Gina and I used to hang out at the La Fiesta on Hwy 61 with some old friends on Fridays. We would drink, eat, laugh like idiots, and just have a good time. The tornado hit La Fiesta a few years ago, friends have moved away, and Mr. Vicente no longer makes the best Sangria in town (now that's a recipe I want) and as Gina and I are emailing as we do on Fridays, I mentioned how I've been kind of bored with the same old routine and how much I missed the "Old Days". One phone call leads to another and all of a a sudden we're invited to our good friends Troy and Russells house (you will remember them from the post Backlash and the Invincible Drunk). Off to Farmers Cupboard...again... I go to get some Chicken Sausage, Sweet Italian Sausage, Kalamata Olives, Green Olives, and a few other things not counting the stop I made there only a few hours earlier. The Spontaneous Dinner Party was on and here were my contributions.
Sausage Calabrese Skewers
1 lb Chicken Sausage
1 lb Sweet Italian Sausage
Handful of Kalamata Olives
Handful of Green Olives
Red Pepper Flakes
Dried Basil Flakes
Fry sausage as one normally would until done. Place in the fridge until cool. This is important as the sausage will not cut properly until the proteins can cool and bind. Also, save the pan you used to fry as the drippings will be used in a minute.
When the sausage is cool, cut into medallions about 1/2 inch thick. For the chicken sausage, alternate sausage and Kalamata Olives on a skewer until there are 4 of each on a skewer. For the sweet Italian sausage do the same with he green olives until there are 4 of each on a skewer. Grill until the olives are wilted and the sausage has some nice brown grill marks on it. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and dried basil as a finish.
**I just want to throw a word of caution in here: If you have friends that invite you over to hang with their friends and their friends decide that Lemon Drops will be mixed by the quart, be very careful of where you tread. Again, I'm just stating something here.**
So I talked to the Butcher at Farmers Cupboard, as mentioned, and asked that he call me when he got in some Chuck Eye Steaks. If you read over a few of my past posts, you'll see that Chuck Eye Steaks rank way above Ribeye's in my book. They are a tender, marbled, and lovely cut of steak that costs half what a Ribeye does, its just as tender, and the really groovy part is that no one is paying attention to this cut yet as they are caught up in names and what other people say they should eat. It's really easy to get your hands on them if you just ask.
Anyway, here's what I decided to do with them.
Bombastic Balsamic Steak
2 lbs. thick cut Chuck Eye Steaks (2 steaks, about 1 lb each) Cubed
1 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 cup Organic Cane Juice Sugar
1 tsp fresh ground Black Pepper
1/2 tsp granulated Garlic
12 strips high quality Bacon
Salt, Pepper, Granulated Garlic for Steak Seasoning
Sausage drippings from before
Start by deglazing the sausage pan with a bit of water and boiling that down to a thick, sausage flavored mass that is just thin enough to pour. Add the vinegar and reduce by half (reduce to 1/2 half cup). Add sugar, pepper, and garlic and simmer until the flavors combine. Fry off bacon until crisp and throw everything into a blender and puree until a fine, bacon flavored, sweet, Balsamic glaze is created.
Cut steak into 2" cubes and season with salt, pepper, and granulated garlic and let sit for just a few minutes to season. Over medium coals, grill steak cubes to rare and immediately toss in the Balsamic mixture and return to the grill to set the flavors. If there is any left over, coat it again and repeat until you reach a nice, medium rare finish on the steaks.
Getting Over It.
Yeah, so we decided to stay a little later than planned at out friends house and there were...maybe...one too many Lemon Drop Shots to be enjoyed. It's cool. I'll just set my alarm for "Way Early", get up, and make everything happen......Yeah, Right.
