Souvlaki

While growing up in Milwaukee, there was not a whole lot of Greek food to be found. Sure, we had the common diner joints in the neighborhood (Omega) where you could get a roasted chicken, gyro, or a Greek salad, but beyond that you had to drive to the East side of town to get a really good Greek gyro. I really think that there needs something to be said about Greek food as the simple ingredients, really pays off in huge flavors. Whenever I am reminded of those flavors, I quickly turn to my pantry of ingredients to try to recreate something that is so wonderful. You have probably seen this with my homemade gyros on the grill, and as I really wanted to make the gyros this past week, I needed something quick and easy, hence souvlaki.  Don’t be startled by the sound of this dish as the name souvlaki is simply meat on a skewer, or what I like to say ‘meat on a stick’, and who doesn’t love meat on a stick?.  Souvlaki is basically a Greek kebob, typically made with pork or chicken.

Souvlaki Recipe

This dish is really easy to make, and you can have some authentic Greek souvlaki served up for your next game day in no time. You friends and family will certainly be impressed by the souvlaki served on warm pita, and what is becoming my favorite condiment right now, Tzatziki Sauce.

Let’s get started.

  • 2 1/2 pounds of pork shoulder, cut in 3/4 inch cubes
  • 2 tsp of dried oregano
  • generous pinch of cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • wooden skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes
  • Pita bread
  • Chopped tomatoes (optional)
  • Tzatziki Sauce (optional)
  • Chopped parsley (optional)

That’s it. Simple ingredients yielding huge flavors. Begin by mixing all of the dry and wet ingredients in a bowl. Take your cubed pork and place in a large ziplock bag. Add in the marinade and massage into the pork. Seal and place the bag in the refrigerator for nearly 30-60 minutes, longer if you can.

Take about 3-4 cubes of pork and place on a skewer. Repeat the process. When cooking, you have some alternatives. Grill, or place under the broiler. Depending on the season, you can do this indoors or out, which I really like. Preheat your grill to a medium-high heat. Place your skewers on the grill and cook for about 4-6 minutes per side, moving your skewers accordingly.

You have options now. Serve your guests the skewers (great with beer) and have them eat the pork off of the stick, or remove the pork and place in warm pita bread with chopped tomatoes, Tzatziki sauce, and chopped parsley.

These skewers bring Greek flavors right in your very own home. No more of that family diner, or a road trip to a downtown location. Simple, fast, and fun.

Jalapeno Poppers

One of my favorite bar foods has to be jalapeno poppers. A jalapeno pepper, stuffed with cheese, and either deep fried, or baked, lends itself to be packed full of flavor. Granted it has been awhile since I have bellied up at a bar to enjoy a beer, a jalapeno popper appetizer, and a game, but the thought of these morsels has not escaped me.

I love the flavor of a jalapeno pepper. It has just the right amount of heat, and you can easily transform its texture from the solid crunch you get out of it, to a soft tender pepper, in no time at all. My preference when using jalapenos is to have a nice, crisp texture, allowing for full flavor and a bit more heat. Great examples of the use of fresh jalapenos can be found on my Stuffed Jalapenos recipe as well as Vietnamese Pho Noodle Soup. These poppers were not exception to that rule.

Ingredients: [Print this Recipe]

  • 3 slices of good bacon, cooked, and crumbled
  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup of sharp cheddar cheese
  • 8-12 large jalapeno peppers, cored (see below) and seeded
  • 12 oz can of good, amber beer (something you would want to drink)
  • 1/2 tbsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tbsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups of flour
  • white cornmeal
  • 2 cups of white cornmeal
  • wax paper
  • 3 cups of canola oil

You have a couple of options when coring and seeding jalapenos. You can do what I did and use an old school vegetable peeler and use the end to poke and dig around the core, using the edges to remove the insides, including all of the seeds. If you do not want to go this route, you can cut them in half, lengthwise, and remove the ribs and seeds.  This is an important step as you do not want your guests biting into a jalapeno seed, getting the hiccups, and having a real fire in their mouth. Continue this process with all of the jalapeno peppers.

* Be careful not to touch any body part with your hands. The heat from the ribs and seeds will actually burn if you touch the wrong spot on your body. Wash your hands with warm water and soap, thoroughly.

In a bowl, mix the cream cheese, crumbled bacon, and sharp cheddar cheese. Next get your batter and dredging station ready. Get two bowls out and to one add the flour. Mix the seasonings into the flour. Add the beer until, close to 10 ounces until you have a really thick batter. To your other bowl add the white cornmeal.

Prepare to get messy. This part takes a bit of time, and can be fun for the kids if they are the type to want to get messy as well. The goal is to stuff the jalapenos with the cheese mixture, stuffing tightly just below the top. You can use your pinkie finger, you can use a chopstick, you can squeeze it in there. You will quickly figure out and define your own process for this. Once they are all stuffed, they will go into the batter.

Using your index finger and thumb, hold both ends of the jalapeno pepper, and mix into the beer batter. Make sure it is full coated, and let any batter drip off. Take the white breadcrumbs, and with your other hand, generously sprinkle onto the batter, making sure you coat the pepper. Place a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Repeat this process.

