Monday, April 30, 2012

Quick Fix: Cilantro Pesto

Cilantro Pesto & Camembert 
Today's Quick Fix is a lovely little app from MiddleBar's favorite guest Chef Rachel. This Cilantro and almond pesto is a nice change from the traditional pine nut and basil variety.  She serves it with a creamy Camembert and sliced baguette. It makes a wonderful accompaniment to a crisp white wine. Choose something like the 2010 Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio that has a lemon-lime nose and light peach citrus flavor. Thanks Chef Rachel!

Cilantro Pesto
1 large bunch cilantro, leaves only 9about 2 cups packed
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 tsp chopped and seeded serrano chili
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 lime (juiced)
salt & pepper

Add cilantro leaves, chili, onion, s&p, and almonds in food processor and begin to blend. Slowly add  the olive oil and lime juice until the mixture is a nice creamy consistency. Remove from the food processor and serve.

Enjoy Ya'll!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Louisiana's Bicentennial Video Spotlight: The Coktail a la Louisiane

Louisiana is celebrating it's 200th year of Statehood this week and to honor my home state's bicentennial birthday I thought I would celebrate with a classic cocktail named after Her.
The Cocktail a la Louisiane

Click here to watch the cocktail being made! 

The land that eventually became the Bayou State was discovered in the early 1500s by a group of Spanish explorers. No one took much interest in the area until 200 years later when the French began their quest for religious and commercial outposts throughout the Americas. The territory surrounding the mouth of the Mississippi traded hands between the French & Spanish for the next 100 years until it was finally purchased by the US of A and became the State of Louisiana April 30th, 1812.

Today's Quick Fix pays tribute to Louisiana's French heritage with a drink rooted deep in French culture. Stanley Clisby Arthur Famous New Orleans Drinks & How To Mix 'Em describes this cocktail as:

"This is the special cocktail served at the Restaurant de la Louisiane, one of the famous French restaurants of New Orleans, long the rendexvous of those who appreciate the best in Creole cuisine. La Louisiane cocktail is as out-of-the-ordinary as the many distinctive dishes that grace its menu." 
The Restaurant de la Louisiane

Cocktail a la Louisiane
3/4 oz Sazerac Rye
3/4 oz Sweet Vermouth
3/4 oz Benedictine
2 sprays of Herbsaint
3 dashes of Peychaud's Bitters

Cheers to 200 years ya'll!

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Reinheitsgebot Anniversary: Top 5 Brews

Reinheitsgebot. (God bless you)

Beer enthusiasts love to throw this fancy term Reinheitsgebot around like it's their secret code. As an average beer drinker I did some studying and now I can impress my beer snobby friends, and so can you. Reinheitsgebot (rine-HITES-ga-bote) or the "German Purity Law" was passed by the Bavarian Prince William IV on April 23, 1516. This interesting law officially limited beer brewed in Bavaria to 3 ingredients, water, hops and barley (yeast had yet to be discovered).  This brewing rule protected beer consumers from ingesting adverse ingredients like soot, mushrooms and animal parts (ewww). It also reserved grains such as rye and wheat for bread making.

Reinheitsgebot was a necessity for the Bavarian drinkers 496 years ago and even though no one is using dangerous adjuncts in their brews today, many breweries still offer a pure German style beverage.  Save your Belgians, fruit, wheat, and corn brews for tomorrow and here on April 23rd, imbibe one of the following that still follow the letter of the Reinheitsgebot law.

1.) Sierra Nevada Summerfest: 
The California brewery north of wine country doesn't only carry their signature  Pale Ale. Summerfest is a great beer to try this summer.

Look: Pale yellow color with a thick white head.
Aroma: Grassy and earthy with a touch of citrus.
Flavor: Crisp and clean with Bitter hoppy taste that will get ya. It finishes dry but leaves a bready aftertaste.

2.) Samuel Adams Boston Lager:
Massachusetts born and raised, Sam Adams is known as the beer that started the American Craft Brewing revolution.

Look: Deep clear amber with a offwhite frothy head.
Aroma: Caramel, spicy and hoppy lager.
Flavor: Sweet and crisp with some bitter hopps, it tastes like Sam Adams!

3.) Deschutes Twilight Ale:
Bend, Oregon's beautiful brewery on the banks of the Deschutes river.
"We exist to profitably deliver the finest beers in the world and cultivate extraordinary experiences" -Deschutes

Look: Honey yellow orange amber color, slightly hazy.
Aroma: Mild citrus with a hint of caramel.
Flavor:Orange and lemon flavors and super easy drinking, perfect for warm evenings.

