Sunday, October 12, 2008

Jalapeno Chedder Cornbread Muffins

As a kid, I had minimal tolerance for spicy stuff. But, I distinctly remember a particular sleepover at a friend's house when I progressed from boyhood to manhood. It was during this weekend that my friends introduced me to a bag of Bob's Texas Style Jalapeno potato chips. (In various parts of the country, these might be know at Tim's potato chips). My life would be forever changed. I couldn't stop eating the stuff despite the fact that I could no longer feel my tastebuds.

Down in Texas, you'll find jalapenos crop up all over the place. For example... in our cornbread. The thought of a nice chili with a chunk of jalapeno cornbread on a brisk autumn evening. Wow.

I found the original recipe from Taste of Texas Steakhouse in a magazine that my former boss brought back for me from Houston. My subtle variation is below. The amount of jalapeno doesn't hit you like a brick wall. Instead, there's a nice, subtle "after-burn."


JALAPENO CHEDDAR CORNBREAD MUFFINS

1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup cheddar cheese
1 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons diced jalapeno
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup canned corn
5 tablespoons butter, melted
1 egg

1) Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

2) Lightly grease a muffin tin.

3) In large mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, cheese, milk, sugar, jalapeno, baking powder, and salt. Mix together for two minutes.

4) Add in the corn, butter, and egg. Stir for another two minutes, or just until you have a well-incorporated, soft batter.

5) Spoon the batter into the muffin tins.

6) Bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes, or until lightly golden.

Makes 8-12 muffins, depending on the size of your tins.

Ed's 1st Note: If you want to up the ante, then add more jalapeno.

Ed's 2nd Note: If you like a crisper cornbread, then you can increase the baking time.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Bisquick Sausage & Cheese Balls

The first time I had these guys back when I was in middle school. One of the student groups was hosting a holiday party for all the teachers. Mrs. Richter, the faculty sponsor for the group, was baking up huge batches of these balls. She made so many that there were mounds of leftovers. I remember thinking that these were the best thing since sliced bread!

Years late, I tried making these for a dance that I was helping to cater for my fraternity. But, I mistakenly cooked the sausage first before forming the balls. After baking them, I was left with Sausage and Cheese Puddles instead of balls I so fondly remembered.

So for my 35th birthday party, as part of the 70s Food and Drink theme, I decided to give these balls another shot. This isn't Mrs. Richter's recipe, but is a variation on one that I found on the Betty Crocker website.


BISQUICK SAUSAGE & CHEESE BALLS

1 lb ground breakfast sausage
3 cups Bisquick
4 cups cheddar cheese
1/4 cup milk
1/8 tablespoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2) In large bowl, mix together all the ingredients.

3) Form into 1 inch balls. Place on lightly oiled baking sheet, about 1/2 inch apart.

4) When baking sheet is full, place in oven. Bake for 9 minutes.

5) Remove baking sheet from oven. Carefully flip balls over. Bake for additional 9 minutes.

6) Repeat steps 3-5 with remaining mixture.

Ed's Note: I like to use spicy sausage for extra flavor.

Ed's 2nd Note: These are great with a dip. Try them with bbq sauce, cream gravy, or a mixture of 1 cup mayo with 1 tablespoon dijon mustard.


Ed's 3rd Note: If you prefer, you can make the balls a bit smaller. Just reduce the baking time so they don't dry out.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

IsItEDible in Honolulu

I was in Honolulu for a few days earlier this week. During this short trip, I had the opportunity to revisit some old favorites, and I also discovered some new favorites that I definitely hope to revisit if I’m ever back in Honolulu. My culinary guide on some of these adventures was Xuan-Lan, who was also one of my partners in crime on the NYC trail of gluttony.


Tokkuri-tei
611 Kapahulu Avenue #102
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 739-2800

Tokkuri-tei is one of my new favorites! This unassuming little restaurant doesn’t look like much from the outside, but appearances can definitely be deceiving. This is an izakaya dining establishment, which means that the focus is on beer, sake, and a diverse menu full of small plates which one might describe as Japanese tapas.

If you like poke and you like spider rolls, then be sure to order the “there’s a spider in da poke” ($16). These are definitely two great tastes that taste great together, and it deservedly won the 2000 Sam Choy Poke Contest. If you like the crispy rice that you might find in the bottom of a dol sot bi bim bap, then order the yaki onigiri ($2.50), which is essentially a scoop of white rice formed around a wooden skewer and then lightly grilled. Also delicious is the tarako onigiri ($4), a triangle shaped rice surrounding cod roe and wapped with a strip of nori. The age dashi tofu ($3.50) consists of 3 blocks of lightly fried tofu in a light broth and covered with bento flakes. For ($4.50), you can also get 5 pieces of age-gyoza, also known as mandoo or dumplings. But my favorite dish of the night was the nori tempura ($4.50), strips of seaweed that are lightly coated in batter and deep-fried.


