Sushi = Happiness

“The fondest memories are made in the kitchen.”

I’d like to apologize for neglecting my blog this past week, and for not posting anything sushi-related in a while. I promise there is reason for that.  Right now, as I am transitioning to a new place in life, everything is a little hectic and displaced. I had job interviews and meetings all week which all seemed promising.

As I get ready to move, I reflect back on the fond food memories I’ve had here for the last 4 years, and there is one in particular that sticks out.

Bowling Green is a college town. It is not exactly a foodie town, though there are a few gems known to the locals. While Myles Pizza is quite possibly the best pizza I have ever had,  South Side 6 is the most surprising food location (with amazing gyros) that I’ve ever seen, and Cookie Jar is just plain heaven, my fondest food memory actually stems from a dish that I made in our little dumpy kitchen over a year ago.

I don’t normally like to toot my own horn, but these lamb chops were the best that I ever ate, and probably will ever eat. It was actually the first time I have ever tried to cook lamb chops, and have since tried to re-create them several times, all without being as successful. My roommate and I experienced about 6 food-gasms that night. Out loud. And our mouths got fatigued from how good it tasted.

As I am getting ready to say bye-bye to BG, I wanted to re-create those lovely little chops with a little more finesse. When I originally made these, I made a creamy, rich sunchoke puree to go with them. Sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem artichokes, are little tubers similar to potatoes, but with a bright nutty flavor. This time I used them in a puree that serves as a sauce, and chose Israeli pearl couscous as the starch instead, which pairs beautifully with lamb.

The first thing I do is roast 2 heads of garlic. I cut off the tops, drizzle with olive oil, add salt and pepper, wrap in tin foil, and roast at 350 degrees for at least 15 minutes. I also roast the sunchokes at this time. You can peel them before or after. I like to peel them before because it’s less messy, but it’s also a little more work since they are small in size. Come to think of it, since the sauce was pureed, you could probably just leave the skins on and strain them out of the sauce.

After the garlic is cool enough to handle, I make a paste in a mortar and pestle with salt and butter. I use this to baste the lamb throughout the cooking process, but do not use all of it for this purpose. The cooking is best suited to a grill, but since I don’t have one, I just use a cast iron skillet and the oven. If you try these on the grill, it may be a good idea to cook the chops separately instead of the whole rack at once. I season the lamb with salt, pepper, cumin, and coriander, and then sear on a hot cast iron. After a nice crust has formed, I brush it with the garlic butter paste, and add it to a 400 degree oven. The lamb will take about 12 minutes, adding more of the butter and basting every 3 minutes. Make sure to let the rack of lamb rest for at least 10 minutes to retain its juices. It needs beauty rest.

To make the sauce, I combined roasted red peppers, roasted sunchokes, roasted garlic, salt, lemon juice, cumin, and coriander in a blender. This mixture should yield a smooth, velvety sauce (unless your blender is being uncooperative like mine). Make sure to taste, and adjust ratios accordingly. To make the gremolata that tops off the lamb, you just add chopped fresh mint to the reserved garlic paste, and add lemon zest.

To cook the pearl couscous, you could follow the box directions, but I found another way to cook these. Instead of letting them absorb all the cooking liquid like regular couscous, I cook these in a lot of salted water like pasta, and then drain off the water when they are cooked. Rinse them gently with cold water. They take about 10-12 minutes. The zucchini ring is cooked very simply. Shave a thin slice of zucchini using a cheese peeler or mandolin, and cook in a lightly greased pan. Alternatively, these might be great grilled, but I think you would need thicker slices.

This was the closest I have come to re-creating that wonderful food memory. Everything was really delicious and paired well together. Now that I am ready to say goodbye to the last four years of my life, I am ready to welcome new challenges, ventures, and lots and lots of sushi.

I promise the next series of posts will all be sushi-related :)

Until then,

May the fish be with you, young rainbow trout!

