishes that appeal to me, I'm happy to bid fairwell to the team as we proceed into the next round. Chile, on the other hand, is a country I wish I'd spent more time on. I recommend the recipes at Canela Kitchen, which posts straight from the source in Santiago, Chile. Her recipes include a variety of empanadas and puddings, which come in endless creative flavors in Chile such as corn and prawn, and are listed in both English and Spanish. We're posting two Chilean recipes today to bid adieu and cannot encourage you enough to take this opportunity to enjoy an awesome Carmenere.
Slovaks are shocked when they arrive in the US to find people pouring syrup and whipped cream on their French Toast - they eat it salty! Dutch Uitsmijter is a hearty open-faced sandwich of ham, eggs and cheese, often served for breakfast. Uitsmijter' means 'bouncer' in Dutch, telling the story of a late night snack served just before getting kicked out of the bar. I can think of few foods more perfect for a World Cup match.
If they aren't already serving it on French Toast, they certainly will be now. 
I sincerely doubt we'll ever see the Dutch slathering a cilantro salsa upon their Uitsmijters, but for those of us in places like Texas where breakfast doesn't count if it's not served with salsa, a traditional Chilean Pebre ties this dish together perfectly. Similar but in many ways superior to pico de gallo, pebre is served on everything from grilled meat to sandwiches.  If you cannot find aji chiles, a jalepeno will do, but firey flavors are not characteristic of Chilean cuisine. 
Uitsmijter on Chlieb vo vajci (Dutch sandwich on Slovak French Toast)
Whisk 3 eggs (vajcia), salt liberally, and coat bread (chlieb) in the egg (typically, rye bread is used) then fry on a hot greased pan.
For the Uitsmijter:
Top the Chileb slices with ham and Gouda. Fry 2 eggs, sunny side up, then top the bread. Add Pebre to taste.

Chilean Pebre
1 onion chopped finely
1  green ají chopped
1 tablespoon of oil
1 tablespoon of cilantro chopped
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
Combine in a food processor - consistency should be chunky.
Chile v Brazil
An elegant red wine meringue traditionally served with crema inglesa, or clotted cream, this is the equivalent of a Chilean zabaglione. Brazilians are also fond of meringue and use it in almost every popular dessert from banana pie to the layered pavê desserts
They also prepare a red wine pudding called Sagu de vinho whose flavors may be reminiscent in this turron, although certainly not the textures. Taking inspiration from the Italian pairing of zabaglione and fruit, we pair the Turrón with the national dessert of Brazil- a simple yet heavenly passion fruit mouse. The combination of egg whites and condensed milk-based desserts calls on two cultural legacies that characterize modern Latin American cuisine - the legacy of the monks and the Nestlé market penetration that brought its canned milks to the South before fresh milk become widely distributed. Today, Brazilians still call Nestlé the "Leite Moça" or milkmaid.
Turrón de vino con Mousse de Maracujá
Prepare the Mousse:
1 C creme de leite (Brazilian evaporated milk) or cream
1 C sweetened-condensed milk
1/2 C frozen passion fruit or juice if you cannot find the pulp
(optional) one fresh passion fruit
Pureé in a blender until fluffy then chill for a few hours.

Prepare the Turrón:
1/2 C Chilean red merlot or cabernet
3/4 C sugar
3 egg whites
1 cinnamon stick
pinch of salt
In a pot heat the red wine with the cinnamon stick and sugar ~8 minutes until a heavy syrup. Remove cinnamon.
Beat egg whites with pinch of salt until soft peaks, then slowly drizzle in the wine syrup while beating the whites until meringue is cool.
To serve: Divide the chilled mousse into glasses and top with a dollop of turrón.

HEY! We've seen that cuisine before! Cook the foods of today's competing countries using our other recipes: Enjoy a Danish/Dutch Stampot of Burning Love along with Slovak goulash and bryndzové halušky. Slovakia's Bublanina is a clear winner, though we doubt they'll prove so successful in the game as opposed to the kitchen.

Brazil has dominated our menus when compared to Chile, as it will likely dominate the game. It would be difficult for anything to stand up to Feijoada and Caipirinhas

although the Chilean seafood included in our Paella provides ample competition.

Prefer to eat out instead? Our Dining Guide tells you where and why.

