Bonus Food Pics: Oktoberfest Eats

A few weekends back, the missus, the baby and I met up with a group of friends at the Bear Mountain Oktoberfest. My wife and I had gone about five years before with my parents on a visit and it was a pretty small-potatoes operations. We hadn’t been back since, so we were pretty surprised to discover it was a much better attended event nowadays. I’m sure that’s good for the parks system or whoever puts this thing on, but it’s not so good for attendees. See, the problem I had was that we wound up spending most of our time in line for beer and then food. The lines all snake through this large stone pavilion which is really nice, but not conducive to smooth line progression. But, hey, this is a food blog, who cares about lines, right? Well, the beer was absolutely worth waiting for. I went with a Wiesse beer, because that’s one of my all time favorites. I also decided to purchase the big ass mug, which I will admit taxed my arm and wrist as I carried it around, but on the plus side, it was a lot of beer without having to wait in a lot of lines and you can use them year after year. The food was another story. It’s not like they have legit German food vendors come in (as far as I can tell). I believe they just order in a bunch of bratwurste, knackwurste, pierogi and other dishes, heat them up and serve. The wurstes were good (can’t remember which I had and which my wife did, but I think I went with the knack), but the pierogis were clearly frozen, thawed out and then fried. I’ve had and actually made better, so I wasn’t super impressed with that.

So, next year, I think we’ll take our steins to get filled, but maybe bring our own food and a grill (or get one of the ones at the park) and make our own food. I bet I could scrounge up some better German sausage and other food around here and take them with us. But, I’m always down for some of that awesome German beer on tap!

I Kind Of Love The Idea Of Dance Cooking

For some reason, the only version of this Bounty commercial I could find online is in Spanish. I think you can get the idea as it plays here, though. Basically, these kids are dancing while cooking and make a huge mess. One of the aspects of cooking that I like so much is how fluid you can make it. I like to get myself well prepped ahead of time, so I know where everything is and can make the whole operation flow well. I’ve never been a line cook or anything, but I’ve read enough Anthony Bourdain to understand that a really good line of cooks and chefs and become as synchronized as a dance troupe. I’m sure they don’t make this big of a mess, though sometimes I do.

Inventing Beef & Black Bean Chili Omelets

One of my go-to ideas when it comes to leftovers is to turn whatever it is into an omelet. I love omelets and I think they’re super versatile and that’s without even getting into crepe territory, which I’m mostly unfamiliar with. Well, after making Bobby Flay’s Beef and Black Bean Chili last week, freezing some and eating some for lunch, I was looking for something new to do with it.

So, I ladled a few scoops of chili into a small pan just to heat it up. At the same time I heated some olive oil in a larger pan and cooked one clove of diced garlic. While both of those warmed, I whipped three eggs together and poured just a tiny bit of milk in there (I’m still figuring out these ratios, but the less the better). By this point, the chili was bubbling a little, so I took it off the heat. I then poured the eggs into the larger pan and let them cook for a minute or two.

Then I poured the warmed chili in there. I should have strained out more of the juice. All that liquid in there made things a little tricky. While the eggs cooked and the chili heated, I shredded some cheddar over it all. I let that cook for a few minutes, tried folding it over, but didn’t have luck until I put it on the plot. I topped it with a dollop of sour cream and was good to go! I gotta say, this was a pretty good little mash-up. I could see this working with pretty much any kind of chili and will hopefully used them when I start my restaurant/food truck called Nachos & Omelets (the two most versatile foods).

Cooking Beef and Black Bean Chili with Avocado Relish

I felt like chili last week because it’s been cold and rainy lately. So, I looked through the folder I have on my desktop filled with recipes, most of which are from the Food Network site. I stopped on the first one, which is Bobby Flay’s Beef and Black Bean Chili with Avocado Relish (the recipe also tells you how to make Toasted Cumin Crema, but I skipped that in favor of good, old fashioned sour cream). I’d made this recipe once before and, if memory serves, it turned out really spicy, though I didn’t remember that until much later. It called for pasilla chili which I didn’t have and didn’t buy, so I just went with ancho chili powder, cumin and a shake or two of cayenne. The only other change I made was not including the ancho chili paste because I don’t know what that is and therefore did not have any.

Before really getting started, I got all the spices together in a small bowl. I like to get as many things like this done ahead of time. I also chopped up the onion and garlic before getting to the beef. I made short work of two pounds of London broil, quickly turning it into cubes and popping them into a bowl. With everything ready, I put a stock pot–wasn’t sure if it would have fit in a Dutch oven, but it probably would have–got the oil warming and then dropped the cubes in.