~Maki Zavelli, over and out <(^_^<)

“A fitting end to an exotic meal”

When I say “pudding”, I know what you are thinking, but no this is not a jell-o snak pak. This version of pudding is a more general term to refer to a gelatinous east Asian dessert usually made with coconut milk and exotic fruits.  In terms of its texture, it is more similar to a flan or panna cotta than a pudding as we typically think of it.

We had these amazing little puddings called sapin-sapin from one of the markets we went to at the Asian Festival, and they reminded me of a recipe I had in an Asian cookbook. The recipe showed lychees being used as a garnish, and as strange as it my seem, I had a can of lychees in my pantry that I needed to use.

This little dessert was originally going to be mango puddings served with lychee, but the mango version had a really odd taste, and the texture of the lychees was also quite odd. So I decided to try again and reverse the situation this time. The results were far better, especially with the mango sauce I created to drizzle on top.

Lychee Puddings with Mango Drizzle

Ingredients:

3 cups of coconut milk

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg yolk

1 1/2 tbsp gelatine

1 can of lychees, pureed, and pushed through a sieve

1 large ripe mango, pitted, pureed, and pushed through a sieve

Method:

Heat the coconut milk with the sugar until sugar has dissolved. Add the gelatine and stir until dissolved.

Beat the egg yolk with the lychee puree and add mixture to the coconut milk. Stir until smooth.

Spoon the mixture into lightly greased molds and leave to cool.

Place in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours, until set

To make the drizzle, heat the mango puree with about 1/4 cup of sugar. If its too thick, add some water. If it gets too thin, add more sugar. It should have the consistency of syrup.

Take the puddings out of the molds, drizzle with the mango syrup, and serve with mango slices or chunks if desired.

These exotic delights are a refreshing end to meal. They are luscious, sweet, and best of all; dairy-free. It is a light dessert that is also satisfying.

Happy nomming!

Until next time,

May the fish be with you, young rainbow trout

~Maki Zavelli, over and out <(^_^<)

“From humble beginnings to a triumphant return”

First and foremost, let me get one thing straight. This is the one and only time you will see me do a cupcake post.

Well, maybe…

I apologize in advance, as this post may get lengthy. These cakes have a lot of history.

This story starts about a year and a half ago…

This is when I decided to start a food blog. It is also when I decided to enter a KitchenAid recipe contest in an attempt to win me one of them there perty stand mixers…

After I developed a recipe, I just jumped into styling and photographing these lava cakes with literally NO IDEA of what I was doing. I’m actually pretty shocked that this first effort was by far my best effort in those early days of this journey. This shot below was taken on a point-and-shoot Kodak camera with no conceptual knowledge of cameras, lighting, or styling. I knew my food looked and tasted good, and I’m still surprised to this day that it translated in the pictures. (at least I think so, but you be the judge)

As some of you may know, before I created this blog, there was another. It was a sort of beta-blog that I created myself using Adobe Dreamweaver. After creating it, I felt that I wasn’t yet ready to be a food blogger, which takes a lot of dedication. So instead I focused my time on learning about photography, investing in a DSLR, and continuing my culinary training and study. During this time I also narrowed my point of view and created a brand for myself. So this old blog is a bit more generic, and also the name was taken by an actual company. Anyway, I figured I would share it with you guys. Marvel at its mediocrity:

Gourmet Globetrotter

These lava cakes were really the only post that was created for it. My friends and family had heard me talk about working on a food blog for so long, though with little concept of what exactly food blogging is. I’m actually not sure how many of my friends and family even saw this first attempt at a blog, but there is one person that I’m sure saw it…

My friend Lauren has been bugging me to make these dark chocolate peppermint lava cakes for her ever since she first saw them over a year ago. This year for her birthday, I finally made it happen. Hence the new cupcake makeover.

I also made this giant one for her… (though I helped share it)

Oh here’s the recipe by the way, in case you were wondering…

ingredients:
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
3 tbsp (dark chocolate) cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp butter
3/4 cup (about half a bag) Andes creme de menthe baking chips
(or use chocolate and creme de menthe)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler.
In a bowl, combine dry ingredients.
Add wet ingredients, including chocolate and butter to the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated and batter is smooth. You can most certainly just start eating here. No shame.

