Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Yanked™ Red Flannel Hash

Now don't you dare turn your nose up at this recipe or post. I realize the thought of Red Flannel Hash belongs during the colder months, when we are all enjoying(at least up here in the NE)boiled dinners but this one is different. After all, it is YANKED!

Classically, and rightfully, made, it is a chopped combination of leftover vegetables from a true New England boiled dinner with beets, onions, turnip, potatoes, carrots and corned beef. This recipe is a variation on the theme, hence the moniker YANKED.

I truly believe I have elevated this dish so that not only can the younger generation enjoy it, but it fits perfectly with any gathering, be it formal or otherwise. The preparation takes little time but the cooking is what takes the longest. One good thing about it though, you have plenty of time to mingle, read or have a drink while everything is cooking.

Red Flannel Hash has an amusing beginning. During the mid-19th century here in New England, a husband woke up to a plate of hot, grilled, chopped hash in front of him early in the morning before he was to leave for the woods. He was a lumberman and his name has faded into obscurity now but the legend lives on. His wife began pouring his coffee as he was digging in, when he looked up and asserted that his breakfast looked like his red flannel shirt he had donned for the day. It was at that point the name Red Flannel Hash began and has lived on ever since.

Another Yankee link to this recipe is the polenta itself. I often laugh when I see polenta served at fine dining restaurants around the world because we Yankees were the first on these shores to make this 'mush'. Yes, I said mush. Corn meal mush to be exact. We have been stirring yellow cornmeal into boiling water since the early 17th century and enjoying it with butter or a drizzle of cream on top. We also let the leftover cornmeal mush firm up overnight so that it could be sliced and fried the next morning. It was a lowly meal but easy to make and very VERY cheap, as it still is today. I wouldn't pay more than a buck for a serving of cornmeal mush now, if a restaurant served it,. But because the name has changed to Polenta, people pay a lot more simply because of the name change. Yup! I am even laughing as I write this post.

This recipe is my take on a classic Yankee dish, taking out the protein and giving it a whole new twist. By all means add some chopped ham in this recipe but I think you will find it more than satisfying without it.

Yanked™ Red Flannel Hash
This dish is not only fragrant but beautiful as well, a pink hue from the beets soaki9ng into all the vegetables.

½ pound carrots, halved lengthwise and crosswise
1 bell pepper, halved and seeded
1 onion, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rings
½ pound beets, peeled and sliced 1/2-inch thick
Greens from beets
1 pound potatoes, sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 ear of corn
Nonstick cooking spray
6-8 thick slices polenta*
3 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded or shaved

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup apple juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and black pepper to taste

In a bowl, whisk together all marinade ingredients together and set aside. Pull down husk on the corn, removing the hair. Soak for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat grill on medium heat. Spray the vegetables on all sides with nonstick cooking spray. Lay carrots, onion, beets, bell pepper and potatoes on the grill and close lid. Watching carefully, char both sides of all veggies just until you can see the marks, remembering that bell peppers take less time. No need to cook vegetables thoroughly, we are after the charred flavor.
Remove the vegetables  reduce grill heat to low. On a cutting surface. chop charred vegetables into roughly 1-inch cubes. Evenly divide into 4-5 large pieces of tin foil. Place the beet greens in a smaller piece of foil. Drizzle a couple tablespoons marinade into each and crimp well. Place back onto the grill,  along with polenta slices and corn on the cob. Close lid and cook 20-25 minutes, rotating corn frequently, or until the corn husk has darkened and the kernels are done. Take a peak, carefully, to make sure vegetables are done as well. You don't want them mushy, just cooked.

Remove all items from the grill, emptying the vegetable packets into a large bowl along with greens, stir to combine. Cut the stem end of the corn off and remove husk. With cut side down, slice off the kernels of corn onto a plate.
To serve, Place a couple slices of charred polenta slices on each plate, evenly divide vegetables over polenta,  followed by some of the grilled corn and shavings of Cheddar cheese.

* Simply buy a roll of premade polenta from the supermarket or spend far less by making it yourself. Put 3 cups water, chicken or vegetable broth in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add Salt, black pepper, Parmesan cheese or any seasoning you desire such as garlic powder, crushed thyme or other herbs. Slowly whisk in 1 cup cornmeal vigorously to prevent lumps from forming. Immediately remove from heat and pour into a plastic wrap-lined loaf pan. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, or until firm and cooled.



Monday, July 21, 2014

The Yankee Chef versus..............

