October 30, 2014

Diet Coke: Tasty Beverage or Grill Cleaner???

Last week, while I was doing some much needed maintenance on my Big Green Egg. I opened up my Egg to find a gnarly, crusty drip pan I had forgotten about. A few days earlier, I had cooked a brisket and during my caveman-like consumption of that delicious lump of smoked meat, I must have forgotten to go back and clean out the pan. Having come out of my smoke induced haze, I assessed the situation and determined that this was no job for mere mortal cleansers or elbow grease.  No, this grease was much tougher.  Though this pan is fairly nasty, it's not quite as bad as when I smoke a pork butt.  There is a lot of sugar in my pork rub so imagine what sugar will do when left to cook in a pan over several hours.  Pork butt, brisket...either way it's a real bitch to clean up.



I had recently read an article about the evils of soda.  I'm sure you're familiar with it as it's probably the same article that's been floating around the Internet for the last several years.  In it, it lists all the things soda will do, like dissolve a tooth, tenderize meat or eat a hole in your stomach.  Years ago I remember pouring it over my car battery to clean off the corroded battery terminals.  Worked like a champ.  This gave me an idea on how to tackle that nasty drip pan without requiring a chisel and mallet. 



My experiment began with a 2 liter bottle of Diet Coke leftover from a recent soiree. I filled the pan with the carbonous (made up word? perhaps) elixir and let it sit and bubble for about an hour.  The evil cola was left alone to work its dark effervescent magic.  



After an hour, I dumped the cola and rinsed out the pan with cold water.  There was still a little bit of residue left so I gave it a light scrubbing with some stainless steel wool.  It didn't take much effort to get the pan clean.



After the light scrubbing, I rinsed the pan with cold water again and dried it with a paper towel.  Low and behold, that bubbly Quencher of Thirsts did all the hard work for me!


Alright, it's not as good as new, but it's pretty damn clean.  I was amazed at how easily the pan cleaned up.  I don't know if it's the carbonation in the coke or all the other crap that I cannot pronounce, but it did a great job. This should probably be enough proof for me to stop drinking sodas, but if I quit I won't have any soda around to clean my grill.  As for if it will dissolve a tooth, I have made an executive safety decision to not walk around with a mouthful of coke for days at a time.  I pledge to immediately swallow all of its fizzy deliciousness as soon as it hits my lips and I suggest you do the same.

October 17, 2014

Egg-ccessories: The Cast Iron Plate Setter

Like most BBQ guys, people are always giving me grilling tools that I never use.  I have a box in my garage that is full of unused grill toys. I admit I am a bit of snob when it comes to gadgets, but if it doesn't make cooking easier or improve the flavor of my food, it's just a waste of my time.  Besides, grilling and smoking meat is pretty easy; you don't need to be bogged down with tools and gadgets.  Back in May, I did receive a birthday gift that is truly great...a cast iron plate setter for my Big Green Egg.  You have probably noticed it in my posts throughout the summer, and I gotta tell you, it's freaking awesome!


Big Pork Chops!
For the non-Eggheads, the platesetter is used to set up the BGE for indirect cooking.  You place it between the fire and the grate and it deflects the heat around the meat you're cooking.  The stock plate setters are ceramic and tend to crack and break over time.  I've been through three of them since I've had my egg and they are about $60 each.

What I like about the cast iron plate setter is that it's a lot more durable than the ceramic.  But what I really love about it is the grilling grate on the bottom.  I just flip it over and I've got an excellent cooking surface, I get the benefits of cast iron and all the flavor of cooking over charcoal.  


Searing Pork Belly before braising
I have yet to use this plate setter for slow cooking, because if I flip it over all over, my seasoning will burn off.  This summer I have used the grill side to cook just about everything...steaks and pork chops, braised pork belly, even roasted pepper and onions, and heated tortillas.  


Grilling some pepper & onions
I've always had issues with flare ups when cooking rib eyes, but on the plate setter the fat drips off the side or stays in the grate troughs. And when it does flame up, the fire is deflected around the plate setter and doesn't scorch the precious steak.

Cooking Rib Eyes
The heat distribution is excellent.  It gets really hot and puts a great sear on a steak.