Grease ramekins (if you intend to remove them), or use a cupcake pan with liners. Ramekins will make bigger cakes; fill until batter almost reaches the top of the rim.

Bake on 350 for 10 minutes (oven times may vary). You want to wait until the tops just set. Much longer and you will have regular chocolate cakes (also delicious), and any less and you will end up with gooey sink holes (still delicious).

Allow at least 5 minutes to cool.
Serve however you like!

As you can see, I have served them a variety of ways… and eaten way too many of them.

There is a bit more to the story, you see. The full story is on the old blog post linked above, but let’s just say I had a little mixer mishap. It’s funny because you really don’t need any sort of mixer to make these, but I wanted to show off my ancient hand mixer to try and gain sympathy points with the judges of the video contest. The prize was a KitchenAid stand mixer after all. Well during the filming of the video…the mixer had some technical difficulties. We kept on filming as I viewed the unforeseen dilemma as an opportunity to start hamming up my need for a new mixer. And that’s when it happens…

(Yes, I found the footage and edited it a year later)

Well I hope you enjoyed my blast from the past; I know I did. (oof I certainly don’t miss that tiny kitchen though)

Stay tuned for a dessert post that is a bit more makizavellian in nature…

May the fish (and the spirit of my fallen mixer) be with you,

~Maki Zavelli, you know who <(^_^<)

“We will serve you in 3 minutes or less.”

Recipe for katsu chicken udon noodle soup (pictured above) is at the end of post.

A few weeks ago, the significant other and I took a trip to Cleveland. I was beginning my search for a new job and a new home. We also wanted to attend the 3rd annual Asian Festival that was going on that weekend. One of the dance crews from a recent season of America’s Best Dance Crew was there to perform, and being a huge fan of the show and of hip hop dance in general, I really wanted to go see them. Of course I wanted to sample all the tasty Asian food the vendors had to offer as well.

Welcome to the 3rd annual Cleveland Asian Festival

Our first night in Cleveland, we ended up checking out a hoppin new modern-concept noodle house, called Noodle Cat. My brother had mentioned this place a few weeks before and suggested I may try to get a job there. I think I liked this place so much though, that I would rather hang out and eat there than work at it. This place was pretty much designed for me. They serve real Japanese-style ramen, not to be confused with the dried instant kind (or the dance crew I am about to talk about). They also have other types of noodle soups and noodle stir-frys, and these awesome steamed buns that we tried. The menu is very whimsical as is the design of the place. The prices are also low, which means I can afford to go there often. There were two menu items that stood out to me for sheer odd-factor, and I asked the waitress which of the two she recommended and she pushed me in the direction of their “Roscoe’s Chicken and Ramen”. The dish sounded so crazy that I had to try it. For those of you who don’t know, there is a place called Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, serving that ubiquitous odd couple which I highlighted a few weeks in a post. We also walked around the city and checked out the new Horseshoe casino.

 While this dish was delicious, I couldn’t help but think they were trying too hard to be creative. Because the ramen was served separately from the chicken, it just seemed a bit too disjointed. And since the chicken was served on the bone, adding it to the soup didn’t really remedy the situation at all.

The following day, we checked out Cleveland’s famous West Side Market, as well as the downtown aquarium. We ate at a little Cambodian place next to the West Side Market, which was pretty good. Cambodian food is somewhere between Thai and Vietnamese food.  We got a noodle stir-fry similar to a pad thai, and a curry dish that my significant other really loved.

I must say I really appreciated the name of this place too. Although Phnom Penh is actually the capital of Cambodia, it’s super fun to say if you are a foodie. “Let’s go get some grub at the Nom Pen!” See what I mean?