I am so proud of my accomplishments, both professionally and personally as of late. Professionally, I started in the restaurant business at the age of 14. It was in 1976 and my Dad, the second Yankee Chef, owned his 2d or 3d restaurant, I don't recall. Regardless, I did every menial task asked of me. I washed dishes mostly, but peeling potatoes, cleaning the dining room, sweeping the parking lot and scrubbing the toilets were on my list as well.

 I will never forget an old lady Dad hired by the name of Edie. She was the dishwasher and had to have been 70 if a day. Believe it or not, there is an art in washing dishes at a restaurant, especially in the days of single door electric dishwashers where you had to scoop the white soap powder onto the door and shut it.
She showed me how to soak certain types of baked-on messes and the easiest way of removing coffee stains from ANYTHING. She was  a peach and I will never forget how she showed me the proper way of peeling potatoes. I got so good that I could(and still can)peel a 50 pound bag of potatoes in 20 minutes.

Next were the dreadful deeds of making coleslaw, slicing meats and cheeses and the dreaded hand-cut French fries. This was in the day when Dad had us cut large cabbage heads in half, core them and slice them on the thinnest setting possible on the slicer. He often compared my slicing to his turning of the whetstone when he was a child.


My grandfather, the first Yankee Chef Samuel Bailey, would have my father sit at a whetstone(or foot peddled grindstone) and keep the stone turning while he sharpened his axe bit or scythe. Samuel told Dad that he would turn out to be a hard worker because he was always able to keep that whetstone moving at a constant rate for long periods of time. Of course, back then it Dad slowed down, the ol' bark of an old timer would scare the devil into ya' so that your feet kept 'a movin'.

At any rate, Dad told me the same thing his father has told him, I would grow up to be a hard worker because I never slacked on the slicer. It may have taken an hour to fill 4 bus buckets up with shaved cabbage but I never slowed down until it was done.

Eventually, I moved to the prized place in the kitchen, the line. I absorbed everything my father taught me. He was my idol, mentor and I still(to this day) don't think anyone could touch him with regards to his knowledge of the basics and speed of the plating. He grew up in the old tradition as well and I don't think I would ever change it.
Sure, there were times when I used to get so ugly at the fact that I had to go in after school almost every day to do dishes, cook, prep, clean or simply help in any way but it gave me a work ethic I would stand up against with any ANY chef out there.

There are local and celebrity chefs who think that because of their classically trained background, they rise above all others. Not so. not by a long shot.

I have worked at 'hole-in-the-walls' to fine dining, and in every single aspect of the restaurant. I am considered the fastest, yes...the FASTEST, line cook here in the Northeast and if there is one thing I can boast, I believe that is it. I not only am the fastest, but the most accomplished, the most well-versed and the most knowledgeable with regards to origins and history of New England food.....period!
Why can I boast? I have never been the one to boast. Heck, I abhor 'holier-than-thou' attitudes but I am that confident of my background in the restaurant business that I would pit my skills against anyone out there.
Let me back up just a bit. Morimoto is the exception. He truly is a master, along with several others, but I feel comfortable that I could execute well above any local chef and any celebrity chef.
You know, there have been times that I have had to hold my tongue. I have received comments from chefs that weren't very nice. My Dad would always tell me to walk the other way. But the boxer in me wants to holler "Put your money where your mouth is and step in the ring with me!'' Whether it is out of jealousy or not, I can't say that but when someone demeans you in any way, especially about your livelihood, it is a temptation. I keep thinking if these people can be rude, obnoxious and just plain mean-spirited, can they take that same attitude in the ring? I think not so I will keep my mouth shut, as my Dad always told me.

On a personal level, I have 4 great minor children that I am trying to raise with the same business tenacity that I hold. I am proud to really be one the great Dads who is lost without them. Heck, I have had to cancel many appearances simply because I can't and won't spend a night away from them. pretty sad, huh?
In any event, restaurants such as Millers, Checkmate, Perry's, Killarneys, Treadwells, Canaan Country Kitchen, Oak Pond Restaurant, Peters Candlelighter, The Candlelighter, Dickey's, Governors and many more made me the chef I am today. Dad made me the worker I am forever.