6/27: Germany v England, Argentina v Mexico

With England sure to take the beating of the day, our menu takes a German, Mexican and Argentinean touch to a traditional English tea. Although the English once dropped whatever they were doing to break for afternoon tea, the modern teatime has been replaced by a simple snack throughout much of Britain. Luckily for royalty and tourists, the grandiosity of a formal high tea still prevails with its trays of scones and clotted cream and decadent pastry carts.
The tea, a classic Earl Grey, is served steeping in the pot alongside a small pitcher of milk. Classic accompaniments consist of tea sandwiches, particularly the cucumber, scones and their lovely accessories, and an assortment of petit forts and pastries.
English fans may argue with Argentina fans here, as I leave it up to you to serve your tea with Earl Grey or maté
German Gurkensalat English Tea Sandwiches
The traditional cucumber sandwich, with its paper-thin slices of cucumber gently laying in a bed of crustless, light bread, is a delicate creature reflecting the era in which it was invented. With little nutritive value, these nibbles were a thing of pride for the Victorian upper classes whose lives of leisure did not require the hearty meats of the coarser working classes. Cucumbers are always peeled, crusts of bread removed, and sandwiches neatly cut in diagonally into four small triangles. Our German version uses the popular Gurkensalat cucumber preparation in place of the simple salt and lemon of the English cucumber.
Prepare the Gurkensalat:
1 Cucumber
1/2 C vinegar
1/2 C water
1/4 C sugar
2 T oil
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
Sour cream, to taste
Handful of fresh parsley
Peel and thinly slice the cucumber. Sprinkle each slice with salt and let sit for an hour, then rinse and dry. The salting crisps the cucumbers, drawing out their water. Pour the vinegar, water, sugar and oil over the cucumber slices and toss to coat. Stir in sour cream until a thick, creamy consistency.
Assemble the sandwiches:
Neatly remove the crusts from a loaf of white bread. Arrange cucumber slices atop each slice of bread, top with a sliver of onion and a pinch of parsley, or use dried chervil. Cut diagonally twice to create four triangles.
Photo by Flickr: Dear Sweet Deer

Scones a la Mexicana
Few give Mexico the credit it deserves for bringing chocolate into the world, truly one of the greatest gifts every bestowed upon mankind. Originally a religious ritual drink, the xocolatl, the original Nahuatl word from whence "chocolate" was derived (it makes more sense if you say "chocolate" in Spanish), it was often flavored with vanilla, chili pepper and achiote. It continues to play an important rule in modern Mexican cuisine, from savory dishes such as a vast array of mole sauces to the thick, spiced hot chocolate that for me, characterizes the joy of a Christmas morning.
We use Ibarra brand chocolate for our Mexican scones, but you can make your own version by melting down bittersweet chocolate and stirring in cinnamon and vanilla.
Prepare the scones:
2 C AP Flour
1/3 C sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
6 T butter
3/4 C Mexican chocolate, coarsely chopped 
3/4 C buttermilk
1 egg yolk
Preheat oven to 400F. Whisk together the dry ingredients then cut in the butter and mix until a fine meal. Whisk buttermilk and yolk together, then add to the dough and knead until the dough just begins to come together. Add the chocolate. Press into a ~8 in. disc and cut into 6 wedges. Brush with milk if desired and bake ~20 min. until set and crumbly.
To serve, top each scone with a dollop of lightly sweetened Crema Mexicana.
Crema Mexicana 
A delicately sour version of crème fraîche with a sensous drizzle, it can be purchased at any Latin grocer. Having spent 4 years in Boston before Texas, I understand that can be easier said then done if you live outside the Southwest. Luckily you can prepare your own crema by simply letting cream and yogurt sit out overnight. Simply bring 1 C heavy cream to 100-110F, then stir in 2 tsp buttermilk, sour cream or yogurt and let sit 12-24 hours, loosely covered, until thick. Then refrigerate a few hours to thicken further. You can use more buttermilk/yogurt to speed the thickening, but a longer fermentation process slowly develops more complex flavors that will be well worth your while. It will keep in your refrigerator for ~1 week.

Argentinean Alfajores
Coated in chocolate or meringue, rolled in coconut or dusted with powdered sugar, alfajores are lusty creatures of deceptive cookie-like appearances. They taste as though made from the fat rendered from the tenderloins of cherubs. 
Having originated in the Arab world, their name derived from Arabic for "fancy sweets," alfajores have been popular in Argentina since the early 19th century and have spread across the Spanish speaking world as the cookie of choice. Dozens of varieties exist but the Havanna brand from Mar de Plata, Argentina, sells the most well-renowned and traditional alfajores. Houstonians can pick up an assortment at Central market and avoid the complexities of baking. 
1/2 C shortening or butter (manteca for purists)
3/4 C sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla
1 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 C fine ground almond flour or corn flour
Dulce de leche such as La Salamandra from Argentina
Preheat oven to 325F. Cream the shortening/butter and sugar, then add the egg, yolk and vanilla. Whisk together the flours and baking powder, then whisk into the shortening. Refrigerate the dough for a couple hours until workable, then roll out and cut into cookies. Bake 5-6 min. until lightly golden.
Once completely cooled, assemble the alfajores by spreading dulce de leche across one and topping with another. For a truly authentic Havanna alfajor, coat in melted chocolate.