We spent the rest of the day at my Dad’s in a nearby suburb.  The day after, it was time for the Asian Festival. It started at 11, and we got there a little earlier which was great because we didn’t have any trouble with parking. The festival was held in Cleveland’s Asiatown district, and this was my first visit there. We started our adventure at the Asia Town Center, which was like a mall with an Asian market and restaurants inside. The market was huge! I was in heaven here. We stocked up on mochi, and some really curious-sounding drinks, and made way for the festival. We later found 2 more markets just as big as this one! I can’t wait to live near here and have access to all the Asian ingredients that are commonly used in my dishes.

It was really, really hot this day. Which was kind of unfortunate, because all of the hot food the vendors were selling was that much less enticing. We tried a few things, but nothing that really stood out. It was great to see that there wasn’t inflation like most festivals though. All of the prices were reasonable. We checked out some of the early entertainment such as this Chinese-American rapper who I thought was super awesome.

And then a random panda bear came out on stage with him >_>

We walked around some more and discovered Asia Plaza, which actually didn’t have a market. It was mostly non-food related stores. There was one dim sum restaurant there, Li Wah, but it was supremely crowded due to the festival. We went to another market and bought tons of curious candies and anything purple yam flavored that i could get my hands on. I even found real fresh purple yams! The significant other kept picking out things to put in a Chopped basket for me, and oh boy was there some scary stuff. After snacking on gratuitous amounts of mochi, we returned to the stage area to check out the performance of Instant Noodles from ABDC.

Oh Chuck, you’re my favorite noodle.

I had a blast watching these guys. They are Instant Noodles, an all Taiwanese b-boy crew from season 6 of MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew, who made it about half-way through the competition. Their motto is “we will serve you in 3 minutes or less”! Although they did mostly b-boy freestyle solos, and not a whole lot of choreography, it was definitely worth watching. I have to commend them for dancing in that crazy heat. I also have to commend the winner of the audience member dance-off. I gotta give mad props to the cute little Asian girl in the green dress! She totally deserved the Instant Noodles t-shirt.

Later that night, we went to a brand-new Vietnamese restaurant, which I also applied at. The food was good, but I think we had kind of overloaded on Asian food at that point. Yes that can even happen to me.

But that didn’t stop me from re-creating that chicken and ramen dish I had at Noodle Cat when I returned to my townhouse a few days later. I wanted to make the dish with a bit more refined sensibility, so I went with a more traditional approach. I used dried udon noodles that I bought at one of the Asian markets, and I fried chicken thighs which I cut up and layered on top. It is common to be served a tempura element in an udon soup in Japan. I don’t think I ever saw it in ramen though. Not that ramen and udon are all that different.

While I certainly enjoyed the ramen at Noodle Cat. This bowl of udon was all kinds of amazing. I REALLY enjoyed this, and will certainly be making it again. The mild, yet flavorful chicken dashi broth, slurpable hearty noodles, and crispy chicken katsu make for a memorable Japanese bowl of oishiness (deliciousness). This bowl of noodles reminded me of being in Japan. The best food evokes happy memories. Here’s the recipe:

Katsu Chicken Udon Noodle Soup

Ingredients:

1 handful of dried shiitake mushrooms

1 bundle green onions, thinly sliced

chicken thighs, 1 per bowl of soup

1/2 package of dried udon noodles. (can substitute fresh if you can find them)

3 cups chicken stock

1 package katsuobushi

1 handful of konbu kelp or seaweed

1 tbsp each of fish sauce, mirin, and vinegar (all optional)

flour

tempura batter

panko crumbs

vegetable oil

Method: 

Prepare shiitake mushrooms: soak in water overnight or for at least an hour. Remove stems, slice thin, and sauté with teriyaki sauce.

Cook noodles according to package directions, and set aside.

Prepare chicken katsu: Bread chicken thighs with seasoned flour, tempura batter, and panko crumbs. Deep-fry until golden brown and cooked through. About 5 minutes at 350 degrees should do the trick. Alternatively you could use grilled or broiled chicken thighs or breast.

