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Saturday, December 10, 2011

California to Florida


Welcome to Cocoa Beach
 Well I say to hell with writer’s block! Gypsy Gourmet is on the scene to discuss another cool place to chill and a recipe that is amazing, simple, and looks kind of fancy even if it’s not. I’ve set out today to write what I know, that’s all y’all are looking for anyway, right? We just recently took a 34 hour reset in one of the most beautiful places in the US.  I’ve been to all 48 lower states, so I think I have the authority to make that statement. I always thought Cocoa Beach, FL was supposed to be a tourist trap. Here's to being unequivocally wrong! From the beauty of the beaches, the unabashed warmth of the locals, and the epic availability of fresh seafood, we would've been content to learn how to weave baskets for the tourists and stay forever.



Garlic Butter Blue Crabs
Atlantic Seafood's Jumbo Shrimp
We stayed a block away from the beach and wandered our first evening away. We stumbled across a dive joint called Atlantic Seafood that boasts on the window "You buy, we fry". Looks like a bright yellow barely polished turd from the outside, and if Guy has taught me anything at all, it's that we had to go in and see for ourselves. The place consists of one table, a few scattered chairs, a cold seafood case, and a cash register. So you can literally buy fresh seafood to go, or pick your seafood to have cooked. Novel concept if you ask me. Still skeptical, we eyeball the case for a few minutes and look over the hand printed menu on the wall. We chose an order of the fried grouper and jumbo shrimp combo, and six garlic butter blue crabs. I think we spent a little under $20 bucks for the both of us, and it was simply put, delectable. The picture speaks for itself. My only wish was that I had showered after I ate, because I had so much crab debris everywhere that Chris teased that he'd have to take me out back and hose me off! Before we left, I purchased about a pound of fresh jumbo shrimp. I wasn’t sure what I'd use them for yet, but that comes along a little later.
Fathead Pierce

It's getting pretty close to my birthday, and inevitably now that my life is UNCENSORED, I'm looking to get some new ink. We scouted the area for just the right place, making friends along the way. Shout out to Fathead Pierce of Studio XIII for the excellent customer service, stunning competence, and general affability! He changed my lip jewelry to 14K, sold me another piece in purple titanium, entertained us with his witty commentary, and was just a cool cat. We'll be back to see him & the crew at Studio XIII again soon.  

Argyle Franks
Ed Madigan's ABW
The highlight of our trip was to Artistic Body Works Tattoos, owned by Ed Madigan, one of the legends of the tattoo industry. Ed started his apprenticeship at Ancient Art in Orlando, FL in 1990 under Bud Pierson. In 1993 Bud opened Brevard County's oldest tattoo studio, Artistic Body Works in Cocoa Beach, FL. After working at ABW for two years, Ed moved beach side and bought the studio. My artist is Argyle Franks, a fifteen year veteran of the industry, which has talent running out of his fingertips. He has a way with people that puts you at ease immediately and is the genuine article as far as this girl's concerned. The way he explained it to me was that the tattoos are really already there, you're just scrubbing the dead layers of skin off so that they shine through. They're always a part of you. I liked that description; it felt right and made sense after Gypsy Gourmet shined through on my wrists. They were always there, a part of me. I look forward to working with him in the future, and have absolutely no doubt that giving him artistic license to finish my left sleeve will be epic. We got to hang out with him and Erika Lyn that first night. Erika is another very talented artist, and a really awesome girl. I may have a slight crush on her, she's just that cool.
Erika Lyn & I
My Newest Piece by, Argyle Franks
 












Castle in the sand
Sunset
We ended the evening with a walk on a sunset drenched beach. There were surfers out in the waves, a warm breeze touched with the taste of salt in the air, and my best friend. If ever a girl could have stars in her eyes it was definitely now. My descriptions don't do the vibe of this place justice, but the pictures will last a lifetime. Shortly after, we met Argyle down at The Sandbar, this offbeat little boho chic bar, steps from the surf. We bought a few rounds (though we were drinking sweet tea) and wiled away a few hours in this laid back paradise Agyle calls home. He has a wealth of knowledge about the tattoo industry, technique, and machines. Chris soaked it all up like a sponge, as he has started tattooing himself in the last 6 months. We're both looking forward to more time down there.


The next morning the plan was to find a local joint for breakfast. We slept in and this idea was scrapped in lieu of washing clothes. Nobody wants to do chores, but it is a necessity. We found an ideal spot about a mile from where we were, just down A1A S. While the clothes were washing I made us a couple of Dagwood sandwiches and we finished both the sandwiches and the laundry in record time. Nothing says motivation like going outside to play! We had passed what looked to be a dog park on our way to the laundrymat (Lori Wilson Park) and decided the pup needed some run time. This facility was amazing. It had a seperate enclosed area to wash your pooch and two large fenced in runs for big and small dogs. Harley had a blast playing with the other dogs, all the scattered community toys, plastic swimming pools, and attention from all the other dog owners. It is a must see for all dog owners when visiting Cocoa Beach. As it's a free perk to the public, I think next time we're down we'll drop a donation off. Knowing our time was getting limited, we washed our pooch and eased on down the road.