While some poor refereeing calls might have cost England and Mexico dearly in their Cup aspirations, fear not, as the only poor call you can make here is to not engage in these tasty eats.

HEY! We've seen that cuisine before! Cook the foods of today's competing countries using other recipes. While it may be World War on the pitch, Käsespätzle (German mac 'n cheese) makes a great addition to our English Ploughman's Lunch, albeit with an Algerian twist. Earl Grey Ice Cream, however, would be an unlikely topping for our bananas Ghana take on German Black Forest CakeWhile Argentina will always hold a special place in our hearts for blessing us with Chimichurri and Malbec, we'd find it tough to live without tacos, margaritas and Arroz Mexicana. They both win when filled with Duck confit in the form of empanadas and tamales, and while, sure, its all fun and games when we're all beat France, but only one will walk off the pitch a winner.

Prefer to eat out instead? Our Dining Guide tells you where and why.

6/26: Uruguay v S. Korea, USA v Ghana

USA all the way today! As the World Cup Food Challenge steps out of the kitchen to feast on steak and attend an American Craft Brew festival in Austin, TX. We celebrated one of the greatest things coming out of the USA these days - our craft brew industry.
USA = Steak!

Take your pick from a variety of dishes from today's competing countries by looking back at our past menus: Eat Dulce de Leche Crème Brulée and Duck Confi Ravioli from Uruguay or Asian short ribs from South Korea. Later on Saturday, indulge in USA snacks such as Bacon Brownie Cupcakes and Texas Peach Pie. Ghana fans can prepare a savory Jollof rice or a sweet Black Forest Cake.

Prefer to eat out instead? Our Dining Guide tells you where and why.

Elimination Round

On to the Round of 16! Stepping into the elimination stage, we take a look at the foods of those countries that have made the cut:

Uruguay found its way on the menu several times since opening day, twice fused with France in Dulce de Leche Crème Brulée and Duck Confi Ravioli. They'll face South Korea on Saturday, a country we've seen in spicy and distinctly Asian short ribs.

Later on Saturday, the US faces Ghana in an unexpected match. Ghana may compete on the pitch, but in the World Cup of Food, USA is a clear winner with Bacon Brownie Cupcakes and Texas Peach Pie over Ghana's Jollof rice. However, a Ghanian spin on German Black Forest Cake may be one of the 2010 WCFC's crowning achievements.

Later on in the weekend, England will face a formidable opponent in Germany in what is sure to be a violent match between the two rivals. While it may be World War on the pitch, Käsespätzle, or German mac 'n cheese, made a great addition to our English Ploughman's Lunch, albeit with an Algerian twist.
Earl Grey Ice Cream, however, would be an unlikely topping for our bananas Ghana take on German Black Forest Cake.

Argentina versus Mexico presents a great opportunity for exploring two complimentary, but unique and exciting cuisines. While Argentina will always hold a special place in our hearts for blessing us with Chimichurri and Malbec, we'd find it tough to live without tacos, margaritas and Arroz Mexicana. They both win when filled with Duck confit in the form of empanadas and tamales, and while, sure, its all fun and games when we're all beat France, but only one will walk off the pitch a winner after Sunday's game.

Come Monday, The Netherlands will play Slovakia to remind us just how tired we are of Gouda and dishes that end in "-sky." Nevertheless, we did enjoy both naming and eating the Danish/Dutch Stampot of Burning Love along with Slovak goulash and bryndzové halušky. The clear winner here is Slovakia's Bublanina, though we doubt they'll prove so successful in the game as opposed to the kitchen.

Brazil has dominated our menus when compared to Chile, as it will likely dominate during Monday's game. It would be difficult for anything to stand up to Feijoada and Caipirinhas
although the Chilean seafood included in our Paella provides ample competition.

Regardless of what happens during Japan v Paraguay, the game and cuisine are sure to take backstage to the Iberian feast we have planned for Spain v Portugal. You're likely to have noticed by now through my single inclusion of Japan in a dipping sauce that this is a cuisine that has never quite been able to interest me. Paraguay, on the other hand, with its hearty reflections of Argentina and indigenous cultures, I find enticing. Dishes such as Sopa Paragauay, with the slight deviation of adding my homegrown green chile, and the fried deliciousness of the Milanesa make this landlocked Latin American country the clear winner in this match. My bets are on them for the game as well.

