Hello again, I think I hit a home run with last issue's topic of regional American sandwiches. I say this because your responses have been incredible, both in quantity and quality. Almost from the moment I sent out the newsletter, I started receiving really positive feedback. You all must be fast readers. The coolest thing, however, was that on the day following the issue's release, I actually corresponded with several of you who had already made one of the dishes. From my perspective, that's almost mind blowing. Keep up the loyal patronage and I promise to keep sending you great recipes. Speaking of which, it is time for my bonus offering. Since last month's topic dealt with regional American sandwiches, I figured I'd stick to the theme with my version of an Iowan, Loose Meat Sandwich. For those unfamiliar, a butcher from Iowa named Fred Angell began making loose meat sandwiches in 1926. Using his own blend of ground beef and various spices, Angell created a sandwich that tasted like a burger, but looked like a Sloppy Joe without the tomato sauce. Legend has it that when Angell was opening his first restaurant he allowed a deliveryman to sample the sandwich. Upon doing so, the man exclaimed, "This sandwich is just made right." Angell subsequently named both his sandwich and his restaurant, Maid Rite. There are now more than 70 Maid Rite restaurants throughout the central and southwestern United States. Since the original recipe has been kept a secret for over 80 years, my version cannot be called a Maid-Rite. It is, however, a very traditional Iowan loose meat sandwich. Before I give you my recipe, there are two rules for the loose meat. First, serve a spoon alongside the sandwich in order to gobble up any of the meat that will inevitably fall out. Rule number two, no ketchup. The only toppings on an authentic loose meat sandwich are yellow mustard, chopped onions and dill pickle chips. If you really love ketchup, go ahead and put some on. Just don't do it in front of any native Iowans. IOWA-STYLE LOOSE MEAT SANDWICH (makes 4 sandwiches) For the filling: 1 1/4 lbs. ground sirloin 2 to 3 tbsp vegetable oil 1 tbsp dried onion flakes 1 tbsp yellow prepared mustard 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce 1 tsp sugar 3/4 cup chicken stock 1/2 bottle (6 ounces) of any lager-style beer Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. For the sandwich: 4 hamburger buns Dill pickle chips Finely chopped onion Yellow prepared mustard Directions on Following Page ..............÷ IOWA-STYLE LOOSE MEAT SANDWICH continued In a large skillet heat vegetable oil until it's hot and shimmering. Add ground sirloin and cook until completely browned. Using a wooden spoon, break up the meat into very small pieces. Pour off any of the excess fat. Add onion flakes, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, chicken stock and beer to the skillet and mix well to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper and allow the meat to simmer (uncovered) over medium-low heat for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the majority of the liquid has cooked off but the meat remains very moist. Pack a quarter of the meat onto the bottom half of a hamburger bun and top with mustard, onion, pickles and the remaining half of the bun. Repeat the process for the remaining sandwiches and serve. CHICKEN PAILLARDS It's a fancy French name, but chicken paillards are really nothing more than boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded flat. I decided to devote this issue to paillards for several reasons. The first of which is they are highly utilitarian, offering countless options in terms of weeknight dinners. They can be either pan fried or grilled and finished off with anything from a simple pan sauce to a light and healthy salad. Once you learn the techniques for making paillards, your repertoire for preparing easy and tasty meals becomes limitless. It's quite the opposite mindset from those who believe that a meal featuring boneless/skinless chicken breasts can only be boring. Another reason why I chose paillards is to correct the mistakes that many people make when attempting to prepare them. Despite my description of "chicken breasts pounded flat", tasty paillards are never the result of relieving your frustrations via a mallet. The process of flattening the chicken is specific, requiring far more finesse than force. Utilizing the latter will only result in torn, shredded or mealy chicken. Lastly, taking a chicken breast and turning into a paillard is the perfect means for creating a palpable experience for anyone who's not a big fan of eating big pieces of meat, namely young children. Chicken breasts left whole can be difficult to not overcook, or undercook for that matter. Paillards, on the other hand, are rather simple to cook up. When done correctly, the result is tender and flavorful meat ready to be cut up into small pieces for smaller mouths. Now that I've stated my case, it's time to talk about this issues’ recipes. First up is a dish I like to call, Palliard ala Champignon. It may sound difficult but it is actually quite easy. It is nothing more than pan-fried paillards finished off in a light cream sauce with a