GG, Chris, & Argyle


Nichole & Argyle
Our next stop was back to ABW Tattoos to say hello to the crew. I figured Argyle and Erika were probably hungry after a long day, and Argyle invited his wife and son down. Nichole was a hoot (I was super low on the good girl quota in my world so I'm definitely keeping her!) and Ayden at two years old, is so cute and precocious that you could just eat him up!
Ayden Franks
I commenced to whipping up a meal for us with the few items I'd had stocked and those lovely shrimp from Atlantic Seafood. It was simple, flavorful, and had great presentation. It may not be fancy, but it'll feed a good sized crew, and you can add a larger amount of all of these ingredients to make it stretch.
Shrimp Stir Fry
Shrimp Stir Fry
1.5 lbs jumbo shrimp
1/4 lg orange pepper, diced medium
1 pkg baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
1 pkg green onions diced
2 pkgs Uncle Ben's Long Grain &Wild Rice blend (the 90 sec kind)
2 T fresh minced garlic
1 T pureed fresh ginger
2 dashes toasted sesame oil
1-2 T Plugra butter (or equivalent, Land O' Lakes rated right up there according to Cook's magazine)
1 tsp Paul Prudomme's Seafood Seasoning
sea salt & cracked black pepper to taste

Now here's the fun part, peel and de-vein your lovely shrimp. I know it sucks, but it's worth it even in a truck. Set these aside, get your pan hot, add the butter, garlic, ginger, toasted sesame oil, mushrooms, and bell pepper to sautee a few minutes. As these are getting happy, add the shrimp. When they've been added, season it all with the Paul Prudomme's, sea salt, and cracked pepper. When you've seasoned your dish, this is about the right time to flip your shrimp. At this point your shrimp are almost done (please remember shrimp are done as soon as they're bright pink or red) add the rice packets, with about a 1/4 c of water, and cover to finish. When the water eveaporates, your dish is almost done. Give it a quick stir, and add the green onions over the top and serve. Easy as pie.


I hope y'all enjoy this dish as much as we did, it was easy, quick, and a guaranteed ice breaker. Nothing super fancy, we ate off of paper plates with disposable silverware and felt like kings. Whenever you're in Cocoa Beach, look up my peeps @ABW and at Studio XIII, they're incredible artists and just the salt of the Earth. Look out for more from us soon, and until next time, eat well, laugh often, and drive America's highways safely.


gypsy gourmet



Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hometime Georgia!

Time off is  a wonderful thing isn't it?? I'm almost positive it was necessary for our mental health this month, as so much has been swirling around in our world. We're coming into the full swing of fall with colder temperatures, holidays, get togethers, and more work! Finding time in everyday life to slow down and reconnect with our families, is a delicate balancing act. One of the ways I find to do this is with cooking. When we do have time off I can guarantee a full table of folks, for most of the stay, and find its the perfect forum for trying and perfecting holiday recipes. A dry run of sorts that can give you an excuse to take some time out of your busy schedule for a Sunday dinner, an impromptu Wednesday evening, or a Saturday night event. I'm going to give y'all a peek of what I was up to while I was home last week, and a couple of favorite no fail recipes that are an excellent finish to any meal.

The picture above comes from Saturday night. We had a dinner party that extended well into Sunday afternoon, with family and friends that was a really good time had by all. Herb and peppercorn crusted pork loin, roasted baby red potatoes, collard greens and blackeye peas from our local farmers market, veggie  and cheese trays, relish plates, and pumpkin pie graced our table. Sunday morning came along, and with it caramel sticky buns, Skyy vodka bloody mary's, fried potatoes, a mountain of thick bacon, and scrambled eggs with cheese topped off the food coma that I placed everyone in.
These sticky buns are a labor of love, they take time and patience and are made in my house to celebrate the joy of cooking for those we love. I will post the recipe for this in a future blog on brunch, but for now, enjoy the idea. The time will come soon enough that we'll tackle that project. The bottles of red wine, the Guiness, and the cocktails flowed freely; and I had several people floating in and out of the kitchen, helping, hindering and grabbing a cold beer. Most people don't relax this way, but I certainly do! I just wish Mom and Gramma couldve been there, it would've been more perfect.
This pumpkin pie has been raved about as "the best pie I've ever had in my mouth" (Steve Almasy), and is so easy anyone can put it together! I dislike making pie crust immensly, but Paula Deen has a no fail recipe that I like, if I am up to making crust at all, that you can access here. http://www.pauladeen.com/article_view/pie_dough_how_to/. However, your girl cheats and does use the Pillsbury brand ready made rolled up variety that you can purchase in your local grocery store's dairy section. Flute the edges and go! Here's my take on a traditional favorite, that's sure to please the masses.          
Pumpkin Pie
Ready made pie crust or Paula's no fail crust recipe
1 can Libby's brand pumpkin
3/4 c dark brown sugar
2 lg eggs
1 can Eagle brand sweetened condensed milk
1/4 c heavy cream
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon (I love fresh ground!)
1/2 to 3/4 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/2 to 3/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
(no cloves or allspice in my version)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F and proceed either rolling out your pie crust or placing it into a 9" pie plate. Flute your edges and place it back in the refrigerator to chill while mixing the rest of the ingredients. In a large bowl add pumpkin, sugar, eggs, condensed milk, heavy cream, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg and mix well. Pour into prepared pie crust and place into the oven on a cookie sheet(to catch spill over, just in case) for fifteen minutes. When the timer goes off, lower the temperature to 350 degrees, and set the timer for an additional 45-50 minutes. You'll know when it's done by the golden brown crust and the center will not "jiggle". A toothpick inserted of the center of the pie will come away clean. Serve warm with ice cream or freshly whipped cream.