Portugal, the land of my beloved porto; the country that gave birth to Feijoada and spiced up Mediterranean dishes with Piri Piri has much to be proud of, but will forever take backstage to its larger neighbor to the east. Spain, more beloved to me even than porto for its Rioja, brings Manchego and Chorizo as well as Peras al Vino to the table. While they may win on the basis of these dishes alone, traditional Paella clearly puts them on top, so much so that we devoted an entire post to discussing their cuisine.

June 25, 2010

6/25: Portugal v Brazil, Chile v Spain, Switzerland v Honduras

We finish out the second week of World Cup Food with an exciting series between our favorite teams in pick and in food as we prepare to head into the knock-out round. On the menu today we're venturing into Paella, the quintessential Spanish dish, done in the style of Chile and Portugal, with Brazilian drinks, a Honduran appetizer and Swiss dessert. 

What's that you say? N. Korea and Cote d'Ivorie also play today? We hadn't noticed.

Chile, with its extensive coastline, is known for its ample variety of seafood from squid, clams, lobsters and eels to the famous Sea Bass. Equally seafaring are the Portuguese who round out the top-five of global fish consumption (or so I read somewhere). Thus, these two countries from opposite ends of the globe unite in a single harmonious dish - the traditional Paella de Mariscos. We're spicing things up a bit with the influence of Portugal's former colonies, using piri piri peppers and ample garlic.
Paella is a slow, social cooking experience that if often enjoyed outside. We've included a traditional Honduran snack to enjoy while salivating over the aromas emanating from the paellera along with the classic Brazilian cocktail, the Caipirinha.

Traditional Brazilian Caipirinha
Prepared in the traditional style - no random fruity spritzes, no blending, no pitchers - just pure cachaça, lime and sugar in a glass. If you've ever wondered what separates an excellent Caipirinha from a mediocre one, chances are the trick was in the sugar. Authenic Caipirinhas are made with real sugarcane, sold in brick from under the name of rapadura (papelón in the Carribbean or panela in Mexico). If you can't find it, you can use turbinado sugar or order online.
Per single drink: 
2 tsp rapadura, shaved
1 lime, cut into wedges
2.5 oz cachaça
Muddle the sugar and limes with a pestle or wooden spoon. Fill the glass with ice, top with cachaça and stir. For an authentic Brazilian toast, look all toasters in the eye, say "saúde!" and drink immediately.
Photo: Flickr Marcio Monteiro

Honduran Baleadas
A simple preparation of black beans and assorted toppings spread across a flour tortilla, the official breakfast/snack/symbol of Honduras is a food you'll find yourself going back to time and time again. Vary toppings from carnitas to guacamole, or top it all off with a fried egg as we prefer to do (we add fried eggs to everything).
Prepare the Honduran Flour Tortillas:
4 C AP flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
4 T lard 
~1 1/4 C water
Whisk together flour, salt and baking powder. Cut in the lard, then add 1/4 C of water and begin to knead. Slowly add more water, kneading until the dough is smooth but no longer sticky. Let rest a few minutes then cut into ~10 balls. Roll out the tortillas and cook on a cast iron skillet set to high heat ~1-2 min. until brown spots form. The flat cast iron skillet specifically for tortillas is called a comal and is just the right size each tortilla should be.
Prepare the Frijoles Negros 
Hondurans often cook with red beans but beans of any color will work.
2 lbs dried black beans, rinsed
1 Spanish onion
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 to a whole jalapeño pepper (tastes vary)
Juice of one lime
1/2 C of red wine
4 slices of bacon, chopped
1 T cumin
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
Boil beans for 5 min., let rest for 1 hr, then drain. Fry the bacon, then add onion, garlic and jalapeño. Add to beans. Add remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper as you mash the beans gently in the pan. 
Assemble the Baleada:
Spread black beans across a warm tortilla and add your chosen topping. Traditionally, baleadas are topped with a creme fraiche-like "crema" that can be found at many Central American groceries. 

