Thursday, June 28, 2012

Old World Foods Get a Fresh Spin in Food Truck (with Chicken Schnitzel and Hungarian Pepper Relish Recipes)

Street food meets Eastern European and Jewish favorites at a new food truck in the Bay area. The Old World Food Truck is Kenny Hockert’s celebration of fresh and seasonal Ashkenazi soul food.
Hockert, a San Francisco resident and a trained chef, mixes his natural, organic and sustainable food experiences with his memories of eating his Grandma Dora’s cooking growing up in Queens, N.Y.

“Jewish and Eastern European food was meant to be street food. It is comfort food, family food,” Hockert said. His “slow food in a fast truck” helps keep dishes such as borscht, pierogis, knishes, deli sandwiches and gefilte fish relevant today. His gefilte fish recipe, for example, incorporates local fish and freshly grated horseradish and beets. “It has the look and feel of something old but when you get a taste, it’s something new and fresh,” he said.

Find out the truck’s schedule as well as info on catering and his regular “pop-up” nights at a San Francisco restaurant by going to his website. Recipes below are by Hockert, are used with permission and have been adapted for space, style and to reflect my experience making them.

Old World Food Truck Schnitzel Recipe
Makes 4 schnitzels

This is hands down THE BEST schnitzel recipe I've ever made.  Just recently I made it again for my fried chicken cutlet loving son and he too declared it was something truly special. 

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup flour
1 cup panko bread or homemade bread crumbs
Canola oil
Lemon wedges and or honey to taste
Hungarian Pepper Relish (see recipe below)

Trim any gristle off of the chicken thighs. Butterfly thighs as needed to make the meat an even thickness. Place the thighs on a cutting board on a sturdy surface. Cover the chicken with plastic wrap. Using the flat side of a meat tenderizering mallet or the base of a mug, pound the thigh until the meat is a uniform 1/3” thick. Mix sugar and salt together and sprinkle on both sides of the thighs. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly oil a baking sheet. Put eggs in a bowl. Spread flour and bread crumbs on separate plates. Pat the chicken in the flour, shake off excess, then dip into egg and finish by patting the chicken into bread crumbs. Repeat. Pour a 1/4" layer of oil on the bottom of a large frying pan or skillet. Heat until the oil reaches 325 degrees on a frying thermometer or until it sizzles a bread crumb. Put one chicken thigh in hot oil, it should sizzle immediately. If not, do not add others until it does. Fry on both sides until golden brown (about a minute a side). Place on prepared pan and put in oven for no more than 5 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Serve immediately with a drizzle of honey and or lemon juice on top and Hungarian pepper relish.

Old World Food Truck Hungarian Pepper Relish
Makes about 2 cups

This tangy relish works well as a condiment to more than the fried chicken.  Try it as a pasta topping or with sausages.

1/2 lb. red bell pepper
1/2 lb. Hungarian gypsy pepper (or use additional bell pepper)
1/2 to 1 small jalapeño (optional)
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4" pieces
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs. paprika
1/4 tsp. salt or to taste
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper or to taste

Seed and cut peppers (including jalapeno if using) into 1/4” pieces. Heat oil in sauce pan, add garlic, peppers and onion. Sauté over medium heat until softened and lightly browned, about 10-15 minutes. Add sugar and vinegar, simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes until the liquids are mostly reduced. Add salt, pepper and paprika. Taste. It should be tangy, sweet and have a nice spice. Adjust seasonings as needed. Transfer to food processor and carefully pulse mixture into a small, chunky dice. Let cool and serve with schnitzels.

A version of this post first appeared in j. weekly.
Artist rending of truck used with permission.
Look for more about Hockert and the Old World Food Truck on Blog Appetit soon.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Holy (Almost) Mole and Any Night Cerviche to the Rescue -- With Recipes (and Suggestion for a Vegan Mole)

Any Night Cerviche
Okay, okay.  So I've made fine moles out of a jar mix (Dona Maria, thank you).  I've made fabulous, unbelievably complex moles from scratch with several kinds of dried Mexican chilies soaked, drained, pureed and then strained.  (For those of you new to moles, they are a style of Mexican or Aztec chili sauce with many variations, including some that include chocolate.) But sometimes you just want a really great mole with homemade taste without staining your entire kitchen (not to mention your hands and nails) red.

That calls for my super hero of the kitchen -- Almost Mole.  True, it starts with ground chilies from the store instead of the soaking, the draining, the pureeing and straining, but despite it's quick start it delivers a rich and slightly tongue tingling taste. This sauce makes a wonderful chicken mole (see below), but combine it with vegetables (such as sweet potatoes, carrots, red pepper and corn) for a great vegan meal as well.  I like to add canned posole (cooked white hominy) to my vegetable moles and make them vegan by using oil instead of chicken schmaltz (fat) and vegetable broth in place of the chicken stock. Serve either vegan or chicken mole over rice and pass the tortillas for mopping up all your fine home-made sauce.

Serve with Any Night Cerviche -- a quick and easy starter with a Mexican flair and a bit of a sharp taste to contrast with the richer mole sauce.

Almost Mole with Chicken
Serves 6

1 recipe spice paste (see below)
2 Tbs. chicken fat or vegetable oil
3 lbs. chicken thighs or other bone-in parts
1 cup thinly sliced onion
4 tsp. minced garlic
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 large can (24-26 oz.) strained tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth or stock with more as needed
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 8” flour tortilla, processed into fine crumbs.
Finely chopped fresh cilantro, optional for garnish

Make the spice paste and have it ready (see below). Heat fat until melted and hot in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium high heat. Brown chicken pieces (removing skin first if desired), working in batches if necessary. Remove chicken from pan. Add onions, sauté until softened, add garlic, sauté until garlic is golden, add carrots and bell peppers and sauté for several minutes. Add in spice paste, stirring and sautéing until well incorporated with the sautéed vegetables. Stir in strained tomatoes and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer. Add chocolate and stir until melted. Stir in tortilla pieces. Return browned chicken and any accumulated juices to pot. Bring to a simmer, lower heat and cover. Cook at a simmer, stirring occasionally and turning chicken pieces so they are coated in the sauce, until chicken is cooked through. Add additional broth if needed as it cooks. The sauce should be thick but still a bit liquid. Garnish with cilantro.

Spice paste:  In a food processor (or working in batches in a blender), chop 1 quartered onion, 4 garlic cloves, 2 Tbs. sesame seeds, 1/2 cup slivered, blanched almonds, 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, 2 Tbs. ancho chili powder, 1 tsp. chipotle chili powder, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ground coriander, 1/8 tsp. ground cloves, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper into a fairly smooth paste.

Any Night Ceviche
Serves 4 as appetizer

1/2 lb. mild, white fish fillets such as tilapia or snapper
1/2 cup chopped tomato (cut in 1/4" pieces)
1/2 cup chopped white onion (cut into 1/4” pieces)
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
1 tsp. minced, seeded jalapeño  
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
6 oz. fresh lime juice
2 Tbs. canola oil
Diced avocado, optional for garnish 

Rinse and cut fish into 1/4" pieces. Place in glass or other non-reactive bowl. Add tomato, onion, cilantro, jalapeno, salt and pepper. Stir well. Combine juice and oil and pour over fish.  Fish should be just covered.  Add additional juice and oil if needed. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 hours to overnight, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasonings. Garnish with diced avocado. Serve on top of lettuce or with tortilla chips.
A version of this article first appeared in the j. weekly