Whipped Cream

1 c  heavy cream
1-2 T confectioners sugar (to your taste) 
1+ tsp Watkins double strength pure vanilla extract (to your taste)

Whip cream, sugar , and vanilla on medium to high in a stand mixer or with a hand held mixer until stiff peaks form. Be careful not to overmix, or you'll have butter. Refridgerate leftovers for up to 24 hours.

There was time during the first part of the week while the weather was chilly and damp to make homemade challah bread. This is a favorite of my family that goes back several generations. I pulled this recipe out of a book that had made it's way onto my shelf all the way from Duluth Minnesota, The Temple Sisters of Israel. Amazing texture, egg richness, and great presentation, lent to wonderful sandwiches, superb French toast, and delectable croutons. When I get back home I'll make sure I publish this recipe, because while it was a little labor intensive, the results were unmatched and the ease of instructions and simplicity of the recipe made it a breeze to make. Make sure you leave a comment if there are any other recipes you'd like to see featured here or I can always send them direct.
 I think the whole point was to really tell y'all that when you take the time to do something you love for the people you love, that the world seems less dire. You forget for a moment that there are bills to pay, and errands to run, and work to be done, and revert to a simpler time and state of mind. Everyone needs to slow down sometimes and just savor the moment. I certainly did. It made coming back out here on the road to run thousands of miles a week a lot easier to bear, knowing what's waiting for me at home the next time I'm there. Until next time, eat well, laugh often, and drive America's highways safely.

gypsy gourmet

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Seattle, Washington Pike Place Market

Greetings from Seattle Washington!
Downtown Seattle

So much to do, so little time they say, but we managed to get our bobtail into downtown Seattle, WA,(double parked in two spaces with no parking ticket, golf clap everyone!) and check out famous Pike Place Market. Three expansive floors of every foodie’s fondest dream, the colors, textures, smells, and people were an absolute sensory overload. The stunning array of fresh organic produce in every available color known to man was absolutely breathtaking. The orange and purple hues of beets & carrots, the bright, crisp burgundy of raspberries, the deep reds, oranges, and greens of woven, wreathed chili peppers, the buttery yellow of bell peppers, all made a riotous crescendo of music for my eyes.  The hustle and bustle of this market was a swirling, almost choreographed, dance for the senses. My first stop was at a little produce stand right outside the front doors of the market, under the farmers market sign. The young lady that helped us, Ms. Erin, was a delightful almost pixie like girl with a warm smile. She gave us some valuable information to make the most of our tight schedule and imparted "THE" must see spots along our journey. Right across the street from her was Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, and down the way, la petite bakery, along with Sur La Table that she said was a must.
I thanked her profusely, as we swapped e-mail and contact information. She seemed like a really cool girl and asked if she could show us the sights next time we're through. That is a definite possibility! We quickly moved along to the main floor of the market to catch the show.

The Lovely Ms Erin
Solly Amos & I
Our next stop along this cacophony of shouting merchants, hurried patrons, and vibrant colors brought us to the historic Pure Fish Food Market. Opened in 1911 by Jack Amon; Mr. Amon came to America from Turkey and began selling seafood from a stand here in Seattle at Pike Place Public Market. Both the city and the market were relatively new, but all the local folks immediately recognized the value of local fish and shellfish. Jack sold only the finest. I had the pleasure to meet Solly Amon, Jack's son. He has run his father's business for more than 50 years, which gives him the record of the longest tenure of any of the Pike Place Public Market's vendors. We were astonshed at the sheer size of most of the fresh shellfish, as their classicfication of jumbo far exceeds anything we've ever seen. Dungeness crab the size of a dinnerplate, and jumbo grilling shrimp that Guy Fieri would,ve called a sea pony. The shrimp we looked at could've been saddled and ridden! The scallops were the size of baseballs and the only way I could think of to cook them through, would be a hot sear and finished in the oven. Huge!!! The Ahi tuna is what caught my eye, as it was so succulent, in it's rich color, that instead of a deep red it was almost a royal purple. *Sigh*

Sea Pony
All in all we could've spent a couple of hours trying to make our choices, but in the end, soaked up the experience and promised ourselves we'd be back. On a side note, Pure Food Fish Market can ship anywhere in the country! Check them out at http://www.freshseafood.com, and we're off to the next must see!