Paella de Marisco
As in every rice dish, the type and quality of the chose rice greatly effect the dish. Asian rice such as Basmati will not do for paella. In Spain arroz bomba is sold specifically for paella and will absorb the liquid without getting mushy, but as it is difficult to find in the States, I often substitute the Arborio rice used for risotto.
While it is preferable to prepare your own caldo, or stock, any quality broth will do.
If you don't want to run out and buy a paellera, a large cast iron skillet works great and is perfect for cooking outside on the grill. Avoid using a non-stick pan as you want the rice to form the flavorful crust called socarrat. Many Spaniards swear its the best part of the paella - you can express love by offering your share of the crust to your loved one.
1 lb mejillones (mussels), cleaned 
1/2 lb camarónes (prawns), traditionally with heads on
1/2 lb calamares (cuttlefish or squid) 
1/4 lb pulpo (octopus)
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 Piri Piri pepper, chopped
1 cup grated tomatoes
2 C rice
~4 C fish stock
Few strains of saffron, soaked in 2 T water
1 C dry white wine
Lemon pieces for serving
Bring the stock to a boil then turn down to a simmer.
Prepare the sofritto: Fry the garlic, pepper, onions and chile. Add the tomato and stir. Add the rice and let it stick to the bottom of the pan for a few seconds as it hisses or "sings." Add the wine and absorb. Add the stock, saffron and let simmer 10 min. You may need to add more water or scrap occasionally, but let the rice form some crust at the bottom of the pan. Add the seafood, tucking into the rice and cook ~15 min. until the rice is cooked al dente. Photo: Flickr benjieordonez

HEY! We've seen that cuisine before! Cook the foods of today's competing countries using other recipes: try Portuguese/Brazilian Feijoada with a Korean spin on Cote d'Ivoire's traditional plantains or Korean-spiced Portuguese hens and Honduran Tres Leches Cake with Spanish poached pears. If you didn't get a chance to try our Spanish Fondue with a Chilean Carmenere and Honduran dessert, you must go back to what has been one of our favorite meals of the tournament. As we get deeper into the tournament, it's time to bring out the leftovers, mix & match, and let the fusion menus run wild like a frenzied North Korean defense.

Prefer to eat out instead? Our Dining Guide tells you where and why.

Spicy World Pure Spanish Saffron 2 grams - Fresh!

Spanish Saffron Acrylic Box (3 pack)

Paella Seasoning Sachets with Saffron

June 24, 2010

6/24: Paraguay v New Zealand, Slovakia v Italy, Cameroon v Netherlands, Denmark v Japan

Known as the single most defining dish of Slovak cuisine, Halušky are translated as potato dumplings, but are really more of a cross between gnocchi, spätzle and polenta. Much like the Slovak culture itself, the dish blends flavors from its various borders. Though topped with just about anything, and over 30 varieties dominate menus at Slovak cafés, the most common addition is bryndza, a farmer's sheep cheese, and bacon. The combination produces the national dish of bryndzové halušky.
Preparation is nearly identical to gnocchi, but in the final stages more water is added and the dumplings are cooked into more of a polenta-like texture, particularly once the cheese is added. This makes for a very Italian but distinctly Slovak dish.
We substitute ricotta salata for the Slovak farmer's cheese, bryndza, but any Italian sheep's cheese will lend similar flavors to the dish. While the texture of ricotta is preferable, pecorino shavings could also be delicious. I'm thinking of trying this again with a peppered pecorino. One of Italy's oldest cheeses, pecorino's origins go back to the legend of a shepherd that filled his flask with sheep's milk for a long trip and the milk accidentally fermented during his travels. If you can't find either of these cheeses, or they prove to be too expensive, which they often are, try making your own ricotta.
Due to the central role of potatoes in Danish cooking (you remember the "Jeg er en heldig kartoffel!" from Stamppot of Burning Love?) and their own version of potato dumplings, we're going to consider our dish representative of Denmark as well.
In place of the bacon, we're adding a Paraguayan touch to our Halušky by topping it with a Milanesa, a bread and fried meat, not unlike the southern chicken fried steak but much improved upon it. If you find you become a fan of the Milanesa, join the club - there's even a Facebook group!
Paraguay and New Zealand are strangely alike in culinary heritage. In Paraguay, historic influences of the Guarani culture blend with European settlers and in New Zealand, the Māori indigenous influence modern cuisine and distinguish the island from the Aussies. By far the most representative of the Maori's role in cooking are the traditional hāngi preparations that involve slow roasting meats on heated stones in a covered pit. In an ideal world, we'd roast a pig in the hāngi and use that meat to prepare our Milanesa. If you dare to try it, we'd love to see the pictures!
Halušky a la Italia y Paraguay
Prepare the Halušky:
2 large potatoes
5 T flour
1 egg
3 tsp salt
Peel two large potatoes and shred finely. Add egg, flour and 1 tsp salt. Knead into a soft dough, adding flour or water if necessary.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cut the dough into small pieces and boil until the dumplings float.
Photo: Flickr: mylifeisyummy