Once the peppers have been coated, place the baking sheet into the freezer for about 45 minutes to one hour. This holds the batter together and ensures a nice fry.

Heat your oil to about 350 degrees. Place a few peppers at a time into the oil until they are nice and golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and let any access oil drain on some paper towel, or wire rack. The batter that helped coat the pepper prevents any cheese from coming out. Pretty cool. Repeat this process. Plate and serve. The pepper is perfectly coated, with a great crunch and packed full of melted cheese and bacon. Crunch, heat, and deliciousness all around, this jalapeno popper is worth the time and effort.

Cheesy Potatoes

Over the course of the last several years, my sister-n-law brings these cheesy potatoes to holiday gatherings. She brings the dish because they are really good. I normally get my fill on these potatoes and I am fairly content until she serves them for the next gathering, however this past weekend I had a true craving for them. My father-n-law invited us for dinner, for what he coined ‘the last night to grill’, this past weekend, and I offered to bring a dish, and that dish being a potato. Now I thought for a few minutes, until I thought of the cheesy potatoes. Cheesy potatoes, with my twist on them.

Cheese Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 2 bags of Ore-Ida Southern Style Hashbrowns, frozen
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can cream of onion soup
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup of french fried onions
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Pepper
  • Milk (enough to build a nice texture with the canned soup)
  • 6 tbsp of butter
  • 2 dollops of sour cream
  • 4 cups of finely shredded four cheese blend

In a large pot, add the cream of soups and roughly 2 1/2 cups of milk, and slowly whisk to bring it together.  Continue cooking on medium heat, and add the butter. Get a large bowl ready because you will add the potatoes and combine everything in this bowl before transferring it to your large casserole dish.  To the potatoes add it all in, reserving a cup or so of the cheese to add in later, and mix well.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter a large casserole dish. Add the bowl of potatoes to the casserole dish and cook for roughly 2 hours, covered. Add the remaining cheese to the top, and place under the broiler to crisp up the cheese and potatoes for a few minutes.

Remove from the oven, and let cool for about five minutes as these are piping hot. These cheesy potatoes are so good that you will probably want them not only for a snack, but also for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. These served 9 with two days of leftovers. Great for a large gathering. For a kick, top with bacon.

Cheesy Potatoes
 
Ingredients
  • 2 bags of Ore-Ida Southern Style Hashbrowns, frozen
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can cream of onion soup
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup of french fried onions
  • 1½ tbsp Salt
  • 1½ tbsp Pepper
  • Milk (enough to build a nice texture with the canned soup)
  • 6 tbsp of butter
  • 2 dollops of sour cream
  • 4 cups of finely shredded four cheese blend
Instructions
  1. In a large pot, add the cream of soups and roughly 2½ cups of milk, and slowly whisk to bring it together. Continue cooking on medium heat, and add the butter. Get a large bowl ready because you will add the potatoes and combine everything in this bowl before transferring it to your large casserole dish. To the potatoes add it all in, reserving a cup or so of the cheese to add in later, and mix well.
  2. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter a large casserole dish. Add the bowl of potatoes to the casserole dish and cook for roughly 2 hours, covered. Add the remaining cheese to the top, and place under the broiler to crisp up the cheese and potatoes for a few minutes.
  3. Remove from the oven, and let cool for about five minutes as these are piping hot. These cheesy potatoes are so good that you will probably want them not only for a snack, but also for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. These served 9 with two days of leftovers. Great for a large gathering. For a kick, top with bacon.

 

Mexican Corn

As we all know, summer is here, and one thing that I truly love to eat during this season is corn on the cob. I have written about corn in the past, however my colleague just reminded me of what she calls “Mexican Corn”. Thanks to Kate, this recipe was made this past weekend.

Grilled Mexican Corn with Mayonnaise and Cheese

As noted, while living in Dallas, Texas, corn vendors would sell a few varieties of corn on the cob, and the Mexican corn recipe below was one of them. I steered away from Kate’s just lightly as I used Parmesan cheese rather than queso fresco, and chili powder rather than cayenne pepper.

Ingredients

  • Fresh corn on the cob, husk on, but ends trimmed and soaked in water for 2-4 hours
  • 1 cup of mayonnaise, the good stuff, nothing light
  • Chili Powder
  • Cotija Cheese, or Parmesan Cheese
  • Fresh Limes, quartered

Kate suggests cleaning the corn, removing the husks, boiling for 7-10 minutes, then caramelizing the corn on the grill, however I really love cooking my corn, husk on, on the grill, so that is where I went with this recipe. Cook on the grill for roughly 20-30 minutes, turning quarterly every few minutes or so. The water from the soaking builds enough moisture within the husk to perform a steam bath for the corn.

Once the corn is cooked, let the corn cool for a few minutes, then peel the husk down, twist, and place them back on the grill to let the corn caramelize, roughly 5-7 minutes, on direct heat. While this is going on, get your mayonnaise ready, the cheese, and the seasoning. When the corn is done, plate them up and allow your family to lather on the mayonnaise, sprinkle with cheese, and season with the chili powder. Trust me on this one, it is delicious.