Further down the commonway, we reach Market Spice. The immediate scent that hits our nostrils, is that of a rich orange and cinnamon tea, freshly brewed and being sampled by thirsty customers. It is the blend that Market Spice has become known for. They are currently revving up for their 100 year celebration at Pike Place Public Market. The vast array of herbs and spices lining the shelves was a wonder to behold. The layered richness of scent gave way tohelpful and courteous staff, willing to tote down enormous gallon jars of product as many times as necessary to find the perfect flavor you're looking for. My excess budget on this trip way slim, but I had to take something of this fantastic shop with me. Chris pointed out a lovely jar of pink Himalayan sea salt, with a grater pakaged inside for the perfect application. Next, I discover some Spanish saffron, gorgeous and tightly packed in a small plastic jar, for freshness. In my quest for something to send home, I come across some star anise for my Grandmother. She likes to add it to some of her special Asian dishes. Last, but not least, two whole nutmeg just for me. Why, you ask? Simply to make me happy. You can also visit their website, http://www.MarketSpice.com.

Jeff Fitzpatrick & I
We're wanting at this point to stay. For a week, an afternoon, a month. We've barley scratched the surface of this amazing wonderland. Chris says I lit up just like a kid on Christmas morning. He's right. I am simply delighted to be in such a unique, sensory rich, and culturally diverse atmosphere.However,our time is running out and I've been told that leaving here without witnessing the showmanship of the fishmongers at Pike Place Fish Market, would be culinary blasphemy. We wander over to the horseshoe shaped counter, known for the launching of fish from the mongers to the customers. We are greeted immediately by raucous laughter and the sing-song, showy, atmosphere of fish sales.Jeff Fitzpatrick, the young man that helped us, was a great sport about photos and a wealth of information. We just couldn't get over how nice and customer oriented these guys and gals were. Lots of information at hand, they go through the process of whatever fish or shellfish you could possibly want, along with various shipping methods to be had. So if you're flying back to New York, your fresh fish can meet you there for dinner! We thought we were going to miss out on the fish flinging fun, as our meter was coming close to running out(who knows how expensive that would be?). We were not disappointed though, as we were turning to leave Jeff motioned us forward in the crowd. We spied a lovely lady making her way behind the counter and Chris geared up for the video.(I'll be posting this later on YouTube, I think it's too big to put here. In the comments I'll update the keywords and try to link it.)The young man assisting her had a great sense of humor and showed her how to catch her fish, walzed around the iced stacks of fish on the other side, goosed a young girl out of the way, and prepared his throw. All of the fishmongers started to chant, and with a 1-2-3 count, the fish soared over the counter and into her waiting hands. The crowd cheered enthusiastically as many cameras clicked away, and Chris was well pleased that he caught it all on video.(These guys give a whole new meaning to catch of the day!) You can visit their website as well, http://www.pikeplacefish.com .




Purchases in hand, we start the three block climb up 1st street to the rig, stopping halfway up to take in the view of Edward's Bay one last time before we depart. It was a experience I wouldn't have traded for all the paid miles in the world, and I got to share it with my best friend and all of you. I will most definitely be back, and bring y'all along for the ride. Please feel free to browse all of the available vendors the market has to offer. Their webiste is http://www.pikeplacemarket.org/ . Until next time, eat well, laugh often, and drive America's highways safely.
gypsy gourmet


PS I wasn't kidding about the colorful characters!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

North Carolina to Washington State

Back at it again folks! I was thinking of featuring some more at home recipes and decided it could wait for the next blog. Tomorrow marks the beginning of a great day for your gypsy gourmet, as my article on CNN's food blog(http://eatocracy.cnn.com/blog/) is running in the lead! I'm so excited I can hardly wait! The seared Ahi tuna that I prepared on site for the shoot is what I'm featuring today, to make sure all my loyal foodies out there have it on hand.(Yes, you too Mom, two times, twice.) So, I hope you all enjoy this easy, flavorful concoction I've come up with. It's really not as fussy as it looks. It tastes great, is a healtier option than what is offered out on the road, and can be made in the cab of a truck.