One Hot Cooking Surface!
The cast iron plate setter is a bit pricey, Tasty Licks BBQ has them at $119 for a large BGE. Tasty Licks is also selling them through Amazon for $130.  That is about the price of two ceramic plate setters.  It may be expensive, but it's definitely worth it.  With Christmas just around the corner this is a gift any Egghead would love.

Disclaimer:  I'm not receiving any compensation for my endorsement of this product.  Not that my endorsement carries a lot of weight.  I just really like the product and wish to share my experience with other Egghead and Komodo guys who might appreciate it.

October 3, 2014

We Came, We Saw, We Fried Some Fritters!

Saturday was the Big Disc-It Round Up and Team AlbuKirky went in with high expectations.  Considering we got our butt's kicked last year, we were still optimistic the fans and judges would appreciate our latest Disc-It dish.  Since our crushing defeat last year, we have been brain storming ideas and testing new recipes that would return our team to championship glory.  After months of testing, we finally came up with the Jalapeño Bacon Cheddar Corn Fritter with Honey Butter.

I got my big hat on, I'm ready to cook!
At high noon on Saturday we fired up our Disc-Its and began serving up our latest culinary creation to the hungry crowds and judges.  After 4 solid hours of batter mixing, fritter frying and serving, we were spent.  When all was said and done, we had served about 900 of our delicious fritters.  The crowds seemed to really enjoy the fritters and many of them came back for seconds and thirds.  It was tough to get a read on the judges though. They had put on their poker faces or hid behind their score pads so as not to give any indications of their like or dislike of our dish.  All we could do was wait for the scores to be tallied and winners announced. 

Frying up some bacon in Sean's Game of Thrones Disc-It
Finally, the dust had settled and it was time to announce the winners. We won judges categories for Most Unique Dish and Best Booth Design. AND (drumroll, please) we also won the Grand Prize Judges Choice Award. Whooohoo! Team AlbuKirky was back to our winning ways.

An exhausted Team AlbuKirky
After cooking all those fritters we were exhausted, but in a good way. This event is one of our favorites because it's more that just a cooking contest, it's about raising money for the kids of UNM Children's Hospital.  The Disc-It Round Up is a passion project for Nevin and the entire Montano family and they have really made it a special event.  We can't wait to do it all over again next year!  Thanks to everyone who came out and showed your support.



Jalapeño Bacon Cheddar Corn Fritters
Fritters

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup corn meal
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
4 tablespoons butter (melted)
1 cup canned corn (drained)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup cooked diced bacon (10-12 slices)
2 jalapeños diced (seeds removed)

Honey Butter

4 tablespoons butter (softened)
1/2 cup honey

In a bowl combine all of the dry ingredients for the fritters.  Next, add the milk, eggs and butter, stir until just combined.  Stir in the corn, cheese, bacon and jalapeños. In a Disc-It or large dutch oven, heat oil to 370º.  Drop in the fritters using two teaspoons to scrape the batter into a ball.  Fry 3-4 minutes or until fritters are golden brown. Remove from pan and drain on a paper towel.  In a small bowl, combine the softened butter and honey.  Serve fritters and honey butter immediately.  Enjoy!  




September 22, 2014

Green Chile Jelly

Ahhhhh!  Do you smell that?  It's September in New Mexico and every square inch of airspace above the state is filled with the smoky, spicy, almost verdant aroma of roasting green chile.  The locals are very familiar with this intoxicating scent and willingly submit to the pavlovian response sure to follow.  Practically every grocer, big or small, has a chile roaster or two set up in the parking lot and the farmer's markets are alive with them, too.  You'll even find the occasional rogue chile vender on the side of the road, like a mystical food gypsy, silently whispering promises that his chile will cure what ails you.  And he would be correct, too.  Green chile is rich in vitamins A and C, and a good source of vitamins B and E.  It also contains iron and potassium, so how could you go wrong by adding this superfood to your daily diet?

It stands to reason that when those tumblers start tumbling and the air fills with that rich aroma, the locals come running.  We have a tendency to hoard our green chile in an effort to make it last until the following season, so you'll see us buying it by the bushels and sacks.  The elitists will look for the signs marked "Hatch", indicating the city in New Mexico that undoubtedly offers the best of this spicy "fruit", but there are other farms 'round these parts that do it pretty darn well, too.  This year we opted to buy ours from Wagner's Farms and picked up 1/2 bushels of Big Jims (medium heat) and Sandias (hot heat).  Both had amazing green chile flavor that teased the tongue, but the Sandias had a nice slow burn that intensified long after being swallowed.