Prepare chicken dashi broth: Bring 2 cups of chicken stock and 1 cup of water to a boil. Add a handful of katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) and konbu kelp. You could also use hondashi powder instead. If you can’t find any of these ingredients, consider using a fish stock instead of chicken stock. I also add about 1 tbsp each of fish sauce, mirin, and rice vinegar for added depth of flavor. Reduce heat after it boils, and simmer for about 5 minutes, before straining out the solids.

The easiest way to serve this is to put the noodles, green onions, and mushrooms in bowls, and then ladle the hot broth over top. Add the sliced chicken katsu and garnish with more green onions.

Let the slurping commence!

Did you know that in Japan slurping your noodles is considered polite? (I use that as an excuse to hold the bowl near my mouth and slurp away!)

Until next time,

May the fish be with you, young rainbow trout!

~Maki Zavelli, over and out <(^_^<)

“Sprouts, trouts, and wild mushrooms, oh my!”

This date night dinner was inspired by my dinner guest, my significant other. This dish came about for several reasons.

  1. The so-called Seafood Philosopher had yet to cook any fish
  2. My date really wanted to try brussels sprouts AND like them
  3. My date had never tried risotto, and loves mushrooms.

This was a good excuse to cook with mushrooms, which I have been more and more starting to enjoy. It was also a good excuse to show off my favorite fish to cook, the humble rainbow trout. (sorry if I cooked your friend, little buddy, please forgive me!)

(He was delicious though…)

There are two really good ways to prepare Brussels sprouts. And boiling them sure as hell isn’t one of them. This is the main reason that they have gotten a bad rap over the years. Parents mindlessly boiling Brussels sprouts and torturing their kids with them; well of course they aren’t going to like them. Maybe if you roasted them or caramelized them, or heck even did both, they might like them. These Brussels sprouts are caramelized and roasted. They are also mighty fine, I might add.

This risotto was creamy, yet firm, with a nice salty, earthy flavor. It may have been the best risotto I’ve ever had, and certainly the best I’ve ever made. I do have a horror story about arguably the worst thing I’ve ever made, which was a beet risotto.

I grew an extra pair of hands to watch over the risotto while I prepared everything else (thanks boo! <3)

Did I mention the wine? I haven’t had a real penchant for wine until lately. Riesling is my new favorite. I used it to cook the risotto and sprouts, and then we gladly drank the rest. And by drank, I mean we dominated the wine with the fervor of a thousand rainbow trout armies. (I don’t do winetastings.)

Oh and guess what else? I’m actually going to provide a recipe! Keep in mind that chef Adam recipes are generally ballparked, and I take no responsibility for the outcome of the dish if it doesn’t work out so well. If it’s great, well then, I’ll take responsibility. ^_^;;

1 large rainbow trout filet

1/2 lb. Brussels sprouts

parmesan cheese

wild mushrooms, such as porcini, morels, and chanterelles (these usually come dried in a variety mix)

5 cups chicken or vegetable stock

freshly pasted garlic, to taste

1 onion, finely chopped

1 1/2 cups arborio rice

sweet white wine such as Riesling, or a dry wine if you prefer

1 lemon

olive oil

butter

flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Dried mushrooms need to soak in warm water for at least an hour, and you need to remove the stems before slicing them thin.

The risotto is the most difficult and labor-intensive component, so I would suggest cooking the fish and sprouts first and keeping them warm in a low oven.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. On a baking sheet lined with foil, season the rainbow trout filet with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, lemon juice, and olive oil. Heat oil in a pan over medium-high and add Brussels sprouts. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic. Cook for about 7 minutes without  tossing or moving them around so that they can develop a nice golden brown color. Deglaze with some white wine, and then put it on the lower rack in the oven. Put the rainbow trout on the upper rack. Cook for about 12 minutes or until fishy is pink and flaky, and sprouts are tender. 

Meanwhile bring the chicken stock to a boil, and keep on a simmer. Heat oil in a saute pan. Cook mushrooms for about 5 minutes with some of the garlic. Then remove the mushrooms and keep aside. Add some butter, and the onions. After the onions have softened and become more translucent, reduce the heat, and add the arborio rice.