Prepare the Milanesa:
3 thin cuts of beef steak or veal chops
Juice of 1 lime
1 egg
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 T olive oil
2 C fresh bread crumbs
Soak the meat in lime juice, and gently pound into 1/8 in thickness. Pat dry and season with salt and pepper.
Beat egg with garlic, oil and salt. Coat the beef with the egg wash and then cover with breadcrumbs. Fry in hot oil until a golden color.
Assemble the dish: Scoop the Halušky out of the water using a slotted spoon. Stir in the ricotta and top with Milanesa.

HEY! We've seen that cuisine before! Cook the foods of today's competing countries using other recipes: try Slovakian Goulash on Sopa Paraguay and a New Zealand take on the Italian classic Zabaglione or Dances with Bublanina, our Slovakian twist on the most famous dessert from down under: the Pavlova. An unusual preparation of yuca as Cameroonian Couscous with a Japanese dipping sauce turned out to be a favorite, as did our Burning Love take on a Dutch Stamppot. As we get deeper into the tournament, it's time to bring out the leftovers, mix & match, and let the fusion menus run wild like a frenzied North Korean defense.

Prefer to eat out instead? Our Dining Guide tells you where and why.

June 23, 2010

6/23: USA v Algeria, Slovenia v England, Australia v Serbia, Ghana v Germany

While Algeria is unlikely to make it to the next round, their cuisine is here to stay in my kitchen. Even though France has the nasty habit of poaching off Algeria’s best football players (Zinedine Zidane, need I say more?), Algeria is playing much better than the country they gained independence from a few decades ago. In retaliation, Algerian cuisine tends to borrow as heavily from French cooking as France does from Algeria’s football talent. A fascinating blend of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines, Algerian foods create dishes similar to my Spanish favorites but with intricate layers of spices more suited to my chile-loving New Mexican palate. Today we prepare a traditional North African Tagine with Merguez, Algeria's well-renowned lamb sausage. Typically served with khabz, an Arabic flatbread, we chose the Serbian version, Lepinja, as we move into the Round of Leftovers.
An Australian Chardonnay, such as the Grosset Piccadilly with its generously buttery notes of melon and peach, enhances the complex flavors of the Tagine while taking the edge off the spice.
Algerian Merguez Tagine 
If you cannot find Berbere spice blend, you can make your own by grinding equal parts chile, ginger, cloves, coriander, allspice and cardamom. It is a wonderful spice blend to have in the pantry for use in everything from marinades to popcorn.
1 lb Merguez, thickly sliced
3 cloves garlic
1 large onions cut into chunks
2 tsp Berbere spice blend
1/2 tsp Turmeric
Pinch of saffron threads
2 Yukon potatoes cut into chunks
2 carrots cut into chunks
1 C vegetable stock
1/2 C white wine
1 cinnamon stick
1 can cooked chickpeas
1/4 C dried apricots
1/4 C dried dates
Oven: 400F. 
Sauté the Merguez in oil to brown, then add the onions and cook until golden. Add the spices and simmer until fragrant, ~3 min. Add the vegetables and sauté a few minutes. Add the stock, wine, chickpeas and fruit. Cook 1 hr, adding liquid, water or stock, if necessary.
For Lepinja, see Sunday 6/13 for Serbia v Ghana.

Germany v Ghana
When someone suggested I make a German Chocolate Cake for today's game, I giggled and explained that it would be more representative of Team USA than Team Germany as the recipe originated in 1950's Texas and was named after a certain Englishman of the surname German who happened to create the ever popular supermarket baking chocolate. Though derived from German's Baker's Chocolate Cake, the 's was dropped and many a potluck was graced with its presence. The Black Forest Cake, on the other hand, or Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, is purely German, originating in the Black Forest region of Germany known for its sour cherries and the cherry liqueur known as Kirschwasser. I've never prepared a Black Forest Cake as I'm not a fan of the cherry topping, but when the idea of mixing this classic German pastry with a traditional Ghanian dessert came to be, I figured I'd give it a go.
Schwarzwälder Ghanatorte
Prepare the cake:
4 eggs, separated
1/4 tsp salt
1 C sugar, sifted
1 C plain flour
1 T cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp baking soda
Oven: 350F
Grease a 9 in round springform pan. Sift flour, cocoa, cream of tartar and soda. Beat whites and salt until foamy. Gradually add sugar and beat until stiff peaks. Beat in yolks one at a time. Fold in dry ingredients gently in batches. Bake for ~35-40 min.      Photo: Photobucket Lotsacravings
Bananas Ghana
8 bananas, sliced
1/4 C brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 C orange juice
3 T Apricot Brandy
Blend the sugar and cinnamon. Dip the bananas in the cinnamon sugar until well coated. Place in a casserole and cover with orange juice and brandy. Bake at 350F for 20 min. Top with shredded coconut and sour cream sweetened with brown sugar.
1/2 C dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 C cream
Warm the cream in a saucepan over very low heat then add and melt the chocolate until smooth. Let cool to room temperature. Beat until soft and pale.
Crème Chantilly:
2 C cream
3 T sugar
1 1/2 T Apricot Brandy
Beat cream, sugar and kirsch until stiff.
Cut the cake into three layers. Brush each layer with brandy. Then layer alternate rings of ganache and Bananas Ghana. Repeat with the next layer. Place the final cake layer on top and coat the top with ganache. Frost the sides of the cake with Crème Chantilly and pipe rosettes along the rim of the top. Decorate with bananas and chocolate curls.

