Thursday, July 30, 2009

My Hands Were Thai-d.

"So you've made this before?"

"Kinda, Whitney and I made something like this."

"But you have a recipe."

"Well yeah, but mostly I used it for rough list of what to buy. I'm making a lot of it up..."

"Oh... well you know I want to put this on the blog, I mean it's pretty exotic. I've never even had Thai food. How much of that sauce did you put in?"

"Um... whatever is gone from the bottle?"

"O..k... and the soy sauce?"

"I'd say like, 8 long drips?"

"I don't think a 'drip' is a standard measurement."

"Probably not..."

"Err... Erin, look, the point of this blog is somewhat just to log our escapades, but also the idea is that a person would be able to remake a recipe themselves based on what we write... Have you measured anything?"

"No. I put about a fifth of the bottle of cayenne pepper sauce in though. That is sorta a measurement?"

"I can't cook with you anymore."


Matty, we miss you.

The Conquistadors, or Conquistador + guests, have been at it again folks! This time the undertaking was something truly exotic - Thai food.

Now I, dear readers, have never experienced Thai food. I realized how astoundingly hard to believe this must be given the culinary expertise exhibited on this blog regularly, but alas, Thai has not previously been part of my repertoire. All I know about Thai food is that it is supposedly peanut-y and spicy.

If that is truly all it takes for a Thai dish to be wildly successful, then hold your hats and try not to fall out of your seats - this one's an award winner.

That is, if you can actually make it.

As you may have effectively gleaned from the introduction to this wonderful post, we had some... issues with the bookkeeping. My lovely guest Erin was the chef de cuisine for this meal and apparently they teach cooking a little bit different in the far-off, secluded land of Indiana.

It was her opinion that food is to be made in the moment - a rough idea of ingredients and process and an adventurous spirit is all that it takes to make a memorable dish. This is a commendable idea to be certain; the Culinary Conquistadors exist not because of our years of training in the crafting of food, but because of our desire to submit to good old-fashioned trial and error. This approach to cooking, unfortunately, has two side effects. The first is that you, the reader of this laudable blog, have very little information to go off should you wish to re-create this dish, and secondly it seems that the less you follow directions, the spicier food becomes.

This second point may merit further research.

Anyhow, as things stand I will do my best to relay to you at least what ingredients were used and will post a link to the recipe on which this creation was roughly based... I wish you the best of luck should you attempt to follow our path.


Our Ingredients
- Creamy Peanut Butter
- Red Bell Pepper
- Green Bell Pepper
- Soy Sauce
- Spicy Thai Chili Sauce
- Garlic (cloves)
- Paprika
- Chili Powder
- "China Bowl Five Spice Powder"
- Classic Olive Oil
- Sweet & Hot Mustard
- Large can of Tyson chicken
- Small can of Tyson chicken
- Brown Sugar
- Spring Roll Skins
- Red Onion
- Cayenne Pepper Sauce
- Lots o' TLC

I won't attempt to place any measurements on any of these ingredients as, to be honest, they'd be wrong. The assembly itself wasn't too difficult. Before starting, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Next, mix everything (that isn't the spring roll skins) in a medium mixing bowl. Start with the peanut butter, add peppers, garlic (pressed), sauces, and spices, then chicken last. Be tasting the mixture as you progress, deciding on level of spiciness. Be aware, my fingers (24 hours and at least two-showers of scrubbing later) still smell like garlic.

Peanut butter seems to absorb spiciness from things such as chili powder, pepper sauce, or thai chili sauce, but baking seems to lessen the mitigating effect of the peanut butter. For this reason you may want to continually augment the mixture with more spicy additions, but be aware that the final product will probably end up slightly spicier than the pre-cooked mixture. I don't claim to understand the physics. I blame oils.

Once your mixture is "up to snuff", lay out your spring roll skins (or any sort of asian wraps ought to work). The Vietnamese wraps we used were made of rice starch primarily, and were extremely brittle... You honestly couldn't tell they weren't ultra-thin plastic circles. For this reason they will break when you try to bend them. The solution, we found, is to take the wraps and wet them beforehand... we rotated the wraps in a large salad bowl of water to give them pliability.

Take a wet wrap, place it on a plate. Take some of the filling-mixture you just created and place a line of it off-center atop the flat wrap: maybe an inch-wide line of mixture, about three inches long would be good. Take the edges of the wrap and fold it burrito-style. Here is an explanation I found on how to do this. Lay the filled rolls on a butter-coated baking sheet (will help prevent sticking). We made enough to comfortably fill one sheet with some space between the rolls (as a point of reference). Place the sheet in the oven, and begin cooking. I am unsure exactly how long we left ours in for, but check them periodically every 5 minutes or so after the first 10 minutes to check temperature and whether they seem to be baked.

Once you remove them from the oven the rolls should be ready for consumption - don't worry if they aren't pretty... they aren't really supposed to be. We chose to pour some of the extra Spicy Thai Chili sauce to garnish the rolls / for dipping; I would recommend trying this as I thought it worked out well IF you want it extra spicy. Otherwise you may want to skip it.

The final result was good, tasted much like I believe it was supposed to, just bowel-shakingly spicy given our zeal for heat. To be quite honest there is a high likelihood of your digestive system being in a bit of disarray after this one. Here is the link to the real recipe. You'll note that it is clearly not at all what we produced, but should give you an idea of some of the measurements.

Erin, unfortunately, had to head back to Indiana today, but she did succeed in leaving us a "recipe" and a lesson: "winging-it" can lead to a positive outcome!