touch of grainy French mustard and caramelized mushrooms. It's not only a highly adaptable recipe, but it's perfect for a Wednesday night dinner, or a weekend dinner party. Recipe number two is tailor made for anyone eating healthy, especially any of you low-carbers. In this dish, the paillard can be pan-fried or grilled. It is then topped with a tasty salad consisting of either arugula or baby spinach (or both), and juicy cherry tomatoes. Yet another highly adaptable recipe, it is sure to bring a little excitement to any regimented eating plan. Let's get cooking! PAILLARD ALA CHAMPIGNON (serves 4) 4 10 1 1/2 1 2/3 1 2 6 boneless/skinless chicken breasts white mushrooms, quartered large shallot, minced cup dry white wine cup chicken stock cup heavy cream tbsp grainy French mustard tbsp unsalted butter (very cold) tbsp extra-virgin olive oil Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper Minced Italian parsley for garnish Rinse chicken breasts in cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Place one piece of plastic wrap on top of a cutting board. Place one chicken breast (shiny side up) in the middle, and cover with another equal-sized piece of plastic wrap. Using the flat side of a meat mallet, pound until the entire breast is roughly a 1/2 inch thick. Note: Please read my Tips and Adaptations section for helpful hints on how to pound the chicken breasts. Transfer the pounded breast (still encased in plastic wrap) to a large dish or plate. Repeat this process with the remaining breasts and place the entire dish inside the refrigerator for 10 minutes. This will help the paillards to hold their shape. Remove the paillards from the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap. Place the paillards on a plate and season liberally on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat 3 tbsp of the olive oil in a large skillet until it is hot and shimmering. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Allow the mushrooms to sit for 30 seconds before stirring. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes or until the mushrooms are well caramelized. Remove the mushrooms to a bowl and pour off the oil. Return the skillet to the heat and add the remaining olive oil. Allow the oil to get very hot. Place the paillards into the skillet (shiny side down) and fry for 2 minutes. Flip them over and fry for another 1.5 minutes. Transfer the paillards to a plate and loosely tent with foil. To the hot skillet add shallots and sauté for one minute. Add the white wine and allow it to reduce by half. Once it's reduced, add the chicken stock to the skillet and allow it to reduce by half. Add the cream and the mustard and mix well. Simmer the mixture for 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the mushrooms (along with any accumulated juices) and the cold butter. Stir with a wooden spoon, allowing the sauce to thicken. Taste the sauce and season accordingly with salt and pepper. Return the chicken to the skillet and allow it to simmer lightly for one minute. Serve the paillards either family style or on individual plates, ladled with sauce and garnished with parsley. GRILLED PAILLARD WITH ARUGULA/CHERRY TOMATO SALAD (serves 4) For the paillards: 4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 1 tbsp lemon zest 1 clove garlic, minced fine Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper For the salad: 4 cups arugula 4 cups baby spinach 16 cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper Rinse chicken breasts in cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Place one piece of plastic wrap on top of a cutting board. Place one chicken breast (shiny side up) in the middle, and cover with another equal-sized piece of plastic wrap. Using the flat side of a meat mallet, pound until the entire breast is roughly a 1/2 inch thick. Note: Please read my Tips and Adaptations section for helpful hints on how to pound the chicken breasts. Transfer the pounded breast (still encased in plastic wrap) to a large dish or plate. Repeat this process with the remaining breasts and place inside the refrigerator for 10 minutes. This will help the paillards to hold their shape. Meanwhile, in a bowl mix together 1/4 C olive oil, lemon zest and minced garlic. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Remove the paillards from the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap. Place the paillards on a plate and brush both sides of each paillard with olive oil mixture. Liberally season both sides with salt and pepper and set aside. In a separate bowl, add balsamic vinegar and 3 tbsp olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Add the cherry tomatoes and toss to coat. Heat an outdoor grill or grill pan until very hot. Grill paillards for 3 minutes on each side. Remove to a plate and loosely tent with foil. Place the arugula and spinach in a large mixing bowl. Add the tomato and vinaigrette mixture. Season with a little more salt and pepper and toss well. Serve the paillards family style mounded on top with salad, or on individual plates topped with equal portions of the salad. Serve along with crusty baguette and sweet butter if desired. TIPS AND ADAPTATIONS To make paillards: For best