4.) Abita Turbodog:
MiddleBar's favorite Louisiana brewery salutes the Reinheitsgebot with this dark brown ale.

Look: Dark brown with a beige head.
Aroma: Chocolate, roasted malts and coffee with the faint smell of hops.
Flavor: Sweet chocolate toffee perfect for cooling down your mouth after spicy foods.

5.) Gordon Biersch Dunkelweizen:
All of Gordon Biersch's brews are German Pure. And nothing goes better with those garlic french fries.

Look: Deep amber a bit cloudy with an off white head.
Aroma: Caramel, clove, yeast and even a hint of fruit.
Flavor: Strong yeast, roasted malt and a bit of banana. The sweetness creates a nice aftertaste.

What is your favorite Reinheitsgebot brew?
Let me know Ya'll!

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Munchies: Fig & Prosciutto Pizza

This post is strictly written tongue-in-cheek and should be taken as such. MiddleBar does not condone or encourage the use of any illegal drugs. 

MiddleBar Fig & Prosciutto Pizza
It's April 20th, aka 4/20 and college students everywhere are joining the 1960s counter culture by gathering at Hippie Hill in San Francisco to celebrate the herb Marijuana. The term "420" was coined in by a group of California high school students in the 1970s as the secret code for the time (4:20) after school that they would meet and enjoy their mind altering high. This code has been adopted by those who participate in smoking "Mary Jane" and today's date is celebrated around the globe as a world wide "holiday." (Seriously celebrated around the world, it's crazy!! Who knew??!) Today's recipe is tailor made for those suffering from a fabled humorous side effect of partaking in Marijuana smoking, the munchies.

Fig & Prosciutto Pizza
1 lb fresh store bought pizza dough (if you want to get fancy, click here for Mario Batali's recipe)
2 tbs cornmeal for sprinkling
8 oz gorgonzola cheese (about 2 cups)
8-10 fresh figs (sliced longways)
8-10 slices of thin sliced prosciutto
2 cups arugula (I don't like arugula so I use mixed greens)
2ish tablespoons fig balsamic vinegar
2ish tablespoons good olive oil
salt & pepper
pizza stone (not necessary but recommended)

Preheat oven to 450 with pizza stone inside. Roll out your pizza dough to your desired thickness (keeping in mind that your dough will grow in thickness as it cooks). Place your figs in a bowl and toss with a tablespoon of vinegar and sprinkle with salt and pepper then set aside. When heated, remove stone from the oven, sprinkle liberally with cornmeal and carefully place the dough on the stone. Brush your dough with olive oil and sprinkle with gorgonzola. Place pizza in oven for about 15 minutes until the dough is nearly brown and the cheese is melted.

Quickly remove the pizza from the oven and shut the oven door. Layer the prosciutto and figs onto the pizza and return the pizza to the oven. Cook for 2-5 minutes until the figs are warm through and the prosciutto is nearly crispy. Remove from oven. Toss greens in the remaining olive oil, place atop the pizza, and drizzle with remaining fig balsamic vinegar.

This is a delicious pizza that will satisfy whether you have the munchies or not!

Enjoy the fabled 4/20 Ya'll!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Crawfish Tarragon Omelet

Good Morning! Crawfish Tarragon Omelet
Last weekend was another boil here in LA and it was (as always) delicious. I've gotten a few questions as to how we go about getting our lively little mudbugs from the swamps of South Louisiana all the way out here to the sunny West Coast. The answer is simple. The Internet!  And a little help from the Louisiana Crawfish Co.

The state of Louisiana supplies 98% of the crawfish harvested in the United States and I'd be willing to bet that about 75% of that harvest is eaten locally by hungry New Orleanians. The "season" is from March till June for the best tasting and easy peeling critters. The Crawfish Co. ships the crawfish fresh and live, overnight straight to your front door in whatever city or country you're living in.

After each boil, I've been snagging a few peeled crawfish to make some delicious crawfish recipes and today's recipe is the Tarragon Crawfish Omelet. There is no better fog lifter the morning after drinking Abita and peeling crawfish all day quite like a cheesy egg omelet. The addition of tarragon to this dish adds anise sweetness to the spiciness of the crawfish and pairs well with the lemon, garlic flavors inherent to crawfish after they have been boiled.