The alarm goes off at 5:45am and I hit the "Go to Hell" button and what seemed like a few seconds later, Gina tells me it's 7:00am and for the first time in my life, I don't freak out, I get up, and proceed as if nothing is wrong...which, of course, it is because I'm behind schedule.
|Paul and Terra Feather. Cotton Mill Farmers Market Managers|
After this, I have to admit, things ran almost like clockwork. Since this was my last scheduled event for the year, I wanted to make a show of it by inviting a few friends out to play guitars and sing for the Market crowd. Unfortunately, one cancelled and the other was late, but it's all good. Terra Feather, who runs the Cotton Mill Farmers Market, invited a Bluegrass quartet out and they took over after a while. Market friends all around, music in the air, fresh vegetables in abundance....and 5 pounds of dead animal just for me. I'd like to say I was spontaneous, but I had been planning this for weeks.
I have to open by saying that I enlisted the help of Shonna from Fire & Iron Bakery in Rockmart, GA for the pitas. She whipped up 30 Pocket Pitas and did them for me at cost. I also need to mention that this event was planned around the West Georgia Locavore Challenge, which I have talked about all month. The aim was to have everything possible come from with 50 miles of Carollton, GA. With the exception of the wheat for the pitas and the spices in the meat, we did just that. The names are mentioned with the ingredients.
3 lbs Grass fed Ground Beef (Dennis Farm of Alabama)
2 lbs. Lean, Local Lamb (Mugg Family Farm)
1 tsp each of the following:
1-2 tsp Sea Salt
Whats in the meat mixture is less important that how you process it. This is one of the few recipes I will post where I'll say to remove as much fat as possible. This is about the proteins and their ability to bind to one another.
|Picture courtesy of Whole Grains & More|
Now, there are two methods you can use: The first is to bake the loaf in a water bath for about 30 minutes at 350 until the loaf sets. Or, you can VERY GENTLY heat the loaf pan on a stove top burner until the same thing happens. Either way, once the loaf has set, place in a non stick pan and over medium low heat, continue to cook for about 15 minutes per side. Also, you will want to place some form of weight on the loaf as it cooks to help get excess liquids out and to help it maintain its shape. I used the loaf pan with a few heavy, ceramic dishes placed in it.
When fully cooked, wrap in foil and place in the fridge for about an hour or until its cooled almost completely. This is going to allow the proteins to bind together making a loaf that will be easily sliced, which is exactly what you're after. Using a meat slicer (I am lucky enough to have one) or a very sharp knife, slice as thin as possible. Serve on a warm pita with thinly sliced Red Onions, Tomatoes, Feta Cheese, and.......
So simple, I'm almost ashamed to post it. However, you can't have Gyros without Tzatziki.
2 cups Plain Greek Yogurt (Atlanta Yogurt Company)
1/4 cup finely diced Cucumbers (The Garry Farm, Bowden, GA)
2 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
1 tsp finely chopped Fresh Mint (Crager/Hager Farm)
1/2 tsp fresh Cracked Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
Mix all ingredients and let stand for about an hour before serving. That's all there is to it.
A quick word about Yogurt: Greek Style is all the rage right now because its thicker than standard yogurt and for the Tzatziki Sauce, you want thick yogurt as the cucumbers and the vinegar are going to thin it out a bit. If Greek Style isn't available or you happen to have regular yogurt around, tie a cheese cloth over a large container, pour yogurt in the cloth, cover, and let stand overnight. This will drain a good bit of the liquid away, leaving a nice, thick yogurt for sauce.
I returned home, exhausted, and took a quick nap. As always, I woke up thinking of what I had in the kitchen. As always happens, when someone does any cooking for the Cotton Mill Farmers Market, the vendors are very generous and they always give me plenty of good things.
Having fresh tomatoes, green and red peppers, and a few other things around including a fresh quantity of Merlot, I decided that after 25 years of living without my Grandmothers Chili Sauce, it was time to get to work. Base recipe in my head, the smells and tastes of what I remember, and five hours of constantly stirring this delicate yet bold mixture rewarded me with a Chili Sauce that is almost, if not entirely, perfect in its portrayal of what Grandma used to make. If you want that recipe, get a handful of friends, some large sticks and pipes, and a team of wild horses...because there's no way in Hell this recipe leaves me without a fight.
Today, I will relax, write some more, and have a hot dog topped with the only thing a hot dog needs. Maybe I'll have more wine too.
Party Well, Eat Better