There are lots of ways to use these lovely green beauties, but one of my favorites is Green Chile Jelly.  My sister, Patricia (from here forward she'll be referred to as Trissi as it is hard to shake a nickname given to you as a baby even if you are a 36 year old woman, no matter how much you try), has honed this recipe to a fine science and recently our friend Shay had us over to her house so that we could spend the day basking in Trissi's preserving knowledge.

I took lots of pics with my iPhone, but forgot my regular camera, sorry about that.  I realize the quality of these could be a bit better.  Scroll to the bottom of the post for the recipe and detailed instructions.

A 1/2 bushel of Big Jims tumbling out of the roaster.

A couple of key tools...a large pot with a rack for sterilizing and processing jars, and a heavy bottomed pot for cooking down the ingredients.  This 8 quart Kilner Jam Pan is a pricey investment, but will yield plenty of return if used frequently.  Inside measurements, a pour spout, and tall sides that keep boiling lava hot fruit from popping all over makes it stand out when compared to the common kitchen pan.  



 

Into the pan with diced roasted green chile that have been thoroughly cleaned and seeded, plus vinegar, lemon juice, organic sugar, salt and red chile powder.  


Ahhh, behold that beautiful warm hue beckoning to be shared with a bit of cream cheese on a cracker.
Green Chile Jelly

Makes three pints or six 1/2 pint jars of jelly

1 lb fresh roasted green chiles (skinned, seeded and diced) 
5 cups organic sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried red chile
1  3 oz. package Certo brand liquid pectin

A few words regarding the ingredients:  Trissi likes the taste and set that the organic sugar gives the jelly.  You can find it at Costco reasonably priced.  Bottled lemon juice is fine for this recipe.  In fact, its acidity is more consistent than that of fresh lemons, which is important for making jams and jellies. Certo is the liquid pectin brand of choice here.  Again, it provides a quality set and that's a good thing.  One more thing, we made double batches of green chile jelly by doubling this recipe, so the pics might look off as far as the ingredients are concerned.      

A few words about processing:  For an endless playground of information regarding putting up jams, jellies, etc. visit Marisa McClellan's website, Food in Jars or pick up one of the two books that she has out on canning and preserving, Food in Jars and Preserving by the Pint.  The site and books are excellent resources and she provides a laundry list of other resources around the web.

Let's get started...    

Directions:

Sterilize your jars by placing them on the rack in the canner and then filling it with water until it covers the jars.  Bring it to a rolling boil and then let it boil for a minimum of 15 minutes.  We actually let it boil until we are ready to fill the jars.  The jelly cooks quickly, so make sure your canner has been boiling a good bit before you put the pan with the jelly ingredients on the stove.  

Place the lids and rings in a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer.  DO NOT boil.  You're just going to keep them warm until you're ready for them.  Jarden, the maker of Ball canning supplies has come out with a new recommendation on this step and you can read about it here.  We elect to continue to simmer and warm them like we usually do, because the USDA has not changed their recommendation on the process, so we'll stick with what's tried and true.

In a large heavy bottomed pan add your diced green chiles, sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and dried red chile.  Stir to combine and dissolve the sugar.  Cook over medium heat stirring frequently to prevent the sugar from burning.  

Snip the top of your pectin package off and place the package upright in a large cup so that it is ready to quickly add to your jelly pan.  

Bring your jelly to a rolling boil, quickly add your pectin, squeezing out as much as possible, and stir immediately for one minute.  Remove from the heat.  Quickly skim off any foam.  

Using tongs or a jar lifter, remove your jars from the canner dumping the boiling water back into the pot. Don't worry about any water droplets left inside the jars, they will quickly evaporate.  Place them upright on a towel.

Using a canning funnel and a ladle, begin to fill the jars leaving a 1/4 inch headspace.  

Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean cloth then place the lids on them.  Add the rings until just "fingertip" tight.  This means twisting the lid on with only your fingertips and stopping once it begins to tighten.  DO NOT over-tighten the rings.  The lids are tight enough to prevent spillage, but not so tight to prevent air from escaping during processing.