results, use between 1/2 and 3/4 force while pounding. Start by pounding in the middle of the breast and work your way out toward the edges. Try to avoid pounding straight down on the meat. Instead, slightly rotate your wrist in opposing directions each time you strike the chicken breast. This minor shift will defer just enough force so that you won't tear through the meat. For the Pailliard ala Champignon: If you don't like mushrooms, simply leave them out. The sauce will be good on it's own. On the other hand, if you love mushrooms I encourage you to go wild by either using more of them, or several different types. Shitake, Crimini, Porcini and Chanterelle mushrooms all work really well in this recipe. Got any fresh herbs that need to be used up? I say throw them in the sauce. Thyme, rosemary and tarragon would all make for worthy additions. For the Paillard with Arugula/Cherry Tomato Salad: Chanterelle mushrooms Just because I grilled these paillards doesn't mean that you have to. If you don't have access to an outdoor grill or a grill pan, simply pan-fry them just like you did in the ala champignon recipe. The dish will still be great. Feel free to experiment with the salad portion of this recipe. Caesar salad is nice atop a paillard, as is a salad of cucumber, tomato and fresh dill. I could keep going here but I think you get my point. LE SOMMELIER For the Paillard ala Champignon, I could make a case for drinking either white or red wine. Since we're talking chicken in a light cream sauce, a good California chardonnay would work really well. The oak characteristics, typical in a California chard, will match quite nicely with the earthiness of the mushrooms. At the same time, the wine's fruitiness will provide the perfect contrast to the viscosity of the cream. But since mushrooms are also considered "meaty" in taste, a red wine would be very appropriate as well. My choice would be Pinot Noir. Its sweetness provides much needed contrast, while its earthy complexity acts as the perfect flavor match. For the Paillard with Arugula/Cherry Tomato Salad, I tend to stick with red wine. I know it's chicken, but it's been grilled and also holds hints of citrus and garlic. It's also been topped with peppery arugula, sweet tomatoes and complexly sweet balsamico. My choice with this is an Italian Sangiovese, served lightly below temperature. The depth and complexity of Sangiovese holds up nicely to some of the big flavors in this dish. The fact that you're serving the wine somewhere between room temperature and chilled will provide a refreshing finish, perfect for this summery meal. BUT I DIGRESS: Accidents Happen It occurred to me that so much of what I write in this newsletter has to do with my successes, as well as my opinions regarding culinary correctness. In the spirit of humility, I felt it was about time that I start stalking about some things I've done wrong, really wrong. After all, nobody's perfect, or even close to perfect for that matter. By the time you finish this newsletter you are going to realize two things. First, is that the kitchen is a potentially dangerous place. Second, I am lucky to be alive. The following are three of the worst kitchen accidents I've ever had. The irony is that all of them took place in my own home. Read on, have a good laugh, and take away the lesson that you can never be too careful. ACCIDENT #1: The St. Patrick's Day Scalding About five or six years ago, I was celebrating St. Patty's Day at home along with my former wife and a few friends. I've always been one to celebrate this holiday at home due to the potential ramifications of venturing out to overcrowded pubs, filled with folks who've had a few too many stouts. Besides, I make a pretty darn good corned beef. The splash it created looked like a tsunami in slow motion. But within the blink of an eye, several cups of the molten liquid were splashed onto my chest. There was a delayed reaction before I screamed like a 13-year old girl at a Jonas Brothers concert. As I peaked down the collar of my shirt I could see the skin on my chest begin to bubble up. This is when I went into shock. All I remember is Michele nervously asking, "Kirk, what's wrong? I was so taken back by what I was seeing and feeling I couldn't respond. After treating my second-degree burn, and downing a Guinness like it was Gatorade, I finished the meal. Thank God it was delicious or I'd really have been mortified. Nonetheless, the moral of the story is that you always need to use caution when picking up a hot food item, as you never know where it could wind up. You'll be happy to know that I have since healed. I am also not as leery about eating out on St. Patrick's Day ACCIDENT #2: The Quisinart Caper Speaking of which, I was preparing my corned beef, simmering it in a rather viscous solution of Guinness Stout, bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns and mustard seeds. The cut was a 4 1/2 pound monster, perfectly suited for feeding our guests and still yielding leftovers. It was about halfway through the cooking process when everything went horribly wrong. This accident took place about a decade ago and I have no problem telling you that the memory is permanently etched in my