June 18, 2010

6/18: Germany v Serbia, Slovenia v USA, England v Algeria

Only one week into the World Cup Food Challenge and the kitchens are filled to the brim! After today, each team in the tournament will have played at least once and we can officially begin to use leftovers. Today's menu uses leftover ćevapčići from the weekend's Serbia v Ghana game, incorporating the Balkan meatballs into a traditional Käsespätzle, the German take on mac 'n cheese. To accompany our Serbian/Slovenian German Mac 'n Cheese, we felt it'd be best to stick with something a bit light. Trying to find light and flavorful British fare, however, proved to be one of the toughest tasks of our endeavor; blending that British dish with Algerian flavor, even more so. We settled on an unlikely dish: An Algerian Ploughman's. Our take on the classic English Ploughman's spices up the working man's lunch box considerably.
To make life easier on us since it is Friday and all, ćevapčići also happen to be one of the national dishes of Slovenia.
Serbian-Slovenian Käsespätzle
2 C AP Flour
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
4 eggs
1/2 C milk
4 T Butter
2 C shredded Emmantaler
1 onion
Leftover Serbian ćevapčići
Prepare the Spaetzle: Combine the dry ingredients. Whisk together eggs and milk. Pour the milk into the dry ingredients and knead until smooth. Preheat oven to 350 F. Boil a large pot of salted water. Next you will have to cut pieces of the dough into the water - either using a spaetzle press, potato masher or even a cheese grater with large wholes. The dough is quite sticky though, so make sure to flour your chosen tool. Once the dough floats to the top, it is done.
Assemble the dish: Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a casserole dish. Toss with butter, cheese, and cevapici. Bake 15 min. or until cheese is melted. While baking, fry the onions until dark gold. Top Spaetzle with onions to serve.
Algeria vs. England
The Ploughman's is a cold meal composed of a slab of cheese, a pickle (actually what Americans would call relish or chutney), crusty bread, a salad and a beer. Algerians, particularly fond of salads and possessing a passionate affinity for fennel, provided an easy recipe to add a burst of bright, crisp flavors to our Ploughman's. I got lost exploring Algerian cuisine through the site of Chef Zadi, a French born Algerian who is literally writing the book on Algerian cuisine, lending French technique to the cause. A complex interplay of European and Arab influences with unusually French styles, Algerian cooking is fascinating and we'll be sure to visit it again next week.
Harissa is a hot chili paste that is commonly found in North African cooking but can also be purchased in Middle Eastern stores. Typically made from piri piri and Tunisian hot red peppers, the flavors are not unlike those of New Mexican and Guajillo peppers that may be easier to find state-side, depending on your access to a Middle Eastern grocer. Houstonians can find a variety of harissas at Phoenicia.
For the salad:
1 fennel, the bulb sliced and remainder shredded
1 onion, sliced thinly
1 blood orange
Olive oil, preferably Algerian
Cut the orange in half and squeeze out the juice from one end. Whisk the juice with a splash of oil and salt and pepper to taste. Toss the fennel and endive with the orange dressing and let sit in the fridge for at least one hour. The juices will start to cook the onion. To serve, cut the remaining half of the orange into wedges and arrange atop the salad.
The "Pickle" (relish or chutney): Harissa 
10-12 dried red chili peppers (add a red bell pepper for less spice)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Soak the dried chilies in hot water for 30 minutes, drain and remove stems and seeds (keep a bit of seed if you like things really spicy). Combine in a food processor with remaining spices. Add olive oil until the sauce is a nice, smooth consistency and salt and pepper to taste. It will keep for at least a month in the refrigerator.
The Crusty Bread: Algerian Bouzgene Berber bread
1 lb semolina
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups water
2 tbsp. olive oil
olive oil for frying
Coarsely mix the semolina, salt and 2 T oil, then gradually add water - kneading until the dough is no longer sticky. Shape the dough into four balls and roll each ball into a flat round ~1/4 in. thick. Fry each round until dark spots appear, then flip and repeat. You can also bake the pita at 375F until it stops puffing.
The Beer: Never one to recommend an English beer, my plan is to honor Germany here with a rich, malty Dunkel like the Flensburger.

USA vs. Slovenia
Slovenia addressed earlier in the menu, we could have left out the USA on this one but were inspired by this trio of three beloved American dishes - bacon, brownies and cupcakes. Crossing over two quintessential American desserts, we bake our brownie dough in cupcake pans. This allows us to make a spectacularly fudge-like dough but still achieve the crisp of a more cake-like brownie.
Bacon Brownie Cupcakes
4 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 oz sweetened chocolate
8 T butter
1/2 C sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 C AP Flour
2 T cocoa (not Dutch-processed)
4 strips bacon
Oven: 350F. 
Grease a standard muffin pan (we like jumbo but not mini, they'll get to crispy).
Fry the bacon, remove and pat dry. The bacon should be crispy but without char- any chunks of fat that are still white should be discarded. Melt the unsweetened chocolate and butter in a double broiler. Cool slightly, then whisk in the sugar and salt. Add the eggs, one at a time. Sift the flour and cocoa together, then combine with the chocolate. Stir in the pieces of bacon and chocolate. Bake ~30 min., making sure to allow brownie cupcakes to cool before removing.
Note: I use El Rey chocolate whenever possible.Whatever you use, remember that the end result will greatly reflect the quality of the chocolate. The same applies to the bacon. Artisan dry-cured bacon takes these brownies to new levels. Houstonians can purchase Grateful Bread bacon at local farmer's markets. 

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

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