Using the jar lifter, place the jars back into the hot water in the canner.  Bring to a boil and boil 10 minutes, but add an additional minute for every 1,000 feet above sea level.  In Albuquerque, we are 5,000 feet above sea level so we processed our jars for 15 minutes.  

Using the jar lifter, remove the jars to a flat surface and allow them to sit undisturbed for at least 12 hours.  You're sure to hear the musical "ping" of your jars sealing, a reward well earned for all your hard work.    


******************

We had a great day making green chile jelly and because we had three sets of hands helping out, all of the tasks went quickly and clean up was a cinch.  Plus everyone walked away with enough jelly to give as gifts and enjoy at home, as well.  

What are my plans for my stash?  I'll serve it at my next party spread over a soft brick of cream cheese and served alongside some seedy artisanal crackers, then I'll stand back and wait for the "oohs" and ahhs" to start rolling in.  We'll also probably use a jar to glaze a few racks of pork ribs seasoned with some of Kirk's AlbuKirky Seasonings Green Chile Rub.  A dynamic flavor duo guaranteed to send folks back for seconds and thirds.  And, of course, there will be plenty to pair with a warm loaf of homemade bread. 

This recipe is delicious and simple, and probably one of THE BEST ways to preserve one of the most exquisite flavors of the season.  Give it a spin!

September 20, 2014

6th Annual Disc-It Round Up!

It's time for the Disc-it Round Up! Team AlbuKirky has been working hard on our winning recipe but we still need the secret ingredient. And that secret ingredient is YOU!  So come on down to Isleta Casino on Saturday Sept 27th and help us raise a ton of cash for UNM Children's Hospital. Once you are in the gates you can help yourself the worlds largest Disc-It Buffet.  Over 50 teams will be cooking up their culinary creations and vying for your vote for best dish. 

Advance tickets are $15, and $20 at the gate, Kids 13 and under free,  Round Up Tickets.

You can also purchase tickets direct from Team AlbuKirky, just come on down our our booth at the RailYards Market on Sunday Sept 21 from 9-3 and receive a FREE Bottle of our Casa Seasoning with your ticket purchase. 

We'll see you at the Round Up!!






September 13, 2014

Happy Belated National Hotdog Day!

I'm back, my hiatus is over.  I have been busy trying to build my BBQ Empire and things are going well.  Let me say, it’s a long way to the top if you want to barbecue!  This summer our weekends have been filled with store demos and markets, but we still manage to find time to cook up some great grub, it's finding the time to blog about that is difficult.  So, I'm a little late with my National Hotdog Day post, but it's the thought that counts right?  Besides who needs a national day to enjoy a delicious hotdog?

Happy Belated National Hot Dog Day!
National Hotdog Day was back in July and we had a little party to celebrate.  And true to our form we made the best hotdogs we could.  Great hotdogs start with quality franks with a natural casing, fresh baked buns and homemade toppings and of course some bacon. Even when it comes to hotdogs we don't mess around at the AlbuKirky Kitchens.

When I cook hotdogs I like to cut a cross in the end of the franks.  It’s a little trick I saw on Amazing Ribs and have been using it ever since.  The cross cut allows the ends to crisp up a bit, it's very tasty, although they do kind of look like the giant worms from the movie Dune.

I cooked a few of the dogs on the grill.  I started by laying them down in the grates and as the dogs cook I roll them across the grill.  It gets them really brown and really maxes out the flavor.


As for the other dogs I got a little stupid.  I wrapped them with a thick slice of bacon and deep fried them in the Disc-It.  Yah, it was stupid all right, stupid delicious!!


We started our hotdogs with the fresh homemade buns, baked by my lovely wife Cheryl.  For my first dog I took the bacon wrapped dog and topped it with fried onion strings and topped it with a little AlbuKirky Seasonings BBQ Sauce.  The other dog was a chile cheese topped with Cheryl’s homemade chili, onions and good old French’s Yellow Mustard.

Chili Cheese Dog & Bacon Dog with Onion Strings
Cheryl decided to for go the bacon dog for a classic sauerkraut dog with yellow mustard.  And of course the sauerkraut was homemade by her sister Patricia.