Cook, stirring constantly for about 3 minutes or until the grains become more translucent. Add about 1/4 cup of the white wine, continue stirring until reduced.

The technique for cooking risotto is to add a ladle full of hot stock and stir the rice until the stock is absorbed, and then add another ladle full and continue until all the stock is absorbed. This process takes about 20 minutes and requires vigilance, so an extra set of hands can be really appreciated when cooking risotto. This will give the risotto a natural creaminess. My tip for knowing when to add more stock is to spread the rice and expose the bottom of the pot; if liquid doesn’t pool in this spot and quickly fill back up, then you are ready to add more stock.

When this is done, add the mushrooms back in, add about 3/4 cups parmesan cheese, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and add the chopped parsley. Garnish with more cheese and parsley.

Serve with the rainbow trout and Brussels sprouts, and don’t forget the wine!

Looking at these pictures now, I really want to have this dinner again. *sigh* Everything was truly splendiferous.

Until next time,

May the fish be with you, young rainbow trout!

~Maki Zavelli, over and out <(^_^<)

“Love at first bite!”

My best friend and I have been talking about going to an Ethiopian restaurant for a few years now. I had often exclaimed about how it was one of the most amazing ethnic foods I had ever tried, and she really wanted to try it too. Problem is there isn’t one anywhere near us. As her graduation approached, I figured we should finally make the trek out to Ann Arbor, where the closest Ethiopian restaurant resides.

The restaurant is called Blue Nile. Not to be confused with the West Nile, of course.

If you’ve never had Ethiopian food, well, you should probably change that. It is one of the most delicious, healthy, and interesting cuisines around. It centers around injera, which is a light airy bread which could only really be compared to a crepe. Instead of utensils, you generally just use injera to grab the various stewed meats and vegetables and eat with your hands. Injera can also be fried, and served like pita chips.

Four of us went to the restaurant, and it was everyone’s (except me) first time with Ethiopian food.

We ordered two appetizers, and we all ordered Ethiopian iced tea which resembled chai tea. I learned on that day, that it is never necessary to order appetizers at an Ethiopian restaurant. I am known for having a large appetite, but I was full to the point of moaning for hours after devouring every last bite on my plate.

This was a trio of dips consisting of a hummus, azifa lentil salad, and timmatim salad. These were all super yummy served with both fried injera and soft injera.

We also ordered what was called a begolo cake.

I loved this appetizer and it was really interesting to see that African American cooking has roots in Ethiopian food. This was a corn cake served with stewed greens and a light cheese.  It was crunchy, sweet, and satisfying.

Each entree comes with a stewed meat of your choice, and two vegetable sides chosen from various options. These three stews come served on a plate covered in injera bread. There are also vegetarian options. I ordered lamb dish called yebeg alecha, Abe got a chicken dish called doro wat, Nicky and Amber both ordered the beef zizil wat. Everything was great, and although maybe not as amazing as the first time I had it years ago in Cleveland at Empress Taytu, I have to give Blue Nile two big makizavellian thumbs up.

I read on their site that there is an Ethiopian custom of feeding one’s partner as a sign of affection. I brought this up and everyone thought I was just making things up, so I asked for back-up from the server who just left me out to dry. So this direct link from their site goes out to all you haters:  “It is considered a gesture of affection, called gursha, to offer bites to your partner.”

Until next time,

May the fish be with you, young rainbow trout!

~Maki Zavelli, over and out <(^_^<)

“Magically delicious!”

Have you ever made a guest list for a party and thought “hmm, I don’t know if these two people will get along…”? Sometimes they get along famously, and other times, well not so much. This often happens in fusion cuisine as well. Sometimes, ideas are just so crazy that they work, and other times they are as bad as they originally sounded.

Chicken and waffles is the quintessential example of when it works.

Salty and crispy meets sweet and fluffy

Who would’ve thought these opposites would attract and stay together for years to come?