Once the beef was browned and I sprinkled some salt and pepper in there (I should have done this earlier in the process, but it slipped my mind). I then drained out all of the grease and poured about three tablespoons back into the pot using a two cup measuring pourer. The onions and garlic went in next along with all the spices, which turned into a kind of roux. After the designated two minutes, I poured in the dark beer (we had a Saranac sampler pack in the house so I chose the Black Forest type) and continued the recipe as it’s written.

While the chili cooked, I put the Avocado Relish together which was super easy. You basically chop up some avocado (I had three, instead of the recommended two), red onion and the tiniest Jalapeno I could find and throw that into a bowl. Then I squeezed one and a half limes into the bowl, sprinkled some salt and pepper in, mixed and was done! My wife hates cilantro, so I skipped that.

I forgot to snap a picture of the bowl, but I also shredded some cheddar cheese and put out the sour cream. I’m not sure if people normally put sour cream on their chili, but I started doing it after going over to a party at my friend Jimmy’s parents’ house when I was a kid. They had a crock pot of chili going, cheese and some sour cream out along with all the other food, so I put it on top. I mentioned it to my parents and they’d never heard of it, so maybe I accidentally invented something, but I doubt it. This chili turned out to be pretty darn spicy, though not as bad as last time. The avocado relish and sour cream really cut down on the heat, which was nice. There was still a kick, but it wasn’t too overwhelming.

By the way, does anyone know about pasilla chili? Is it super-hot? I haven’t encountered other recipes with it, but I’m curious what flavors it adds. Thanks!

Bonus Food Pic: Chicken Schnitzel Applewood Smoked Bacon & Melted Brie

Olive’s Sour Kraut
118 Main Street
Nyack, NY 10960
(845) 358-3122

I remember three things about our meal from a few weekends back at Olive’s Sour Kraut, which is owned by the same woman who owns my favorite bar in Nyack, Olive’s. One, I got the sandwich with the longest name on the menu: Chicken Schnitzel Applewood Smoked Bacon & Melted Brie. Two, the beer was fantastic. And three, the sandwich made me wish I lived closer to Nyack so I could eat at this excellent, new German restaurant on a regular basis. The friends we ate with are no stranger to German food and really liked what they got, so there you go. If you’re in the area, check out Sour Kraut.

Cooking Salsa A Pomodoro (Pomodoro Sauce)

Sorry about the delays in posting recently. As my main source of income is writing about comic books and toys, I was down in the city for the New York Comic Con Thursday through Sunday, coming back only to sleep. Since the most interesting thing I ate was a burrito from a place in grand central station, I didn’t come away with much in the way of material for Monkeying Around The Kitchen. However, a few days before the convention, I did something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time now: making one of Francesco Ghedini’s Northern Italian Cooking sauce recipes from scratch. After swinging by a farm stand last week, I had a mix of red and yellow tomatoes and got cooking!

This old fashioned recipe called for four pounds of tomatoes to start off with. I discovered that that basically evened out to eight tomatoes, though I threw a few more in to use them up (I had about twice that number). I started off by boiling a big pot of water and dunking the tomatoes in there for a dozen seconds or so. Basically, the boiling splits the skin, which you need to take off for the sauce. This was hot work and a crying baby didn’t help matters, but I finished quick enough, got her back to sleep and went back to work.

Once the tomatoes were peeled, I quartered the tomatoes, squeezed out the seeds, juice and water, tossed them in a pair of colanders, salted and let dry out. I let them sit for the recommended 20 minutes, sometimes moving them around and squeezing a bit more to get some of the water out. I don’t know the science or intent behind all this, but I went with it. Anyone know?

Anyway, while those dried I chopped up prosciutto and onions (I was surprised that this recipe didn’t call for garlic). I had also measured out and set aside the thyme, bay leaf and flour called for. The onions, prosciutto, thyme and bay leaf went into a Dutch over with olive oil and I browned the onions. After those cooked, I stirred in some flour. At some point in the process, I went back and chopped the tomatoes bits up into even smaller chunks, put them in a strainer and let drain even more. After the flour was stirred in, the tomatoes went in and I cooked again with pepper and sugar. That cooked for 30 minutes.

As that cooked, I added some more water back to my stock pot, tossed in some salt and got the water boiling for pasta. I had gotten a veggie-infused short, ridgy pasta that wound up being a good choice because it really grabbed the sauce. After the 30 minute cook, I stirred in a tablespoon of butter, waited for the sauce to cook down and then poured into the Cuisinart. The sauce was kind of chunk and looked pretty orange, which reminded me of pumpkin, but tasted really fresh and good with nice salty and buttery notes.