Seared Ahi Tuna
1 sashimi grade Ahi tuna steak
1 pkg organic mixed greens or baby lettuces (whenever possible please, support you local co-op!)
organic grape tomatoes (as many as you like, I normally use 6, 3 per serving)
4-5 sliced baby portabella mushrooms (omit if desired)
3-4 T tri color bell peppers diced small
2-3 T toasted sesame vinaigrette (recipe follows)
optional creamy wasabi mustard sauce for dipping and plate painting
2 T olive oil + 1 T for seasoning (see instructions)
1/2 t toasted sesame oil
1 t soy sauce
2 T black sesame seeds
1 1/2 t fresh minced garlic
1 t prepared minced lemongrass (it comes in a tube for convenience)
1 t prepared minced ginger (also comes in a tube for convenienence)
fresh ground peppercorns to taste
ground sea salt to taste

*NOTE FOR BEGINNERS*You should prepare a few things ahead of time, such as; the 2 T olive oil and the 1 T toasted sesame oil can be combined in a small dish. The garlic, ginger, and lemongrass can be prepared and combined with the soy sauce in a small dish, for convenience. Mise en place, or everything in it's place, prepare and have at hand all vegetables beforehand, for ease of assembly.

Instructions:
Season the Ahi as follows; drizzle and rub the 1 T olive oil on steak, distribute evenly on both sides and sprinkle the sesame seeds on each side. Grind enough salt and pepper on just to enhance, not overpower, about 1/8-1/4 teaspoon. Pre-heat a non-stick skillet(electric on the truck, conventional if not)to medium-high, you want the pan stinkin' hot for the sear. Next add the 2 T olive oil and the 1T sesame oil, quickly adding the garlic, lemongrass, ginger, and soy sauce . *Note* I say quickly, because I mean it. You must add these quickly and move them around in the pan to keep them from burning. After that is done place the Ahi steak in the pan, allow to cook for about 2-1/2 minutes and turn to the other side, cooking for an additional 2-1/2. Remove tuna from pan, and the pan from the heat(or shout off) and set aside. This is where you'll place your mixed greens in a bowl, add all prepped vegetables, and the toasted sesame vinaigrette. Toss evenly and plate in the center of your plate. Using a VERY sharp knife, slice tuna on the bias, or at a 45 degree angle(diagonally), for pretty presentation, place on top of the greens, and serve. Serves two.

Toasted Sesame Vinaigrette
3 T rice vinegar
1 T soy sauce
1 T toasted sesame oil
2 T olive oil
1 t each grated ginger and garlic
1 T white or black sesame seeds
1 t honey
cracked black peppercorns to taste
pinch of sea salt

Instructions:
Combine the vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, honey, sesame seeds, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl. Whisk briskly and slowly add the oils at a drizzle to help the dressing emulse, or stay together. Toss with mixed greens and serve immediately. Refrigerate any leftovers and use within 3-5 days.

Easy Creamy Wasabi Mustard Sauce
2 T prepared wasabi mustard (can be found in your local grocery store by the deli)
3-4 T quality mayonnaise (like Hellmans or Duke's)

Instructions:
Mix two ingredients well, put in squeeze bottle and make fun swirls, hearts, circles, commas, or whatever suits your fancy on your plate.(just have fun with it!) If you're anything like my brother, you'll put your initals, take a picture, and post on Facebook for everybody else to drool over. (Props to the Gangsta Gourmet)

I hope you all enjoy this recipe as much as Chris and I do, it's relatively simple and really punches up the flavor quotient. Never be afraid to try something new, in most cases if at first you don't succeed, you'll read more carefully and get it the second time. Nobody wants to throw away tuna twice! Always remember to take your time, a deep breath, and have fun with it. It's really all about the love anyway, isn't it? Until next time folks, eat well, laugh often, and drive America's highways safely.

gypsy gourmet

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Much Needed Home Time, Georgia

Welcome blog friends!
I'm hailing y'all from the house, just to let you know the gypsy gourmet doesn't always cook on the road.. I noticed that there were so many pictures on my IPhone that weren't necessarily from the road that I have to give a little love to the home kitchen. I am well pleased to be home after 5 weeks of grueling work out on the road. Many changes have taken place, i.e. I'm no longer based out of Richmond, VA for dispatch, we're now based directly out of Atlanta. I have also just finished up a photo shoot and interview with CNN chronicling my journey as the gypsy gourmet, and my career in the trucking industry. It will also introduce you to the love of my life and the light of my world, Chris.

The weather is starting to get a little colder, and I am all about some comfort food. Here's a few pictures of some homemade pork carnitas that I made into tamales that turned out absolutely amazing. The recipes and instructions will follow. I just was missing the warm Arizona weather, it was super chilly when I got to the house, and I was ready for a challenge. I miss having all of the really great conveniences of my kitchen at home, when I'm on the road. Like running water, a dishwasher, and a lovely assistant, who just simply makes my world brighter with her happy chatter, goofy faces, winning smile, and energy.(Are all 16 year olds like this? I'm thinking I'm just lucky.) So without further embarrassment to her(ily brat), here's what we came up with.