Yogurtland
1810 University Ave
Honolulu, HI 96822
(808) 951-4444

All you can eat frozen yogurt? Not quite, but pretty close. At Yogurtland, you take a bowl and essentially walk down their wall of 8 self-serve frozen yogurt dispensers. Each dispenser gives you the choice of 2 flavors or you can create a swirl if you like. At the end, your bowl is weighed and you pay the low price of 39 cents an ounce. If I was pushed to pick 3 favorite flavors, then I would have to say the taro, pistachio, and cafe con leche. Also delicious were the peanut butter, chocolate, New York cheesecake, and strawberry.


Ono Hawaiian Foods
726 Kapahulu Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 737-2275

This is one of my old favorites. Dean and I found out about this place a few years ago after asking a local person where they went for Hawaiian food. This small restaurant is the kind of place that my Hawaiian aunties would open (if I had Hawaiian aunties thas is). I usually order the kalua pig plate ($13.25). No, it doesn't have kahlua in it. But the pork is wrapped in ti leaves and slowly grilled which gives it a nice smoky flavor and a pull-apart texture that literally melts in your mouth. The kahlua plate also comes with a two piece of pipikaula (a Hawaiian beef jerky), a small scoop of lomi salmon (diced salmon with tomato, raw onion, and green onion), haupia (a coconut dessert), and your choice of rice or poi. If you don't like kalua pig, then you could also order the laulau plate or chicken long rice plate (both also $13.25). Ed's Note: They take cash only.


Waiola Bakery and Shaved Ice
525 Kapahulu Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 735-8886

Just down the street from Ono Hawaiian Food is my fave place to get shaved ice. If you haven't had shaved ice, it is similar to a snow cone, but the ice is much, much finer giving it a smoother texture. I'm not sure why it's called Waiol Bakery and Shaved Ice as I noticed they took out their bakery counter since I last visited a few years ago. But the shaved ice is still reason enough to come here. So if you ever make it there, here's how you order. First, tell them how many. Second, tell them the sizes ($1.92 for small cup, $2.15 for large cup, $2.40 for x-large bowl). Third, tell them if you want anything inside (vanilla ice cream, mochi, azuki beans, li hing mui seeds - all 50 cents each). Finally, wait for them to ask you what flavors you want. This could potentially be a hard question as they have over 30 flavors to choose from. On this trip I had half lychee and half watermelon. Quite refreshing on hot afternoon. But I was also tempted by the coke, haupia, pina colada, and root beer. Ed's Note: They take cash only.


Leonard's
933 Kapahulu Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 737-5591

Just down the street from Waiola is this jewel of a bakery. They are famous for their malasadas, or Portuguese donuts. These delicious donuts are unlike any you have had before, and yes I quite prefer them over Krispy Kremes. They are served warm and crisp on the outside, yet flaky on the inside. Leonard's has even been featured on the Food Networks Top 5 program. You can get a plain malasada (70 cents each) covered in your choice of white sugar or cinnamon sugar. But I prefer the malasada puffs (90 cents each) which have a creamy filling. On this visit, I had the haupia malasada puff, but you can also choose chocolate or their filling of the month. Ed's Note: Grab a handful of napkins and the malasada puffs tend to ooze filling when you bite into them.


Side Street Inn
1225 Hopaka Street
Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 591-0253

According to Xuan-Lan, this is where many of Honolulu's top chefs go to eat after their shifts are over. The menu is full of bar and comfort food, and we definitely partook of the opportunity to indulge in some deep fried goodness. Hands down, the dish of the evening is their Side Street pork chops ($21). The pork chops are cut into strips, lightly covered with cornstarch, and deep fried. Try making these at home! We also enjoyed the spicy chicken strips ($12), a plate full of fried chicken strips that are coated in spicy garlic sauce. The flavors kind of reminded me of Popeye's, which made me very happy. Round out your meal with a heaping basket of crispy fries ($8).


The Pineapple Room by Alan Wong
Macy's, Third Floor, Ala Moana Shopping Center
1450 Ala Moana Boulevard
Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 945-6573

My final stop on this trip was a quick dinner I grabbed on my way to my red-eye flight. For those of you who would pass over a restaurant just because it is located inside a shopping store in a mall... your loss! The service here is very attentive and polite, yet in that congenial aloha kind of way. To start things off, my waiter Jamil brought me a small basket of their garlic onion foccacia with a chili aioli. I wasn't too hungry so I ended up ordering two appetizers. First up was the ahi poke ($13.50). Raw, diced ahi tuna is mixed with chili and sesame oil. At the Pineapple Room, it arrives beautifully plated on a bed of 4 shiso leaves and a row of cucumber slices, with a wasabi-based sauce. I also ordered the Maui onion soup with kalua pig and gruyere cheese ($8.50). This was an interesting Hawaiian twist on a French classic. Here, the kalua pig added a subtle smokiness to the sweetness of the Maui onions.

Ed's Note: This post is dedicated to my late friend Keith, who recently passed away. On one of his trips to San Francisco, Keith shared with my colleagues and I that he always ordered French onion soup at restaurants. So over the course of his travels across the US, he became quite the connoisseur of French onion soups. Keith, wherever you are, I hope you are enjoying endless bowls of your favorite French onion soups. I think you would have quite liked the version at the Pineapple Room.