It's Just That Simple!™


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Backyard Burger Bash

There are so many ways of enjoying burgers grilled to perfection on your grill that I will only give you my favorites. But I would like to give you some ideas of meat combinations though. Certainly we all grew up simply adoring 100% beef patties our parents prepared for us and most of the time, I am completely satisfied with them(but ever EVER put them onto Wonder bread again). But there are also many instances where I am in the mood for lamb, sausage, pork, chicken and ground turkey, or a combination of any of those. Now many chefs will tell you to even play with different types of beef as well. Some boast that a combination of ground sirloin mixed with flat iron is the best, while a 50-50 ratio of tenderloin and sirloin is above all others. Me? I say whatever works for you, but I would never combine expensive cuts of meat that have been ground and are about to be laden with every conceivable topping under the sun. The flavor is lost and with the price of sirloin and tenderloin, those are best suited for grilled 'au naturel'.
I will, however, admit that I often combine ground beef with Italian sausage(either sweet or hot) and topped with grilled onions and peppers. With a thick slice of Provolone melted over the top, there are very few burgers that can compete with the smell and taste of this.

Now these recipes aren't overly complicated....rather simple really, I just wanted to give you a tweak to get you to think of some of your own mixtures, recipes, ideas and combinations.
Here are some simple burger ideas for you to share with family and friends this summer.

French Tarragon Burgers

In a small bowl, combine 1 cup mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 2 teaspoons chopped shallots, 1 teaspoon dried tarragon and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder. Refrigerate until ready to use. Cut two loaves French bread into 4-inch segments then cut in half horizontally. In another bowl, combine 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 2 pounds ground beef and ¼ cup minced shallots. Patty up and grill to your liking. Grill bread, cut side down and assemble burgers. Slather some of your mayonnaise mixture on one or both sides of the bread and serve with lettuce and tomatoes.

Guacamole Burgers

In a large skillet, cook 8 slices bacon until crisp. Remove, drain and set aside. In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup minced red onion and 1(4-ounce) can green chilies; set aside. Shape 1 pound ground beef into 8 thin patties and top 4 of them with the onion mixture. Cover with remaining patties and firmly seal edges. Grill until done and top each burger with bacon and a slice of Monterey Jack cheese. Serve with the cheese melted and divide 1/2 cup guacamole to be spread on each.

Teriyaki Burgers

In a large bowl, combine 2 cups crushed Rice Chex cereal, 1/4 cup minced onion, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram, 1/4 teaspoon dried ginger and 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder and 1/4 teaspoon onion powder. Mix well and combine with a pound of ground beef. Shape into 4 patties and grill to your liking. Grill some pineapple rings until lightly browned on both sides and add to the burger in some grilled onion rolls.

Chicken Pesto Burgers

In a large bowl, combine 1 pound ground chicken with 2 (canned) chipotle chiles in adobo sauce that have been diced, 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon dried basil. Shape into 4 patties and grill until done. Top each burger with pesto, slices of mozzarella cheese and grab it and growl.

Bacon Wrapped Burgers

In a large bowl, combine 3/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese, 1 small onion that has been minced, 1 beaten egg, 3 tablespoons ketchup or salsa, 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan, 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and 1 pound ground beef. Shape into 4 patties and wrap each with a raw bacon strip, securing with a toothpick. Grill to your liking and don't forget to throw away the toothpick before eating.

Zesty Turkey Burgers

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup ketchup, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce. Mix in 1/4 cup oatmeal. Take out half of this mixture and set aside. In the other half, add 1 pound ground turkey. Mix well and shape into 4 patties. Grill patties until done, basting with remaining ketchup mixture.

The Burger Meister(for the thrifty)

Combine 1 pound ground beef, 1 cup fresh bread crumbs, 1/4 cup milk, 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt, 1/2 teaspoon both onion and garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Mix well and patty into 4 burgers. Grill up!

Texas Chili Burgers

In a large bowl, combine 1 pound ground beef, 1/4 cup minced onion, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 2 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon garlic salt, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 3 tablespoons tomato paste and 1(8-ounce) can kidney beans that have been drained and mashed with a fork. Patty into 4 big ol' burgers and top each with a slab of extra sharp Cheddar cheese to melt, and add some sour cream and sliced tomatoes onto each burger.

Pizza Burger for a Crowd

In a large bowl, combine 1 pound ground beef, 1 pound hot Italian sausage(casing removed), 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs, 1/2-3/4 cup minced red onion, 1/2 cup pizza or spaghetti sauce. On a sheet of waxed paper, flatten out into 1 large patty, about 7-8-inches across. Place half purple onion, separated into rings, 1/2 bell pepper, sliced and 1(2.5-ounce) can sliced mushrooms and 1/4 cup sliced olives that have been drained into a large piece of foil. Crimp well to form a pouch. Place large burger and foil packet on grill and cook 13-15 minutes, or until burger is well done. Turn foil packet only once while cooking. During last 2 minutes, or so, of cooking burger, layer slices of mozzarella cheese over the top to melt. Grill 1 large focaccia or boule that has been split. Slice assembled burger into wedges to serve.