1/4 cup boiled crawfish tails
2 tsp grated cheddar cheese
2 eggs & 1 egg white
1 tsp chopped tarragon
salt & pepper
1 tbl milk

Heat a non stick pan with a bit of butter (or bacon grease) over a medium flame. In a bowl add eggs, salt, pepper, tarragon and milk and whisk well. Add the mixture to the pan and cook for 1 minute then add the cheddar and crawfish (reserving 3-4 for garnish). Cook for 1-2 more minutes until the egg is nearly cooked. Carefully flip one side of the omelet over on the other cook for just a tiny bit more and remove from heat. Garnish with crawfish and tarragon.

Serve this dish with some Southern Comfort Grit Cakes and a Bloody Mary and enjoy your mornin' Ya'll!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Quick Fix: The Ginger Caipirinha

Ginger Caipirinha
Summer is already here in Southern California (it's pretty much always summer but you get the idea). And it's time to break out the tanks and flip flops which means it's also time for the summertime beverages. This summer MiddleBar is headed to South America and offering you some cocktails from below the equator.

Our first stop is in Brazil for their national cocktail the Caipirinha. Brazil's most common distilled beverage is Cachaca, a sugarcane based distillate like it's cousin rum. Cachaca is pretty easy to find in any Bevmo and some grocery stores will even carry a brand called Leblon (see below).

The Caipirinha is basically a cross between the margarita and a mojito so it makes a perfect summer beverage. Having a summer party and looking for something a little exotic? This is definitely the drink to try.

2 oz Brazilian cachaca
1 lime (quartered)
4 slivers of fresh ginger
3/4 oz demerara syrup (or 2 tsp sugar in the raw)

In a mixing glass strongly muddle the limes, ginger and sugar until the limes have fully imparted all of their juice. Add cachaca and ice and give the drink a little shake. Pour the whole thing (limes and all) into a rocks glass and garnish with a piece of candied ginger.

Welcome to Summer Ya'll
Look for this bottle :)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter Leftovers Ponchatoula Style

Chocolate & Ginger Covered Strawberries
Did you know that each State in the Union has it's own State Fruit? Because I did not. So I'm excited to share this newfound knowledge and let you know that Louisiana's State Fruit happens to be the strawberry. And there is no place in the South more famous for strawberries than Ponchatoula, Louisiana!

Ponchatoula is a small town of about 5000 located half way between Baton Rouge and New Orleans that consideres itself "The Strawberry Capital Of The World." Now, that may not be an actual fact but that's what I was taught growing up so I'm sticking to it. In celebration of their worldly strawberry status each year the city hosts the annual Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival.

For the last 41 years the locals have celebrated the strawberry and the folks who cultivate and sell Louisiana's state fruit with a festival, a King and Queen, and of course a parade. The festival is this coming weekend April 13-15 and is FREE!! If you're anywhere near South Louisiana this weekend, this is an event you should definitely check out. If you're from New Orleans you really have no excuse because the drive takes 45 minutes people.

Since Easter just passed over (see how I did that...) chances are that you're going to have some leftover chocolate Easter bunnies lying around. Americans spend $1.9 Billion on Easter candy each year (just shy of the $2 billion mark on Halloween) so lets put that chocolate to good use. Nothing goes better with some Ponchatoula strawberries than some classic milk chocolate.

1 pint of strawberries
1-2 large chocolate bunnies
1/8 tsp of ginger powder (a couple of pinches)

Chop the chocolate and slowly melt in a double boiler. Do not walk away from this chocolate because it begins to melt pretty quickly. Once the chocolate is nearly melted, turn off the heat and continue to stir. Twirl the strawberries in the melted chocolate and voila!

Enjoy Ya'll!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Easter Fix: The Souffle

"The measure of achievement is not winning awards. It's doing something that you appreciate, something you believe is worthwhile. I think of my strawberry souffle. I did that at least twenty-eight times before I finally conquered it." 
                                      -Julia Child

They may be hard boiled and colored, Faberge, chocolate, or plastic on the White House lawn, the egg is very popular this weekend. In honor of Easter I thought I would give you my favorite egg dish, Souffle. Now, don't stop reading at souffle thinking that it's a dish to "advanced" for the home chef. I always thought souffle was reserved for fine dining establishments and students of Le Cordon Bleu. But recently I found out that souffle isn't as challenging as Julia Child told us that it was.

Souffle is made by incorporating two parts, a creme patissiere (a sweet or savory cream sauce) with a meringue. The patissiere provides the flavor base and the meringue applies the lift. The dish appears to "blow up" or in French, souffler. Since this was our first foray into souffle, we decided to follow the recipe to the tee. This is not an original MiddleBar creation, but I'm sharing it because it's wonderful. Be brave fellow chefs and give it a try! If it falls, no one's watching but when it doesn't, it's unbelievably rewarding.