The Classic Kraut Dog
When it was all said and done these were the best hot dog we've ever made. I don't know how we're going to top this next year but we'll try.  And maybe next year I'll get it posted on time.

August 30, 2014

Let's make a Cubano Sandwich!

Well, this Cubano Sandwich Trilogy has certainly taken a long time to produce.  I shouldn't feel too bad, though, The Godfather Trilogy took 18 years to complete.  The first two installments are considered to be 2 of the Greatest Movies ever made as documented on many lists found on the Internet (and the Internet would NEVER lie to us), however, Kirk reminded me that the third one was a piece of shit.  Let's hope this post fairs better.

To bring this story to a close, I'm going to wind down with the bread recipe and how we put this sandwich together.  Just like any reasonably decent trilogy closer, we're going to answer all of your questions and tie up the lose ends.

Let's start with the sandwich rolls...


I found this roll recipe on King Arthur Flour's website here and it really makes up a nice hoagie type roll.  This is one to keep in the sandwich making arsenal, for sure.  The picture above shows the rolls after they were shaped and left to rise.  Looking pretty good!  I shaped each roll into a small batard using this video here as a reference.  I must have watched this video 20 times.  I used to think that rolling the dough into a log shape would do the trick, but I soon found out that correct shaping creates a nice tight gluten skin which greatly improves the appearance, rise,  and texture of the bread.  It makes a world of difference.      


A slash down the middle and into the oven they go!  It'll be cubano time before you know it!


Out of the oven, nice and golden.  These will make a cozy place for the ham, pork, and swiss to live happily ever after.   

Cubano Sandwich Rolls

4 Cups (17oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
4 Teaspoons sugar
2 Teaspoons salt
2 1/4 Teaspoons (one packet) active dry yeast
3 Tablespoons lard, cut into small pieces
1 1/4 Cups (10oz) warm water

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the yeast to 1/4 cup of the water (110º) and let it bloom for about 5 minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients including the remaining 1 cup of water and stir on low speed with the paddle attachment.  Once the dough starts to come together, switch to the dough hook and mix for approximately 5-8 minutes.  The dough should be soft and supple.

Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for approximately 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, use a bowl scraper and working inside the bowl, fold the top of the dough down towards the middle, then fold the bottom of the dough up towards the middle.  Next fold each of the sides toward the middle.  Turn the dough ball upside down in the bowl and let it rise an additional 30 minutes.  

Turn the dough out and divide it into 6 equal pieces.  I like to weigh the dough on a kitchen scale, divide by six, and then weigh out six pieces.  This ensures my sandwich rolls will be nice and uniform.  Cover and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.  Shape the logs into batards (see video link above) about 8 inches long.  Place shaped rolls on a parchment lined baking sheet, cover, and let rise for an hour.  While the rolls are rising preheat the oven to 375º for 30 minutes.  

Slash each roll down the middle, spritz with water, and bake at 375º for 30 minutes or until golden brown.  Let cool before assembling your sandwiches.  

Let's assemble these bad boys...

The following is not so much a recipe as it is instructions for assembly, but you will need a few important ingredients:

Yellow Mustard
Thin-sliced Deli Ham
Swiss Cheese
Sliced Dill Pickles
And last, but not least, those fresh baked rolls you worked so hard on. 


Begin with plain yellow mustard on each side of the rolls to get the party started.  Next, add two slices of thin-sliced deli ham on the bottom half of each sandwich.  Top with some of that mouth-watering citrus infused shredded pork.  And finally, lay a couple of slices of swiss cheese on the very top.  I sliced this cheese from a block of cheese and in the next photo you'll see I got a little crazy and cut it way too thick.  Packaged sliced swiss is the better option.  Oh yeah, least I forget, a few sliced dills finish off this mountain of happiness.  I pickled these myself and was happy to crack open a jar for these sandwiches. 


They look pretty good as is, but think about how crispy and melty they're going to get after we press them.  


We decide to press these outside on our Disc-It using our flat disc.  We brushed down the surface generously with melted butter and did the same to the tops of the sandwiches.  Sounds excessive, but the melted butter adds so much flavor, it would be a crime to skip it and this girl is not one to break the law.


A hot cast iron griddle and two foil wrapped bricks provides the perfect weights to give these sandwiches a good squeeze.  Think thin, you two!