Pork Carnitas
2 1/2 - 3 lbs boneless pork shoulder, cubed into 1 1/2" pieces
1/2 each yellow, red, and orange peppers, rough chop
1 lg sweet onion, rough chop
1 jalapeno sliced 1/4 in thick with seeds
3-4 lg whole garlic cloves
1 pkg Sazon Goya
1T. Cumin
1 1/2 t. Paprika (Spanish or Hungarian)
1 1/2 t. ground black pepper
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
1 T Tony Chachere seasoning
1-2 T. Mexican Oregano
1-2 t. dark red chili powder
8 oz prepared chicken stock (Swansons is okay, or Better Than Bouillon)
Instructions
I prepped the vegetables as indicated above, tossed the meat and vegetables in the spices, put it all in a 13x9 glass baking dish, added the prepared chicken stock, and covered it in aluminum foil. I figured low and slow was best, so I popped it in a 300 degree oven for about an hour and a half. Remember, that all ovens are different. Mine is electric and pretty close to right on temperature, but ovens will vary. The end result you're looking for is tender, pull-apart pork that can be shredded. All the vegetables will just fall apart along with your meat and broth. The easiest way I've found to accomplish this is by leting the mixture cool some and using the paddle attachment on my KitchenAid mixer. You can do it with a large fork or your fingers too, but I'm at home and want to be done, thus my method.
If you're in a hurry, this meat mixture, some toasted corn or flour tortillas, and a little pico de gallo make a fast no muss dinner. I, however, was looking for the challenge of making something I'd only seen made once on television, Guy Fieri on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, Albuquerque, NM. Crazy that I've never attempted this before, after spending five years in Arizona, but true. I enlisted Annalysa, Chris's 16 yr old to help, as she had assembled them before with friends, and the following is what you'll need for the final product.
Tamales
Masa mixture:
16-24 dried corn husks
2 c Maseca corn meal for tamales
2c lukewarm chicken stock
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. sea salt
1T Paprika
1 tomate con pollo bouillon cube dissolved in the chicken stock
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
2/3 c. lard (lard is best, but if you prefer use vegetable shortening)
Instructions
The first order of business is soaking the dried corn husks in warm water. We found that a half sink full of hot tap water worked well, as long as we weighted the cornhusks down with a dinner plate. You can let these soak for up to a few hours, but we didn't. We let them soak for a little over an hour plus as long as it took to shred the meat, and prepare the masa. They were plenty pliable, and we didn't have any issues with them cracking. Next to prepare the masa. In a regular bowl, combine the masa, baking powder, salt, paprika, and cayenne pepper, mixing well. Dissolve bouillon cube in warm chicken stock, and add to masa mix, working it in with your fingers to make a soft, moist dough. In your mixer, beat lard until light and fluffy, add masa and beat until the dough has a spongy texture. Now you're ready to assemble.

The cornhusks are going to be triangular in shape, you want the pointed end toward you. With a large tablespoon from your flatware, take a generous scoop of the masa mix, plop it in the middle of the husk and use the back of your spoon to smear it evenly outward toward the flat end of the husk. Take a teaspoon from the same drawer, get a generous scoop of the meat mixture and plop it in the center of the husk. Fold the pointed end up to the middle, and roll from right to left or vice versa. until you come up with the tamale shape. (Who knew this was going to be such a pain to describe? I need a crayon sketch!) Repeat until all the tamales are assembled.

Now, I believe that the easiest way to cook these would be to have a full size 6" deep hotel pan with a 4" preforated insert. The idea is to steam them, so a big huge steamer basket in a stock pot, or whatever fancy gadget you have available to you will work. I had none of these fancy schmancy tools at hand, so found my deepest rectangular aluminum baking dish(13x9 about 4" deep) and rigged a cooling rack with handles into it with two 2" ramekin bowls on the bottom. I then stacked an even layer of tamales across for weight, and added water to the halfway point up the bottom of the baking dish. At this point, I added as many tamales as was reasonable(to the top) and covered this invention with aluminum foil. I had to rig two of these devices, because this recipe makes quite a few tamales. I put them in a 400 degree oven for about an hour and a half to two hours. The easiest way to detect if they're done is to pull one apart and check. The dough will be firm and solid to the touch. I served them with a corn salsa, guacamole, and doctored prepared refried beans with cheese.

I have to say this latest experiment was a huge success. It was a labor of love, but I got to spend quality time with my girl, saw looks of ecstasy on the faces of those I love the most eating them, and warmed up my belly and my soul. These are the reasons I do what I do. It's all about the love, folks. Until next time, eat well, laugh often, drive safe, and love like it's your last.

gypsy gourmet

Thursday, August 25, 2011

California to Georgia Sandwich Love





Riding through the vast desert of Texas can be inspiring to some; however, I’m not the biggest fan of the I10. I am counting my blessings that it’s not hotter than the seven gates of Hell this morning, and that the air conditioning is working well after the few modifications Chris did this week. As always, the gears in my coconut are blazing on a new idea for dinner. In the meantime, I thought I’d touch base on a favorite of all travelling folks, the sandwich. Now, I know we get tired of the same old thing, bologna, turkey and cheese, PB&J. There are so many awesome variations to this classic fare that I really thought some love needed to be given to the sandwich.

