Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Tapas

A friend asked me to bring some little nibblies to a memorial day celebration, and I suppose I got carried away. My wife is out of town for two weeks and I am having serious kitchen withdrawal, so when the chance came to make something I suppose I lost control of myself.

Eggplant rolls stuffed with a chicken and goat cheese mixture, chorizo in phyllo, tsatsiki and punjabi papadams, and french onion toasts all conspired with other appetizers to completely fill up the party attendees before anything could be barbecued. Next time, when I make tapas, I will concentrate on a single tapa.

The only truly original recipe here is the french onion toast, which is basically french onion soup that you eat with your hands. A friend also requested the recipe for the eggplant rolls. The tsatsiki, the papadams, and the phyllo-wrapped chorizo, well. The tsatsiki you've seen before here:
but instead of using 16 oz of sour cream I used a half cup of Greek yogurt, which surprisingly is available at Publix. Papadams are "Creepy Rabbit Brand" papadams, punjabi flavored, available at your local Indian (dot not feather) grocery.

Supposedly you deep fry them, but a couple of seconds under the broiler do a fine job delivering crisp, delicious papadam. Since they're made from chick pea flour, they're also great for folks watching their insulin sensitivity. When you're doing the broiler trick keep an eye on them. They go from brown to black incredibly fast, and when the Punjabi flavored ones burn they fill your house with pepper fumes.

Sausage in phyllo, well, maybe I'll cover that with a more genteel recipe. This one was pretty slapdash, just cooked chorizo bits in layers of phyllo pastry. When you eat one you can actually feel your gall bladder explode. It's nice.

French Onion Toast

Make your caramelized onions as per the recipe here:
but don't go on to make the soup. Take the caramlized onions, add 2 tsp Tone's beef soup base, and dissolve the beefy goop into the caramelized onions. On to the toasts. The toasts are baguette sliced thin, about .25", brushed with olive oil on both sides, placed on a cookie sheet, then baked in a 400 degree oven for fifteen minutes, until dark brown on the bottom. Top each of the toasts with a tablespoon of caramelized onion placed on the browned side. Why the brown side, you may ask? Well, because the onion mixture still has a lot of moisture, and we want to guarantee that our toasts stay crunchy and delicious even when pre-assembled hours before serving. Shred about 4 oz of Gruyère, sprinkle on onion toasts, and put under a hot broiler until the cheese is melted. I liked these things an awful lot.

Eggplant Rolls with Chicken and Chevre

Heat some olive oil in your handy dandy pressure cooker until almost smoking. Brown 2 14 oz chicken breasts in the oil, then add .25 cup balsamic vinegar and .5 cup white wine. Lid the vessel and cook on high pressure for 45 minutes. What we're doing here is basically turning the chicken into an easily shredded mass that will almost fall apart under its own weight. This texture is important when making a stuffing for something as delicate as eggplant. If the stuffing has chunkies that are too big or too jagged, they will tear right through the eggplant as you're rolling it.

While that chicken is softening, take 8 oz chevre and combine with .25 cups chopped walnuts, 2 heaping tbsp prepared chopped cooked bacon (bagged bacon bits are fine, but not the soya ones), 2 cloves crushed and minced garlic, 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, a sprig of rosemary minced fine, a tsp of liquid smoke, and 4 green onions sliced thin on the bias. When the chicken is done, shred it, then add to this mixture. Mix until it is a firm paste. If it does not have enough body, chop up some salad croutons fine and mix them in. They will absorb excess moisture.

Grab an eggplant and slice it lengthwise as thin as you're able to get nice full slices. No partial slices, though. I managed slices between .4 and .25 inches in thickness. Brush these slices with olive oil, place on a cookie sheet, and cook in a 400 degree oven for 4 minutes, until just soft. If they overcook you will have a hell of a time rolling them, but it's still possible. Just make sure to handle any overly soft slices by the flesh at the stem end, where there are fewer seed chambers. Grip a slice by the seedy end and it's good night gracie- the slice will just disintegrate.

Place 2 tbsp of stuffing at the seed end of a cooked eggplant slice. Shape the stuffing into a log shape, then roll it up in the eggplant. Chill in refrigerator for a couple of hours, or put them in the freezer for a bit. Once they're firm from cold, slice into, er, "bite size" pieces. They're still huge, but less embarrassing than trying to eat a whole roll. Serve with napkins.