3 tbsp butter (room temp)
4 egg yolks (room temp)
1/2 cup grated Cheddar
1 package spinach (defrosted and pressed dry)
5 egg whites (room temp)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
3 tbsp flour
1 cup scalded milk
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cream of tarter
pinch cayenne
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Butter the inside of a large ramekin (6.5-7.5 diameter) and sprinkle evenly with Parmesan. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir in the flour (you're making a roux which you know how to do now!) Off the heat, whisk in hot milk, nutmeg, cayenne, salt and pepper. Cook over low heat whisking until smooth and thick. Remove from heat and one at a time slowly whisk in egg yolks being careful not to scramble. Stir in Cheddar and Parmesan and transfer to a mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites, cream of tartar and salt for 1 minute on low, increasing to 1 minute on medium then on high until they form firm, glossy peaks.

Whisk in 1/4 of the egg whites into the cheese spinach sauce and then carefully fold in the rest. Carefully add to the souffle dish and smooth the top. Draw a large circle on top with the spatula to help it rise evenly and place in the middle of the oven. Immediately drop the temperature to 375, bake for 30-35 minutes until puffed and brown. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN TO CHECK ON IT!!!! Gently remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Happy Easter Ya'll!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Abita Abbey Ale Marinade

There are so many things that I want to tell you about beer. The history of brewing in New Orleans, monastic brewing in the abbeys of the Middle Ages, and the renewal of brewing in Louisiana brought about by new local craft breweries. But today I'll just be concentrating on the brewing traditions that inspired Abita Brewery's Abbey Ale.

Beer has a long history dating back thousands of years to Ancient Egypt. By the Middle Ages, brewing was already a few thousand years old and took place predominately in private homes or monastic abbeys. The monastic tradition of living by the work of one's hands led to a long history of selling products like bread, cheese, clothing and ale aka "liquid bread" to support the monastery.

Monastic style ales are known for their distinct flavor and high quality. Abita's Abbey Ale is a "Dubbel" or double ale with a dark hue and caramel flavor. Abita recommends pairing this beer "with barbecue, meat stews or a nice thick steak." In this recipe I did just that.

Abita Ale Marinade
1 1/2 tbs brown sugar
1/2 tbs worcestershire
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 tsp whole grain mustard
1/2 cup Abita Abbey Ale

Ribeye Steak with Ale Marinade Glaze
Liberally salt & pepper your favorite cut of beef, place in a plastic bag and marinate for 1-2 hours. Grill meat to your liking and in a small sauce pan boil to reduce the marinade to glaze consistency. Drizzle over your steak and enjoy.

Make sure you pick up more than one bottle one for marinading and one for drinking with your fantastic steak creation, and 25 cents will go directly to support St. Joseph's Abbey in Covington, LA. 

Enjoy Ya'll!

Monday, April 2, 2012

We Can Pickle That!

MiddleBar Pickle Of The Month
"On a hot day in Virginia, I know nothing more comforting than a fine spiced pickle..." Thomas Jefferson 

Take it from our 3rd President, whether it's cucumbers, onions, dill or kosher everyone loves a pickle. Today marks the beginning of a new monthly segment, Pickle of the Month. Each month I will showcase one new pickle recipe. Get it? Now don't worry, if you try these recipes you won't be canning. Because that's a whole process which requires directions, time, and precision. These are "quickles."  All you'll need is some vinegar, a few spices, a jar, and a refrigerator.

This month, we're trying Juniper pickled onions because one of my favorite pickled items is the cocktail onion. As a kid my cousins and I would rush to Ma's fridge during lunch time to grab the jars of pickles, olives, and onions. It was a staple with our sandwiches to have these little tangy delights. The cocktail onion was especially a treat because it was far less common than a pickle or an olive and packed a unique puckering punch.

Juniper Pickled Onions
The cocktail onion is the  famous garnish for a gin Gibson. A Gibson is nothing more than a Martini and the garnish (olive or onion) is the only is the only thing that separates the two. With that in mind, this onion recipe utilizing juniper is tailor made for the perfect gin Gibson.


The bittersweet juniper with sweet smell of rosebuds is an unbelievable combination. When I first came up with this recipe I wasn't quite sure how it would actually turn out but the flavors are amazing. This recipe can be done with small pearl onions rather than the rustic slices. (Pearl onions will take much longer to brine.) Plus, these onions are so good you want your guests to know that you made them!

Pickle Ya'll!