Sunday, June 29, 2008

Homemade Hot Wings

The advantage of making hot wings yourself is that you can make them extra spicy. Traditionally, Buffalo Wings are deep fried (unbreaded) before being tossed in Frank's Hot Sauce and butter. It's generally cheaper to buy your wings whole and separate the paddles from the drummies, but these wings came frozen from GFS, pre butchered.

I always completely thaw my wings before roasting, spray them with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Then I bake them on a sheet pan at 425ºF for about 30-40 minutes, flipping halfway through. I let them cool for a few minutes while I make a sauce. Generally, I put about a tablespoon of butter in the bottom of a bowl followed by a multitude of hot sauces that I keep around. This particular sauce was based on a mild hot sauce similar to Frank's and spiced up with El Yucateco habanero sauce and a touch of Sriracha. I put the very warm wings in a bowl with the butter and hot sauces and toss until the wings are coated and the butter has melted. Yes, tossing is really the best way to do this (you might want to do it over the sink if you are hesitant). If done correctly, the butter should incorporate into a nice sauce and not "break." The sauce should adhere to the wings and not run off into a greasy mess all over the plate.

Hope you enjoy!

Lookin' Out My Back Door

Here's what I had the pleasure of waking up to the other day. This beautiful sky led to a peaceful commute in the rain.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Gjetost and Apple Phyllo Pastries

I made these pastries yesterday to use up some leftover phyllo dough that I had in my freezer. I was in a hurry, so I didn't quite thaw out the dough enough, which explains why the pastries have a few cracks in them.

I should start by saying that Gjetost cheese is a firm, brown, goat's milk cheese from Norway. You may have to look a bit to find it, but it's out there; I've heard Whole Foods and Cost Plus World Market stock it. Surprisingly enough, I found my block at Hy-Vee. The cheese has a predominate caramel flavor that is balanced by the tang of goat cheese; perfect for desserts, in my opinion.

For the Filling:
Peel, core, and small dice 2 Granny Smith Apples. Sweat in butter and season with a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg. After the apples have softened a bit, cover with water and simmer until nearly dry, stirring occasionally. Add about 2 Tablespoons of REAL Maple Syrup and continue to cook until most of the moisture has evaporated. Add about a ¼ - ⅓ cup finely chopped Pecans and remove mixture from heat. Cool over an ice bath, and incorporate 4 oz of diced Gjetost cheese when cool.

Lay one sheet of phyllo dough horizontally on a cutting board, and brush lightly with melted butter. Place another sheet directly on top of that one and brush with butter. Repeat once more so that you have three sheets of phyllo dough with butter in between and butter on the top sheet. With a pastry wheel (pizza cutter) cut the dough into 3 or 4 equal strips (cut horizontally so the strips are shorter). Apply about 1 - 1 ½ tablespoons of filling to the base of each strip. Carefully fold the filling into the strip using the flag fold technique (also the technique used to make triangular paper "footballs" in grade school). Lay each pastry on a sheet pan and brush lightly with butter. Bake at 400ºF until golden brown and crispy.

These are probably the best Apple Pastries I've ever eaten. Don't be scared of this recipe. Phyllo can be a bit tricky to work with, but it's worth the effort. Handle carefully and work quickly to keep it from drying out. You can also cover it with a clean towel to keep it from drying out as fast. You can wrap any filling, sweet or savory, in phyllo dough if you just follow a few simple rules. The filling should always be tasty enough to be eaten on its own. It shouldn't be too runny; you can use bread crumbs or cheese to help bind it. Don't overfill. It's such a versatile technique, and I recommend everybody try it once.


Monday, June 9, 2008

Taqueria El Porton

Well, it's been a while since I've had the chance to blog, but it's good to return with a restaurant review. Taqueria El Porton is an authentic Mexican restaurant in downtown Bloomington. Although it's considered a hole in the wall (my favorite), it's clean and well maintained inside.

Becka and I ate there on Sunday during our 12+ mile bike ride, and I had no way to take pictures. I liked the place so much, however, that I returned this morning and got the exact same meal so I could take photographs. It was worth it.

(On Sunday) I started my meal with a Negra Modelo which was very cool and refreshing. Becka ordered a horchata that was from a mix and had a slight "off" taste. Kinda tasted like a candle shop smells, in my opinion, but it was still good and unbelievably huge! I'm guessing 32 oz, and it was only $2.50.

The waitress promptly delivered the complimentary chips and salsa. The chips were very thick and crunchy with a minimal amount of salt. Perfection. Two salsas came with them; salsa roja and a moderately spicy roasted tomato salsa. Both were delicious and homemade.

Becka ordered the Burrito Asada, and reported that it was very meaty and cheesy. Half of it filled her up. Although I did not try it, it looked delicious. I attempted to order a small order of Menudo, but they no longer make it. Very disappointing, although I would bet money that on Sunday mornings the cooks whip up a batch for all the employees.

I ended up ordering a Lengua Taco, a Chorizo Taco, and a Sope al Pastor. The Lengua (beef tongue) was super tender; probably the best I've had in Central Illinois, and the Chorizo was also tremendous, if not a bit greasy (nothing unusual here). The tacos were assembled traditionally with two tortillas, a heap of filling, and cilantro and onions; a style I believe is know as "con todos" (with everything). Some lettuce and tomatoes would have been nice, but they were still excellent. The sope (fried masa "boat") was homemade and had great masa flavor. It's far better than the pre-made sopes that many taquerias use. The pastor (pork, shepherd style) was excellent, full flavored, and succulent. Sopes are sometimes hard to find around here, so when you see them on the menu, go for it.

(L to R) Sope al Pastor, Chorizo Taco, Lengua Taco

Taqueria El Porton is just damn good Mexican food. You can't go wrong!