HEY! We've seen that cuisine before! 
Cook the foods of today's competing countries using other recipes: try A Serbian-Slovenian take on German Käsespätzle, an Algerian twist on the English Ploughman's or Bacon brownie cupcakes from the USA or indulge in a Texas Peach Pie al English mode. Experience an exotic Algerian Tagine served with Serbian flatbreads and satisfy your sweettooth with our unusual Ghanian spin on Germany's Black Forest Cake or Enjoy the ultimate Australian feast by grilling Kangaroo. We topped off Serbian cevap on a bed of Ghanian Jollof rice with our pairing of Slovenian potica with Algerian mint tea and put a taste of Germany in an old English classic with Gurkensalat Tea SandwichesAs we get deeper into the tournament, it's time to bring out the leftovers, mix & match, and let the fusion menus run wild like a frenzied North Korean defense.

Prefer to eat out instead? Our Dining Guide tells you where and why.

June 22, 2010

6/22: France v S. Africa, Mexico v Uruguay, Greece v Argentina

Twelve days into the World Cup Food Challenge and we've addressed the cuisine of all 32 competing countries. As we move into the elimination rounds we become more selective in the kitchen as well as on the pitch. The menu for today begin evolving last Thursday during the Mexico v France game. Upon all the jokes regarding French surrender, I thought, wouldn't it be brilliant if I took something ubiquitously French and wrapped it in a tamale? My first thoughts were of foie gras, but a few price checks cut that out from the budget. After briefly considering a simple pâté but dismissing its integration with Mexico, I arrived at the idea of duck confit - a dish I've always wanted to prepare. The famous confit de canard, a salt-cured preparation of duck leg slowly poached in it's own fat, is a source of great pride and joy for the French; ensconcing it in traditional Latin street foods brings the sweet irony of the games into our kitchen.

Also playing today are Uruguay and Argentina, two countries similar in backgrounds and tastes known globally for their elegant baked empanadas. Uruguay, with its unusually heavy Italian influence, brings all the traditional pastas to the table. To represent these countries, and also because its genuinely never a good idea to have too many tamales around, we're including our duck confit in empanadas and ravioli!

A classic confit is prepared with a fattened bird, as for fois gras, using the wings and breasts in addition to the legs. If you are lucky enough to possess a source for a fattened duck or goose and an ample supply of their fat, by all means, you are far luckier than I am! Those of us impoverished and sans fattened ducks shall settle for a few cheaply procured birds from the neighborhood Korean grocer and a quality Spanish olive oil. While the type of fat used greatly effects the flavor, use of any fat accomplishes the essence of confit - slow poaching in fat keeps the flavors and juices from escaping as the gentle heat breaks down the meat into delicate, moist flesh.

You can order a 2 lb bucket of duck fat or even Hudson Valley Duck Leg Confit. As duck fat rendering and confit are such slow processes, this is a great resource in case of duck fat emergencies.
Us Houstonians, blessed with the glorious grocery of Central Market, can purchase duck fat at our local butcher's counter or about $6/lb.
Photo: Flickr cinnachick