No words needed.  I think you can form your own opinion from this pic.


Cut on the diagonal to expose a cross view of those tasty meats and cheese.  If only I had sliced that swiss thinner, these would have exceeded perfection.  Next time, no doubt.  Serve alongside twice fried plantains and you've got yourself a comforting platter of Cuban flavors guaranteed to kick hunger to the curb.   

August 1, 2014

Smoking Cubanos

Well, here I am with my contribution to the Cubano Sandwich Post. As you well know, I’m not as eloquent and prolific as Cheryl, so this post will be relatively short and sweet. More like terse and bitter, but that’s just how I roll.  My responsibility for this culinary endeavor was the pulled pork.  I have eaten many Cuban sandwiches over the years and I have always thought the pork could use a little more flavor and definitely some smoke. 

Pork Butt for Cubanos
My inspiration for my pork seasonings was the Mojo Criollo that I’m so fond of but I didn’t want to cop out and just use it, I wanted to make my own version.  First, I wanted to make a rub for the pork so I started with AlbuKirky Seasoning Green Chile Rub and added a few more ingredients...bitter orange adobo seasoning and some extra cumin. If you don’t have or can’t find adobo seasoning, you can substitute lemon pepper. I wanted to add a fruity tang in the rub to match the flavors of the injection. There is some cumin in the Green Chile Rub, but I wanted to add more to bring out that earthy flavor.

Cubano Rub
¼ Cup AlbuKirky Seasonings Green Chile Rub
2 Tablespoons of Goya Adobo Seasoning with Bitter Orange
1 Tablespoon of Cumin

My vision was to infuse the pork with a lot of citrus flavors because when I think of Latin flavors I think of fruits like oranges, limes and lemons. I made an injection of orange, lemon, lime juice and a little bit of the rub. I was really happy with this injection because it infused the meat with a light citrus tang.

Citrus Injection
2 Cup of Orange Juice
1 Cup of Lemon Juice
1 Cup of Lime Juice
2 Teaspoons of the Cubano Rub

I injected the pork butt with  all of citrus Injection.  Injecting is the best way to infuse flavor throughout the meat.  A tip when injecting...use a lot!  Inject the butt on the top, the side and the end.  You want to get as much liquid and flavor into the pork as possible.  It should take about a quart of injection for one butt.

After the butt was injected I patted it dry and then gave it a good coating of jalapeno oil.  I like the jalapeno oil because it adds a bit of heat to the pork, if you don’t have it plain olive oil will work just fine. Now apply the rub to the pork butt.  Give it a good coating but you still want to be able to see the meat.

The pork butt was about 7lbs and I smoked it with mesquite charcoal at 275º-300º for about 7 hours to an internal temp of 195º.  I pulled the pork butt off the smoker and let it rest a good 30 minutes before pulling.  When I started pulling, the butt just fell apart. Although I didn’t add any sugar to my rub, there was enough natural sugar from the injection to form a nice bark around the pork.  The pork was a refreshing change from my typical BBQ'd butts... it was slightly sweet, had a nice subtle fruity tang, followed by a spicy finish from the green chile and jalapeño. This pulled pork was absolutely amazing and I will definitely be cooking this recipe again.

Check back next week and we'll wrap up the Cubano Sandwich posts.  Cheryl will share her recipe for the bread and the process for making the sandwiches.



July 23, 2014

Getting Smashed...Tostone Style!

Mrs. AlbuKirky here, sharing with you today,  part one of a trilogy of posts inspired by what else...a trip to the movies.  Food in film is not a rarity.  Sometimes it plays a leading character and sometimes it blends into the background.  Sometimes it represents wealth and abundance, and sometimes it's scarcity depicts longing and poverty.  Whatever the case may be it's presence can be powerful.  While the food itself almost becomes another character, less attention gets paid to the people who put it on the plate.

Not so in the new movie, Chef, written and directed by Jon Favreau, who also plays the leading character and acts alongside a handful of his Hollywood homies.  The limited screen times of Scarlett, Dustin, and RDJ has me thinking that Mr. Favreau called in a few favors, which is absolutely fine with me, because the story is carried largely by Mr. Favreau's character, Chef Carl Casper, his loyal sous chef Martin, his son Percy, and his ex-wife Inez, played by John Leguizamo, Emjay Anthony, and Sofia Vargara, respectively.