When stopping in a truck stop, there seems to be only a few options for sandwiches. Subway, of course, and the cellophane wrapped sadness in the cooler isle. Subway can be great if you have good customer service, someone that cares about how your sandwich is put together, and short lines. This is not always the case as some of us well know. It can also be an expensive habit when you’re trying to save cash to get ahead out here. We really won’t touch on the cellophane sadness, as you have to be desperate to spend money on those wrinkled, smashed, unappetizing processed items. Wal-Mart is an excellent option for those of us that tote 64+ foot vehicles, as most allow some kind of rig parking and are abundant across the US. Those that don’t allow some kind of parking for us have been few and far between, and have only gotten a sour taste in their mouths from those people who don’t respect the rules, leaving trash behind etc. There are several chain supermarkets across the country that are also very trucker/traveller friendly, including Ingles, Fry’s, Smith’s, Hy-Vee, Food Lion, Safeway, Food Depot, Food For Less, and Kroger to name a few. I have my favorites of course, Ingles being the top of my list, but any of these will do.

I have found that the normal, everyday ingredients that most of us grew up on have begun to bore me over the years. I have expanded my horizons, and Chris’s, exponentially over the course of the last few months. Items like baby greens, baby spinach, vine ripened heirloom tomatoes, avocados, hothouse cucumbers, Claussen Kosher dill pickle slices, and thinly sliced red and Vidalia onions are just a few of the interesting additions that have been incorporated as of late. The types of pre-sliced cheeses available have come a long way from American processed cheese food.  If you’re not able to hit the deli, this is an awesome convenience. The creamy, buttery goodness of Muenster, the nutty, smooth flavor of Gouda, the slight tang of baby Swiss, and the availability of herbed cream cheese spreads, add depth and layered flavor to any sandwich. Plain old white bread is not an option for our gypsygourmet, as I have been increasingly health conscious over the last six months, losing a total of thirty pounds in the process. There are many different kinds of amazing bread, but I’ll stick to a few of my favorites; marbled rye, Jewish rye, pumpernickel, oat nut, and twelve grain breads. Croissants are a luxury that I do indulge myself with occasionally, but they’re better saved for the blog on Hollandaise sauce…. Yum J Last, but certainly not least, is the meats. You don’t have to be stuck with cooked ham or pressed meat turkey, and for those bologna lovers out there, there’s an Italian version of it called Mortadella, that is simply put “amazing”. We have been stuck on peppered pastrami, Cajun spiced roast beef, and Cajun spiced turkey. While the cheaper brands offer “more”, the mid-grade to top shelf varieties are always more rewarding. Store brands can surprise you as well, for instance, the Prima Della brand at Wal-Mart is a consistently great product that I’m very partial to. Also, when trying out new items you can always ask your deli rep for a taste of anything they have to offer before buying it. This comes in handy when you don’t want to commit to a large amount of something you may not be fond of. The list goes on and on with these beautiful deli meats, sliced super thin but not shaved, for the maximum presentation. After all, don’t we eat with our eyes first? Who says the three extra minutes of care in our presentation is going to make or break our schedule anyway? I want piles of corned beef, mountains of black forest ham, valleys of spicy brown mustard, and baby greens so fresh the color slaps you in the face. The vine ripened tomatoes out of Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana are so red they hurt your eyes, smell overwhelmingly like the earth they came from, and dance across your taste buds.  So, for now, enjoy the pictures, take your time eating and savor the process. Remember we may have to eat to live, but we can also live to eat. Until next time eat well, laugh often, and drive safe.
gypsygourmet

Friday, August 12, 2011

California to Georgia Broiled Hamburgers ala gypsygourmet


3:25 pm EDT

I’m starving. Ravenously hungry for something that does NOT come out of a paper bag. I have driven a ten hour shift (give or take) and have been debating the benefits of sleep vs. food. Well, battle of the bulge or no, I’m going to make something hot, at least semi healthy and edible with the least amount of fuss possible. I’m experimenting with my new schwanky Black & Decker convection/toaster oven. I’m in the mood for a burger and don’t have the necessary time to stop our truck to make the electric skillet a great tool today. So, I pattied up the 93/7 ground chuck, seasoned liberally with granulated garlic, McCormack’s Hamburger Seasoning, and some granulated onion, and set to broiling burgers in my fancy toaster oven.