France: Confit de Canard
4 duck legs, with thighs
~1 Qt Duck, goose or pork fat or even olive oil
Rub ~1/2 tsp per leg of salt into the flesh and skin of each leg. You can also add an equal amount of fresh herbs to the mixture. We went with a mixture of thyme and rosemary. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours.
After the legs have been cured, remove excess salt and lay, skin-side-up, on a baking tray. Sear in oven at ~400 F until browned (~15 min). Remove and turn the heat down to 225 F. Cover the legs with fat and roast ~2 hrs until tender. Crisp the legs at 420 F until the skin is golden.
Once the confit has cooked, it is best to let it rest in the refrigerator for a few days before eating in order to allow the flavors to develop. The duck will keep, submerged in fat, for months in the refrigerator. We recommend you revisit your confit weeks down the line and watch its flavors develop. Make sure to save some for the World Cup Finals!
Since we're using the excess fat for our dough, we'll prepare the tamales, empanadas and ravioli immediately and then reserve most of them for a few days before eating. Today, however, is game day, so we're "forced" to try one of each. Such are our terribly challenging lives.

Mexico: Tamales
Masa para tamales is possibly the first thing I ever learned to make. As a toddler, I never thought I would grow up to substitute rendered duck fat for our homemade lard and post it for the world to see. Alas, traditionally we prepare the masa by combining harina, creamed lard, water, a pinch of chile powder and salt by hand until a thick, sticky consistency. All ingredients are added by taste and feel, with a heavy dependence on the exact ingredients used, as homemade lard and brands of harina will vary, and perfection is a simple but glorious art achieved after years of masa making.
1 1/2 C Masa Harina
1/2 C fat
~2/4 C water
~ 1/2 tsp salt
Today we replace the traditional lard with rendered fat from our confit preparation. If your duck has not yielded enough fat, use the extra fat your purchased to prepare the duck. We also leave out the chile powder to let the duck's subtle flavors shine.
To prepare the tamales, spread each husk with ~2 T of masa. 

The masa should cover the husk enough to form a cohesive enclosure but not so much that it is thick and dominating. Then spread each tamal with ~1 T of confit. 
Fold sides together, sealing with a bit of masa, and fold the ends of the corn husk down to hold them together. You may prefer to tie the ends with strings from the corn husks as folding technique comes with time and many a tamal with ooze out of its husk and drown in a tragic death of dough.
Once assembled, steam the tamales for 40 min. You should have about 2 dozen medium-sized tamales depending on the size of your corn husks.

Argentina: Empanadas
Variations on an empanada take forms of small, large, baked, fried, yeast dough, fatty dough, and on and on through Spain and the countries of its former empire. Argentinean empanadas are baked, rather than fried, in a small, crescent shape. Their dough is heavy and crisped on the outside with the golden sheen of an egg wash.
Prepare the dough:
1 package or 1 T baker's yeast
1 1/2 C water or milk
3 T of remaining fat from confit
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 T sugar
~4 C AP Flour
Oven: 400F

Soak the yeast in 1/2 C warm water (105-115 F).
Bring remaining water or milk to a simmer, then remove from heat. Add fat, salt and sugar. Cool to lukewarm.
Add flour until it forms a cohesive dough. Do not let the dough rise.
Roll out to 1/8 in thick and cut into rounds with a biscuit cutter. Place ~1 T of confit in center of the round, fold and pinch together, sealing the edges by pinching them between your thumb and forefinger, creating tiny ridges. Let stand for 10 min. then brush with egg wash and bake until golden, ~10 min.
You can make as many confit empanadas as you like, but will have excess dough. You can save the pre-cut rounds of dough in the freezer for months, or simply fill them with any mixture of minced meat.

Uruguay: Ravioli
2 C AP Flour
1 tsp salt
3 eggs
2 T olive oil
Cornmeal, for dusting
Either by hand or using your mixers dough hook, combine flour and salt, then add eggs one at a time. Drizzle in 1 T oil and incorporate until dough forms a cohesive ball. You should knead for ~10 min before it is smooth. Brush the dough with remaining oil, cover and rest 30 min.
If you have a ravioli press, flour a work surface and roll out the dough until 1/8 in thick, then press into the ravioli cutter. Alternatively, you can roll out the dough and cut each square by hand similar to making the empanadas.
Fill each pillow with confit and fold to seal the ravioli, gently pressing to seal. Dust the ravioli with cornmeal to prevent sticking. Cook in boiling salted water for ~4 min. or until they float to the top.

HEY! We've seen that cuisine before! Cook the foods of today's competing countries using other recipes: try South African-Mexican Bobotie Tacos and Uruguayan-French Crème Brûlée, Korean ribs with a side of Greek Salad and Nigerian Zobo, or pair Nigerian Suya with Argentinean chimichurri. As we get deeper into the tournament, it's time to bring out the leftovers, mix & match and let the fusion menus run wild like a frenzied North Korean defense.