Various reviews I've seen online describe the story as predictable, but that's ok because the characters are extremely likable and the story that unfolds feels completely believable.  I felt like a fly on the wall eavesdropping on real interactions between real people.  The only detail that left me feeling bamboozled was the complete metamorphosis of a rusted out, run down taco wagon into a beautiful fully realized food truck butterfly in a matter of only 2 days.  Our spare refrigerator in the garage went out and it took us a full 2-weeks to shop for, purchase, and await delivery of a new one.  Actually, it took 3 deliveries, before everything was completely settled.  I guess it would have played out more quickly if we had John Leguizamo's cousins putting the wheels into motion.

All in all...I LOVED this movie!  I wanted to sit down with these characters and share a meal and a conversation about food with them.  Even better than that, I wanted them to cook for me.  Alas, since this is a movie and that's not a possibility, I continued to watch them lovingly prepare their signature food truck dish, a cubano sandwich and tostones, and I thought to myself...we could do that. And so we did.  Maybe not as elegantly as our cinema culinary heroes on the big screen did, but dammit, we pulled it off pretty well.

Part 1 begins with tostones; delicious, twice-fried, green plantains.  More savory than sweet, because they're not quite ripe, they partner well with the strong flavors of the spicy garlic sauce I prepared to accompany them.  I found this recipe and technique online here.  While the sauce was good, I am going to add a touch of honey next time I make this.  I think the addition of a bit of sweet will round this sauce out and turn it into something I will want to add to lots of dishes.  Plus, the tostones, while savory in their green state, seem to yearn for something to soften the sharp heat of the garlic.

Ideally I would have used a simple wooden tostone press to make these, but numerous trips to all of the Hispanic markets in town left me unim-press-ed...(I made a funny)!  Instead I opted to use a large can of Crushed Pineapple.  I chose this can primarily for it's size and heft, but also because it contained the word "crushed" in the title.  How appropriate.

Shall we begin?

Let's get these lovely green senoritas ready for the dance.  Slice the ends off the plantains off and cut a seam down each side of the peel.  Pull the peel off one half at a time.



Slice the plantains into 1" pieces.



Toss the plantains into their hot oil bath and fry until slightly golden brown.  We took this process outside and used our Disc-It.  No fuss, no muss!



Look at that golden tan!  The first fry blanches the plantains making them just pliable enough to smash for the second fry.  



Tostone Crusher on Make A Gif
Speaking of smashing...no tostone press?  Never fear!  Grab a hefty canned good and go to town.  (By the way, check out this nifty GIFty I made!)



Obviously, our chicas bonitas had a little too much fun at the dance, because now they're smashed.  (I love a pun, good or bad.  I should just apologize now for all of the future word butchery I plan to make when I blog on Kirk's behalf.)


Toss the smashed plantains back into the hot oil for dip number two.  NICE!



After a couple of minutes, they should turn a deep golden brown.  Pull them out and drain them on a  paper towel.  Dust immediately with salt and pepper, and cash in on that crispy, crunchy texture. 


Fried Tostones 

5 Green Plaintains
Oil for frying
Salt
Pepper
(we used Casa Seasoning)

Garlic Dipping Sauce

1/3 cup Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Fresh Parsley (minced)
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 tablespoon Lime Juice
5 cloves finely minced Garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat 2 or 3 inches of oil to 375º.  We used our Disc-It outside, the perfect place to fry.

While the oil is heating, peel and slice the plantains.  The peel is thick so cut a seam down each side and pull the peel off in halves.  Slice the plantains into 1 inch pieces.

Place the sliced plantains into the hot oil and fry until they just start to turn golden.

Pull them out of the grease and drain on paper towels.  Once they are cool enough to handle, smash the plantain pieces into rounds using a tostone press or large can.

Place the smashed plantain rounds back into the hot oil and fry again until golden and crispy.

Remove from the oil and drain again on paper towels.  Dust them immediately with salt and pepper (we used Casa Seasoning).

To make the sauce, whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl and serve.

Check back and we'll share Kirk's recipe for a Latin inspired citrus-infused pulled pork, my recipe for homemade sandwich rolls, and how we pulled it all together for Cubano Sandwich Night.