In the April issue of Food Network Magazine, Ted Allen issued a Chopped challenge to the readers. You’re familiar with the show Chopped, right? It’s where four chefs compete against each other, the clock, and a mystery basket full of ingredients that are often downright bizarre.

The ingredients for the challenge were peanut butter, chicken breast, frozen cherries, and sauerkraut.

…hmmm….

My first two thoughts were “ingredients that don’t belong together” and “reuben sandwich”.

That first thought made me think along the lines of chicken and waffles, because they seem like they don’t belong together but actually work. And so, after brainstorming a few ideas, I reluctantly decided to introduce the two vastly different dishes…

Chicken and waffles, I’d like you to meet my friend Reuben.

Sauerkraut made me think of a reuben sandwich which is the only time I’ve ever enjoyed sauerkraut. If you’ve never had a reuben sandwich, it consists of rye bread, corned beef, sauerkraut, Russian dressing (thousand island), and usually swiss cheese. Because I had bought rye flour for this dish, i decided to try my hand at baking bread for the first time. I made a dark rye bread adapted from George’s recipe featured over at Simply Recipes. I was actually surprised that this turned out quite wonderful on the first try, especially since I am not typically a huge fan of rye bread.

For the Chopped Challenge dish, I decided it might be possible to make a reuben sandwich using waffles instead of bread, and fried chicken instead of corned beef. I thought maybe I could incorporate the  butter into the waffle batter, as well as rye flour and caraway seed so that the reubeness would come through. I had two ideas for how to use the cherries. One was to pickle the cherries and mince them up as part of a Russian dressing, which would really transform the ingredient in an unpredictable way. Russian dressing is made from mayonnaise, ketchup, and pickle relish. For this dressing I used mayo, hot sauce, and pickled cherry relish. The other was to make a cherry syrup which made sense with the waffles.

I fried the chicken according to my taste; brined the chicken breast, seasoned the flour with salt, pepper, and some cajun seasoning. I used buttermilk for both the chicken and the waffles. I borrowed my friend’s waffle maker, and I borrowed a peanut butter waffle recipe from Tracey over at her blog. The only major difference being that I added rye flour and ground, toasted caraway seeds, which are ingredients for rye bread.

Yes I am aware of just how odd this dish sounds…. Now the real question (besides “uh what the heck?”) is “will it taste good?”

Although I was doubtful all the way up to the first bite (well maybe the third), the answer is a resounding “yes!”

Surprisingly the component that really brought it together was the Russian cherry sauce.

I also had two friends try this, and our conclusion was “magically delicious”. None of us thought it would be good, but we all fully enjoyed a whole sandwich, which were really filling. I’m surprised that it worked, especially with the sauerkraut, but it really had a great contrast of flavors that was unexpected in a pleasant way.

I also served this wonderfully strange sandwich with sweet potato fries, which is something I have been making since before I knew how to cook. I ended up using the cherry syrup I experimented with to dip the fries in, which was pretty good, but if I had to choose just one of these cherry sauces to have I would have to go with the Russian dressing.

I don’t think I won the contest, not that I was expecting to. Although I thought the dish turned out really well, and maybe would’ve won if I was on the show, the contest was really looking for a solid recipe. I didn’t even get to share pictures, which I think could’ve helped. The problem was I didn’t really have a specific recipe, and there were too many components anyway. Recipe contests generally have accessibility as one of the judging factors. So for those reasons, and because I can’t see any probable reason why anyone would want to re-create this, I’m not sharing a specific recipe. I just wanted to share this fun experience. If not for the Chopped basket, there is absolutely no way I would’ve ever come up with this dish. Being fans of the show, my significant other has been inspired to go collect crazy ingredients and give me a mystery basket to work with. We think it will challenge me as a chef and push the limits of my comfort zone. I will post those crazy challenges on my blog as well!

Until next time,

May the fish be with you, young rainbow trout!

~Maki Zavelli, over and out <(^_^<)

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