Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cheers London, Ola Rio!

I love the Olympics.  For 17 days, every 2 years, I watch everything the Olympics has to offer.  This weekend I was watching wrestling.  I would never watch wrestling, but the American was in the bronze medal match and it was super exciting.

Before the Opening Ceremonies, life was a bit busy, so I didn’t get it together enough to do a dinner.  But I had one on Sunday for the Closing Ceremonies and I think that may be better because we got to celebrate both cultures.  I made a mix of British food and Brazilian food (since they are hosting 2016).

This was the menu:
-          Bangers and Smashed Sticks
-          Salt and Vinegar crisps
-          Cheese tray with 2 British cheeses, 1 Spanish cheese (since I couldn’t find anything from Brazil or Portugal), and a British Jam

Main dishes:
-          Cheese Rolls
-          Brazilian Style Chicken And Rice Pot
-          Collard Greens

-          Jaffa Cakes
-          Brazilian Sweet Corn Pudding

I think I was most excited about the bangers and smashed sticks.  I wanted an appetizer that drew from British cuisine and I came up with this one because of this recipe.  I thought I would make those potatoes and skewer a piece of sausage to it and then drizzle the whole thing with onion gravy.

- I went with small Yukon golds, but I think I would maybe try a slightly smaller potato next time – maybe even the colorful fingerlings.  And fry them off a little longer.
- The onion gravy recipe needed more salt and cornstarch
- German smoked sausage was a good choice

Bangers and Smashed Sticks
8 Baby Yukon Gold Potatoes, each 1 to 2 inches each in diameter
Sea Salt, to taste
1 Fresh Rosemary Sprig
2 Tbs. Unsalted Butter
Freshly Ground Pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp Fresh Thyme, chopped
2 tsp Fresh Flat-Leaf Parsley, chopped
1 package German Sweet Smoked Sausage, chopped into 1 inch pieces on a diagonal
Onion Gravy
1 medium Onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp Canola Oil
1 Tbsp Butter
1/2 tsp Sugar
1/2 tsp Balsamic Vinegar
350 ml Beef Broth
2 tsp Cornstarch
2 tsp Cold Water
Salt And Pepper

Put the potatoes in a large pot and add water to cover by 3 inches. Season the water with salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to medium/low and simmer until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes. Drain well in a colander. Transfer the potatoes to a towel-lined baking
sheet and let cool. Using hand, carefully smash each potato to about 1/2-inch thickness.

Meanwhile, for the gravy, melt the oil and butter in a large saucepan over a gentle heat. Add the onion and cover with a lid. Cook slowly for approx 10 mins or until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the sugar and balsamic vinegar to the onions and stir well. Cover with the lid and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the stock and boil gently uncovered for 5 minutes. In a heatproof jug or bowl mix the cornstarch/flour with the cold water to a thin paste. Pour a little of the hot gravy into the starch mixture and mix thoroughly. Pour the starch mixture back into the gravy, raise the heat to high and boil for 10 minutes or until the gravy is slightly thickened. Keep warm until ready to serve.

In a square stainless-steel griddle pan over medium-high heat, fry off the sausage pieces - about 3-5 mins per side depending on how crispy you want them. Removed the sausages and place on paper towel to drain. Add the rosemary sprig to the pan and fry in sausage fat until crispy, about 1
minute. Working in batches and adding more olive oil to the griddle pan as needed, sear the smashed potatoes, turning once, until well browned and crispy, about 3 minutes per side; Transfer the potatoes to the rack-lined baking sheet and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, place potatoes on plate, place piece of sausage on top, skewer with toothpick or broken bamboo skewer (recommended). Drizzle gravy over each appetizer and sprinkle with thyme and parsley. Serve immediately. Serves 8.

The main dishes were all Brazilian inspired.  After some research, it was clear the cheese rolls were a must.  I found this recipe, which was ridiculously easy!  They end up very much like a little cheesy popover which is evil because it’s so easy to inhale several of them without even realizing it.  Our gathering was only 4 people and I made 24 mini-rolls and 5 “cupcake” size rolls and at the end of the night, I had 4 minis left.

Elena over at Eat Cake and Lose Weight has a Brazilian relative and he recommended Chicken with Lemon.  After some searching, I found this recipe.  It’s not chicken with lemon, but it sounded so delicious.  It was very easy to make and the flavors are pretty fantastic.  However, my chicken was dry again.  Not sure if it was because I browned it too long before adding the liquid, or maybe I’m just not buying the best chicken.  I have had the best experiences with meat from Whole Foods, so I think I’m going to try buying my meat from them only.
Also, the recipe calls for a Sozan Goya spice packet, but I didn’t want to buy a pre-mixed packet so I made my own based on some research.

Spice mix
1 Tbsp Salt
1 Tbsp Pepper
1 Tbsp Garlic Powder
1 Tbsp Ground Coriander
1 Tbsp Oregano
1 Tbsp Paprika

I also wanted a side dish and I noticed that sauteed collard greens (Couve a Mineira) is a popular Brazilian dish.  I’m a little in love with collard greens right now, so I wanted to try that.  This is the recipe I used and again, super easy.  It didn’t say what type of beer to use though.  We looked for a Brazilian beer, but couldn’t find anything so we went with a British beer that, in the end, wasn’t malty enough.  The collard greens are so bitter, we needed something to counteract that and bring some sweetness.  Also, I think I would cook it a bit less - but that may be just me - I like some crunch to my greens.

For dessert I bought some Jaffa Cakes because they are delish!!  And I made a sweet corn pudding.  I LOVE sweet corn.  In all forms - cob, creamed, blanched, sauteed with butter, all of it - it’s just so good.  So when I saw that sweet corn pudding was a popular dessert I was so excited!  I went with this recipe.  I did run into some issues though.  Everything seemed fine until I started cooking it.  I cooked it and cooked it and it wasn’t getting and thicker.  But none of the recipes I found called for cornstarch, because, well it’s corn - it’s already starchy.  So I didn’t want to add it for fear I would mess it up.  I decided just to put it in the fridge and hoped it would set.  In the morning though, it was still soupy.  I was still rejecting the cornstarch idea though and I decided to whip some cream and mix that in to try to make a mousse.  No go.  Let me say - it was super tasty, but just soupy.  Finally I put everything back on the stove and added 4 Tbsp cornstarch.  Worked perfectly!  It thickened almost immediately.  I put it in the fridge and once it was set I added it to parfait glasses and alternated with the whipped cream I had made.  Then topped with cinnamon.  It was so yummy!!  You do have to really like corn, because it is very corny, but mmm mmm good.
Some notes - trust my instincts; I should’ve just added cornstarch immediately.  And next time, really get more of the cob and pulp because I think that’s where more starch resides.

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