Wangan Burger Packets

In a bowl, combine 1 pound ground beef, 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs, 1/4 cup barbecue sauce and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Mix well and shape into 4 patties. Place each patty on a large piece of tin foil and top each with 1/4 cup canned baked beans and some raw slices of onion rings. Crimp well and place packets on grill rack,(seam side up)and cook 20-30 minutes.

Cranberry Topped Turkey Burgers

In a large bowl, combine 1 pound ground turkey, 1/2 cup chopped fresh mushrooms, 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs., 2 tablespoons minced onion, 1 teaspoon rubbed sage, 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed thyme. Mix well, divide into 4 patties and grill till well done. While cooking, grill hamburger rolls. Top each burger with lettuce, Dijon mustard and whole berry cranberry sauce.

Southwest Burrito Burgers

Combine 1 pound ground chicken, 2 cup finely crushed tortilla chips or corn chips and 1/4 cup salsa. Shape into 4 patties. Grill till well done. Meanwhile, wrap 4(10-inch)tortillas in foil with a splash or two of water. Place on grill during the last minute of cooking to heat and soften. To serve, place some shredded lettuce in the center of each tortilla, top with a cooked burger, guacamole and shredded flavored Cheddar cheese. Fold ends of tortilla toward the center and overlap sides to cover burger. Serve with salsa.

High Falutin' Burger

In a large bowl, combine 1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausages, casing removed, 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs, 1 small, minced onion, 1 beaten egg and1/2 teaspoon dried oregano. Shape into 4 oblong patties to fit equally-sized slices of French bread. Grill till well done. Toast bread slices and assemble. Top each with shredded mozzarella cheese, sliced, canned artichoke hearts, bell pepper, onion and mushroom slices.

Mooooo Shu Burgers

Combine 1 pound ground pork, 1 small minced onion, 1/4 cup dried bread crumbs, 2 beaten egg, 1/2 cup minced bamboo shoots, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1/2 teaspoon dried ginger. Form into 4 patties. lightly dampen 6 tortillas and wrap tightly in tin foil. In the last minute of cooking burgers, place foil packets onto grill to heat tortillas. Remove everything and assemble. Spread some hoisin sauce onto each tortilla and place a burger onto each. Top with sliced green onion, bean sprouts, sliced water chestnuts, sliced bamboo shoots  and fresh cilantro sprigs. Wrap and eat.

Greek Lamb Burgers

Combine 1 pound ground lamb, 1/2 small minced onion, 1/3 cup dry bread crumbs, 1/2 cup finely chopped dried pineapple, 1 beaten egg and 2 teaspoons curry powder. Form into 4 patties and cook as desired. Grill pita slices that have been cut in half crosswise. place cooked burger into each pita half and serve with chutney, yogurt and sliced cukes.

And my favorite of all burgers...............

THE Yankee Burger

If desired, use ground sausage or even all burger, making a total of 1 pound of meat. The subtle hint of apple and the salty, pungent addition of real Vermont cheese will have you laughing the next time you see a chef on television telling you NOT to forget the salt when seasoning burgers. The Yankee Chef says, forget about it-not needed!

3/4 pound hamburger

2 links sweet or hot Italian sausage, casing removed

1 large apple, peeled and cored

3-4 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

4 hamburger rolls

Grate the apple into a bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, mix together the hamburger, sausage, grated apple and black pepper. Divide the burger mixture into 8 equal size balls. Between 2 sheets of film wrap, place 1 burger ball and lay a piece of film wrap over the top. Press down to flatten. The patties will be thin but it will be perfectly suited for our purpose. Put about a half ounce of cheese on top, coming to within a 1/4-inch of the edge. Flatten another burger ball the same way as instructed, placing on top of cheese-laden patty already formed. Repeat until all the burger is pattied and cheese is used. Put in refrigerator for 15 minutes while heating your gas grill to medium.

Cook each burger for 3-4 minutes over direct flame, or until nicely charred and flip to cook an additional 3-4 minutes, or  until well done. If your burger is heavier on fat content, lay your burgers slightly off the direct flame. Don't forget to toast your rolls while you're at it!