mind. I was attempting to flip the corned beef over for the purposes of even cooking. With a pair of sturdy tongs as my tool of choice, I grasped the brisket firmly. But just as I pulled the meat out of the liquid I lost my grip and it plummeted back into the pot. I was lucky enough to be entertaining not one, but two women for a weeknight dinner. The ladies were roommates visiting Los Angeles from North Carolina. continued............. ÷ We had become friends through work and they had expressed to me their interest in eating a home cooked meal. An invitation for dinner seemed like a great idea. It was summertime and very warm outside, so the meal I set forth was a beautiful rendition of a Mediterranean supper. Fresh fish on the grill, linguini with homemade pesto, and a plate of assorted grilled veggies were on the menu. Dinner couldn't have come off any more perfectly and the women loved their meal. It was after dinner when things went awry. The plan was to go swimming so I was dressed in swim trunks, a tank top, and barefoot. The latter served to be my downfall. The two ladies had insisted to help with the dishes. I tried to persuade them but it was to no avail. They were adamant about doing their part. I was clearing the table when one of the women beckoned me to the kitchen. I walked in and she was holding the work bowl of the food processor I'd used to make the pesto. "Hey Kirk, where does this go?" she asked. Not wanting her to worry about it I said, "Don't worry, I'll put it away." Little did I realize that she had also included the machine's stainless steel blade inside the bowl. When I took it from her, I inadvertently turned the bowl upside down. Doing so caused the blade to fall out of the bowl and on to my foot. Imagine a razor sharp blade that weighs about a pound dropping from a height of four feet onto your foot. The blade got me right in the big toe and went straight down to the bone. The result was explosion of blood. I'm not kidding when I tell you it was everywhere. It looked like something out of the show CSI. But a car ride to the emergency room and 20 stitches later I was good as new. Explaining my injury to co-workers the next day, however, was not as easy. The lesson here is to wear shoes in the kitchen, even if you're doing the dishes. ACCIDENT #3: The Mandolin and The Index Finger This accident took place about 13 years ago. The only witness, other than myself, was my late cocker spaniel, Jazz. It was the middle of the week when I had come home from work looking to make a little dinner. To be honest, I can't completely remember what was on the menu that night. After you read the story, you'll understand why my only recollection is the glazed carrots that were supposed to be one of the sides. About a month or so prior I had purchased my first mandolin. For those unfamiliar, a mandolin is a long board with an adjustable blade in the center. It is mostly used for slicing vegetables very thin. My goal was to cut the carrots into symmetrical discs, lightly steam them and then finish them off in a little butter, brown sugar, and cognac. Unfortunately, I never made it past the cutting. Whatever mandolin you buy it will always come equipped with either a plastic or metal hand guard that grasps the vegetables with prongs and provides separation between your hand and the blade. Whenever you watch TV chefs use a mandolin they never use a hand guard, and it all looks very innocent and safe. I recommend not copying your TV chef and here's why. I was slicing the carrots very quickly when the somewhat unexpected happened – the carrot snapped in half as I was making a pass down the blade. The result was that my hand plummeted down and the tip of my index finder was dragged through the blade! continued.............. ÷ Everything went silent. I looked down at my finger only to realize I had taken off the top 1/3-inch. I was looking at bone. The weird thing was that there was this split second between that shot and the river of blood that came pouring out. I grabbed dishtowels and I held my hand straight up in the air hoping to stop the bleeding, but it was a bad cut. I was starting to feel woozy like I was going to pass out, so I decided to lie down on the floor. With my hand still raised, I was taking a series of deep breaths trying my best not to lose consciousness. It was at that time when Jazz came over to me with his tennis ball in his mouth. He knew something was wrong but I think he was in denial. He plopped his head down on my chest and just looked at me. I probably should have gone to the hospital but I didn't feel like waiting in an emergency room for three hours only to be told that nothing could be done. Believe me when I say there was nothing to stitch. I eventually got the bleeding to slow down enough to clean the wound and bandage the finger. If you look at it now it's only a small scar. It's unbelievable how resilient the My survival kit human body can be. The mind, however, is a whole other story. You never really forget traumatic events like the aforementioned. And that's probably a good thing. Otherwise, they may turn into weekly occurrences. Until next time… please be safe!
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