4:00 pm EDT

We are sumptuously satisfied; our taste buds appeased, our bellies full, and are terribly pleased with this experiment. I have always told myself not to sell out, but I’m now pimping the product!!! I LOVE MY BLACK & DECKER CONVECTION/TOASTER OVEN! To be on a moving semi-truck, rolling through New Mexico and Texas, bumpy roads and all, this method is the bomb. Fifteen minutes on the bottom rack @ the 450 degree broil setting, produced juicy, perfectly medium burgers. The aluminum foil lining the pan made clean up a breeze. Keep in mind folks, I have my refrigerator and toaster oven secured with heavy duty straps and the door of the toaster oven secured with a small bungee cord for safety purposes. I also do not ever leave this appliance unattended while cooking. That being said, I am terribly impressed with the simplicity of this method, the consistency of the food cooked, and the snappy clean up. This chef will be using this appliance a WHOLE lot more in the near future. Keep a look out for more ongoing experiments, and until then eat well, laugh often, and drive safe.

gypsygourmet

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Denver to Atlanta

A day in the life of the gypsygourmet……

This day starts with your gypsygourmet oversleeping in a parking lot in Oak Grove, MO. The first thought running through my mind isn’t “Oh crap, this load’s gonna be late!”, as it's a simple relay to our terminal in Atlanta. No, the first thoughts running through my head revolve around what I’m making for dinner; sad but true. At 8:45 EDT thoughts of stir fry are dancing through my coconut. Log book updated, trash taken out, dog walked (all very quietly as to not disturb the love of my life still sleeping in the bunk), and coffee in hand, I set out on I 70 east bound for Atlanta. Our truck is well equipped to handle the challenge of stir fry, 2500 watt inverter, 4.4 cubic foot refrigerator/freezer combo, electric skillet, every necessary utensil at hand, so I now wonder how I can put an eclectic spin on this oft used idea to make it fresh and interesting.

As I mentally rifle through the contents of my pantry, wondering if I have any cornstarch on hand, I realize with a start that I have crawfish tail meat straight out of Louisiana! Hmmmm, this could be an epic twist on an old favorite J I have fresh garlic, ginger, scallions, and tri colored bell peppers. I also have some broccoli florets, and some baby portabella mushrooms. I have concluded that cornstarch exists in my cupboard along with chicken base and soy sauce.  So, here’s the recipe I’ve come up with. There are a few fast and easy shortcuts if you don’t want to go through the extra effort of making the sauce, and remember folks; this is all made in the cab of my semi-truck.   

Crawfish Tail Stir Fry

2 T Classic Olive oil + ½ tsp. toasted sesame oil
(Say “No!” to EVOO!!If I want fruity, I’ll eat a salad J)

(1pkg)Boudreaux’s brand crawfish tail meat 12oz

½ each red, orange, and yellow bell pepper (julienned/cut into ¼ in strips)

½ pkg. baby portabella mushrooms (1/4 in slice)

12 each green onions (1/4 in bias cut/diagonal cut)

2 Cups broccoli florets (bite size)

Sauce

(Feel free to use Kikkoman’s stir fry sauce in place of homemade; it can be a bit easier.)

½ tsp. toasted sesame oil

2 cups prepared chicken stock (I like the convenience of Better than Bouillon’s brand chicken base)

¼ cup Kikkoman’s soy sauce

1 T Fresh grated ginger

2 T Minced garlic (Spice World prepared is great)

¼ - ½ tsp. chili sauce (I like sriacha)

2-3 T. Cornstarch dissolved in as little water as possible

Instructions

Heat electric skillet to medium high, when it’s good and hot add both your olive oil and sesame oil. Next add your broccoli florets, cooking them until they start to change to a brighter green 2-3 min. The bell pepper strips will follow, again cooking for an additional minute. Last are your baby portabellas. You don’t want to overcook your vegetables, unless you like them that way. Me, I’m not a player.  When these have combined and are cooked “al dente” or semi crispy, remove them immediately to a paper plate/bowl, gently wipe your skillet out with a paper towel and continue on to the sauce.

If you’re using the prepared sauce, add the crawfish meat and the green onions to the vegetables still in the skillet, and enough sauce to coat evenly. Warm crawfish meat through, keeping in mind it’s already cooked. It’s ready as soon as it’s warm, serve it over any flavor prepared rice that you like. I prefer the easy 90 sec microwave Uncle Ben’s Wild & Brown Rice blend. It’s tasty and a healthier alternative.

If you’re preparing the sauce, add the prepared chicken stock to the fresh clean skillet, add the sesame oil, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and chili sauce. Bring to a boil, and add the cornstarch slurry. As it bubbles, add your vegetables, crawfish meat, and green onions. Heat through, as mentioned above, and serve over rice.



I think it’s a great dish, not too complicated, and an awesome healthier alternative to some of the crap truckers like us are subjected to every day. I just got really tired of paying for food that just wasn’t “IT”. Until next time, eat well, laugh often, and drive safe.

gypsygourmet