It wasn’t even really that much work. I feel like this is the kind thing that takes less and less time the more and more you do it. I’ll hopefully be able to get my hands on some more tomatoes before the weather really turns. I’d like to get some of this, and maybe a few other recipes from the book, made and stored for those cold winter months.

Bonus Food Pic: Another Great Fiddlestix Sandwich

A couple Fridays back, my lovely wife had a flex day which meant she got home around 1. So, as the managing board of Dietsch Industries, we decided to head over to Fiddlestix to get some lunch. I can’t remember what this sandwich I got was called or what exactly was on it because it was one of their specials. It was a fantastic meal, as usual, but the real spotlight fell on the onion rings. Those were some great onion rings. Not sure what they used for batter, but it was different and really tasted awesome.

Bonus Food Pic: Woody’s Italian Burger

Woody’s All Natural
30 Quaker Ave
Cornwall, NY
(845) 534-1111

A few weekends back we hit up Woody’s, one of our favorite local burger joints, and I wound up trying their brand new Italian burger. If memory serves it was one of their regular burgers with homemade mozzarella, basil and tomato on it. Maybe roasted red peppers, too? I can’t quite remember. It was good, but the addition of some pesto mayo would have really brought the whole thing together!

Cooking MacGyver Meat Sauce

As I’ve mentioned this week and over on my photo diary blog The Monkee Diaries, my car’s been on the fritz lately. I finally got it to the mechanic, but it’s been rough getting meals together. I had some ingredients to work with throughout the week, but wound up with a pound of ground beef, pasta, an onion, garlic and a few other things around the house. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with these things, but then the idea hit me to whip up a meat sauce thanks to some V8 juice in the fridge!

That first picture has a few more things than I actually used while making the pasta. I wound up skipping the cumin and Chinese Five Spice that you can see in the background of the picture. I grabbed more than I needed before I really know what I was going to make. Anyway, I started off getting the water on the boil and then cooking the chopped onion and garlic in olive oil in a pan. Once those looked translucent, I dropped the ground beef in there and browned it. While the beef cooked, I added some Worcestershire¬† sauce. I’m not sure if that did anything, but it was in there! I also added salt, pepper and garlic powder.

After the meat was browned, I drained the grease into a cup into the sink. I got the pan back on the heat and poured a good deal of V8 juice in, probably a cup or two. I didn’t measure it up, but poured until there was a pretty good deal in there, enough to see. I wanted the sauce to be a little saucy and not turn into taco meat. I also mixed in a few liberal shakes of dried basil, parsley and oregano to add some more Italian elements. While that was heating up, I looked over and saw the bottle of Pinot Noir I had on my counter and poured a tablespoon or two of that in. This really helped bring the sauce together. It tasted pretty good before, but with that in there it reminded me of the meat sauce my mom used to make before she became a vegetarian. It definitely classed things up a bit.

I have to say, I’m pretty proud of myself for cobbling this meal together. I’ve been following recipes for a while now, so it was nice to know that I’ve got some good instincts when it came to flavor and seasoning. Plus, it tasted pretty dang good!

Restaurant Review: San Vito Pizzeria & Restaurant

San Vito Pizzeria & Restaurant
359 Windsor Highway
New Windsor, NY 12553
(845) 561-5211

When my wife and I first moved to New Windsor, NY we didn’t know much about the restaurants in the area, but soon found a favorite Italian place called Napoli’s. The folks who owned Napoli’s owned a diner-type place down the road called Gloria’s, but around a year or so ago, they combined and are doing great. Where Napoli’s used to be another Italian restaurant called San Vito moved in. We’ve only been there a couple times, but after our trip there last Sunday, I think we’ll be going back on a more regular basis.

The restaurant itself is a nice, big open room that’s separated by a small half-wall with a warm feeling. I think only two people were working that night and we were one of five or six tables, but everyone there seemed to be really enjoying themselves. Neither of us were feeling like pizza, which we had last time we ate there, so we went with pasta dishes. I decided on the Potato Gnocchi Vodka because I’ve had and liked gnocchi before and am also a big fan of Penne Alla Vodka, which my wife wound up getting.

It was the best gnocchi I’ve ever had and one of the top vodka sauces around. It was so buttery and creamy and had that essence of vodka. I tried explaining it to my wife the next day when I had the leftovers, I didn’t taste the liquor part of vodka, but whatever’s left over after that’s gone. By the way, the leftovers were even a little better. The flavors had time to mature and really tasted amazing.

So, I highly recommend checking out San Vito if you’re in the area. I still love Napoli’s and we’re still going to go there as well as all the other pizza places we frequent that have great pies, pasta and sandwiches, but it’s nice to have another option with such great eats.