Celebrate Våffeldagen Every Day!

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For most of my readers, today is not March 25th, the traditional day to celebrate Våffeldagen, or Waffle Day, in Sweden.

What? You have not heard of this feast? Perhaps you are not Swedish. Regardless, the Swedes are on to something tasty because few foods are so versatile as the waffle. Many people simply drizzle some melted butter on top, then pour maple syrup across the toasty little squares. You can’t go wrong with this combination. Others, typically considered a Southern US tradition, take it one step further by adding fried chicken on top of the butter and syrup. A savory version of the waffle might include bacon and cheese. For a real treat, an ice cream sandwich made with fresh baked waffles can’t be beat.

Cholesterol be damned. Full speed ahead!

Another popular variation found in America is the Belgian waffle, which ironically is not found anywhere in Belgium.  The Brusselois have their own unique style of waffles and in the next few weeks, I will try my hand at making them. Stay tuned; stay hungry. However, that said, the “Belgian Waffle” that is king here in the States is found at the Texas State Fair.

My wife and I were recently in the city of Dallas, Texas (home of the Fair) and whilst relaxing at the La Quinta Hotel, a reporter for the local newspaper, The Dallas Morning News, somehow found me and asked about a post I had written a few years ago concerning the State Fair waffles. Published yesterday, Dallas friends have sent me a link to the article. Some great history here. The bottom line is that the State Fair waffles traditionally have a layer of fresh strawberries on top, and the entire waffle, circular in shape, is ringed with whipped cream. Yes!

You can’t go the Texas State Fair without trying them.  You just can’t.  I think it’s a law, actually.

Now that we are back in Virginia, I must settle for pleasant memories. And I must defer my Våffeldagen-fest for a week or two due to other cooking projects. But – to show you how the waffle and Texas have been so intertwined, here is a picture of the waffle iron at my hotel.

 (For those not familiar, the waffle is shaped like the state of Texas)?????????????

Had I found the coffee first, perhaps the “Texas Panhandle” at the top would have had more batter. I should have made another, but one was enough that day.

Thanks for stopping by and reading. Come back soon for more food trivia, recipes, news about Våffeldagen-fest and the dribs and drabs that describe my culinary travels through life.

 

 

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Chuck Wagon Cooking & Paella

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Paella - Chuck Wagon Style

Reenactments. They are everywhere, especially here in Virginia. Ours tend to be the Civil War variety, but further north you will find the Revolutionary War type. It’s all fun if you like that sort of thing, but what about old West revivals? What? People think they can imitate the Duke? Really??

Cowboys – Gunslingers – and Chuck Wagons, oh my.

Yes. Reliving the Old West is a growing niche in the world of reenactors. There is a single action shooting society that uses period weapons, meaning the old standby, the six shooter. There are companies out there that, for a fee, will let you drive cattle from point A to point B. Surely you have seen the movie City Slickers. I think Curly would make a better president than most of the folks running, but I digress. Let’s talk cooking!

Undercooked beans and overcooked cabrito (that’s goat in case you needed to know) were probably commonplace. I guess this was to be expected, since the chuck wagon cook, traditionally known as “Cookie,” probably did not have a copy of Julia Child’s  Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Yet one chuck wagon cook, Bendito del Freito, from the little known White Rock Trail “just south of the three forks of the Trinity,” in Texas, had a recipe for Paella. This is so good, the cowpokes probably gained weight by the end of the cattle drive!

(Disclaimer: Bendito did not graduate from the Le Cordon Bleu. His measurements are…unique.)

Here is my translation. Apologies to the grammar police.

Build the fire, get the coals going.

Put the skillet on the coals to heat up. (I used a large cast iron skill, on a Weber grill)

Throw on some chicken and pig. (I used boneless chicken breasts and St. Louis style pork ribs.)

When the pig don’t fight back (meaning it is done) move aside and put on some tomato, pimiento y frijole. (I used diced tomatoes, red and green bell peppers – rough chopped, onion – chopped, and green beans.)

Handful of ajo (garlic) and “the rest.” Clean water. (I like how Bendito specifically mentioned clean water. I used a tablespoon of minced garlic, rosemary, and a bit of salt, and even a touch of saffron. I also used two cups of chicken broth.)

Arroz. (meaning add uncooked rice to the mixture. How much? I used 1 1/2 cups.)

That’s all Bendito tells us. I covered the cast iron skillet for about twenty minutes to allow the rice to cook.

Yes, I know this is not a “normal” recipe. It’s just a bit of Texas folklore, really. If you want an excellent step by step recipe for Paella, including photos, visit my good friends from Colorado, The Fearless Cooking Club. These folks know how to have a good time!

And thanks to Bendito, wherever you are…

The Padre’s Pollo

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In the early 1800s, when Methodist pastors were circuit riders covering vast territories on horseback, they would stop wherever a friendly (hopefully) household would take them. The compensation for a “meeting,” complete with sermon, was often not money, but rather food. I can imagine the German pastors who were among the first non-Catholics to preach in the Trans Pecos, traveling through the dusty, sparse reaches of Southwestern Texas, coming across this Mexican-influenced chicken dish, perhaps as payment for a wedding ceremony. The food would have been the best available, and this dish – aptly named The Padre’s Pollo, could have been just what the good book called for. Enjoy!

Ingredients:
4 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Sauce
1 cup tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup onions, chopped
4 button mushrooms, sliced
4 oz. green chilies, chopped
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 dash salt

At the very end, add…
1/2 cup chicken stock

Directions:

In a bowl, mix the cinnamon, chili powder and black pepper. Dredge the chicken breasts through the mixture. Set aside momentarily.

Place the ingredients for the sauce in a large, deep skillet; now place the chicken on top of everything. Cover the skillet and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes. Checking the temperature of the chicken with a thermometer, continue cooking until the bird reaches 185 degrees. By keeping the whole thing covered, the chicken stays nice and juicy.

If you don’t have a cooking thermometer, cook for ten more minutes, then stab the chicken with a knife. If the juices run clear, you should be good. After dinner, go get a thermometer. Really. They aren’t that expensive.

Once thoroughly cooked, set the chicken breasts aside, covered to help them stay warm. Use a handheld immersion blender and pulse the solids until they are like a finely ground salsa. Add the chicken stock and heat until boiling. Reduce heat and stir until it reduces to the consistency you desire.

Serving suggestion:

Put the chicken over a steaming hot bed of rice. Top everything with the savory gravy. Pour a glass of Merlot and enjoy the evening. If you get the urge to saddle up and head toward Mexico, bring a serape…and some of The Padre’s Pollo!