With the return of Matty on Monday our culinary team will once more be complete. Best of luck on this recipe and try not to burn off ALL of your tastebuds... more concoctions (and hopefully more witty writing) will abound in the near future!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Holy Crap. That Was Too Much Food.

Hi all, this is Pat Deering, bringing you a special guest entry here on Culinary Conquistadors. With Matty off in places unknown, Luke asked me to do a special appearance and I jumped at the offer.

Anyways, tonight, after a frantic trip to a closed Heinen's and a confusing Giant Eagle, we prepared a pesto and farfalle dish, a Layonnaise potato variation, and a classic marinated bottom round steak (hey, they were buy one get one free). I also recommend picking up a Heineken draught keg like we did. They rock.

First off, is the pesto sauce for the farfalle. Cook your farfalle, put it in a bowl, and then put it in the fridge so it cools. This is critical, as the extra virgin olive oil and basil you'll be heaping on it might lose its flavor in heat. Then, take a handful of basil leaves, 5-7 crushed garlic cloves, extra virgin olive oil, some pine nuts, and a handful of parmesan cheese, and blend them till its smooth. (It will look like snot, don't worry). For better flavor, toast the pine nuts in a pan on medium heat real quick first. Set aside.

As this is going on, you'll want to be boiling your potatoes. Any variety except Idaho bakers should work. In another pan, sautee some onion in butter with a little Lowry's salt, and set aside.

While the potatoes are boiling, marinade your steaks (buy top round, and don't be poor college students like us). We used a Montreal seasoning, some oil, water, and red wine vinegar to prepare ours. Set in a fridge till you're ready to grill.

When the potatoes are ready (fork tender) mash them (skins still on) together with some more butter, a tiny bit of milk, and the onions from before, and then set aside. Have someone throw your steaks on the grill, and then get that farfalle out of the fridge. Toss it with the pesto, some red and yellow peppers, and some black olives (we wanted to add mushrooms too, but the only ones we could find were in the bottom drawer of Lukas's fridge and smelled a bit like DEATH. So we opted out). Any veggies will work honestly, but the black, yellow, and red colors gave a nice contrast to the white pasta and green pesto.

Don't forget about the steaks! I recommend RARE, which is what we had, but if you insist on murdering your meat, you can always go medium rare.

At this point in time, everything should be just about ready. Plate it up, and serve. We of course, made the mistake of make an 8 person box of farfalle, huge 24oz steaks, and enough potatoes to make an Irish man cry. We don't recommend doing that, as now all of us are falling into dangerous food comas.

For now though, Margarita time!

The Mediterranean Flatbread

Unlike it's non-creative name, the Mediterranean Flatbread is a dish to which we all owe some degree of thanks - this is the very creation which led to the creation of the Culinary Conquistadors. To celebrate our inauguration (we just liked it and felt like making it again) we again composed this ode to Southern Italy.

The flatbread's components may seem a bit exotic for lunch, but to be honest, they aren't hard to find.

- Mediterranean-style flatbread (we used Orlando)
- Roasted tomatoes marinated in olive oil (we used Divina brand, the marinade is seasoned)
- Sweet basil (we used dried flakes, though I'm sure fresh would be great)
- Genoa Salami (it returns!)
- Fresh Mozarella
- Ground Pepper
- Sea Salt (Or something you can grind)

First, preheat the oven to 400 degrees (we didn't, but should have). Next, take your flatbread, lay it out. Take the tomatoes and position some atop the bread. We put maybe 7 or so on ours? Do it to taste... just realize that most of the flavor will come from these tomatoes. Pour some of the olive oil from the tomatoes on the top and spread it around to thinly cover the top of the flatbread. Take out your hunk of mozarella and slice off a few pieces. I put about 6 slices on, small ones about an inch long to fill in some of the area between the tomatoes.

Take out your salami, if you have in deli sliced, take 2-3 slices and cut them into strips of about an inch and a half. Lay them on (as much as you feel like eating) atop the rest of the flatbread... if you need an idea how, look at the picture as an example. Finally, give a few shakes of basil, a couple grinds of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Place on cookie sheet, place in preheated oven. Check after 7-10 minutes... You want to heat it enough to melt the mozarella and release some of the flavor of the salami. You can leave it in longer, but it will creat a crispier, pizza-esque result. Once it's out of the oven, it's ready to be enjoyed.



Matty - Bottom Line: I'd eat it again, but with more salami and less cheese. Pretty darn good.

Luke - This is my second time eating it, and it is good. It's only real drawback is the amount of effort that must be expended to make it for lunch... otherwise definitely worth a try.


And with the addition of this recipe I have one further, unfortunate announcement to make: Matty will be returning to Maine for the next week to help the rest of the family pack up and head back here at the end of the summer... The good thing, however, is that Matty's absence is a good excuse for something else...


Thursday, July 23, 2009

What we've been up to: The Conquistadillas

They've done it again!! The Culinary Conquistadors come through with a fantastic, never-before-seen recipe! ~Acclaimed Author

A Triumph! What class! I cannot recommend this creation highly enough! ~Overpaid Analyst

They should be in EVERY major city! ~Random guy #3 from The Boondock Saints


Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we've created another masterpiece; and yes, we are expecting you to overlook the fact that it was made in a Quesadilla-Maker. It may look like an ordinary quesadilla...

But there's a secret ingredient.

And the secret ingredient... is love.

So basically, we had a lot of tortillas... We actually still have about 2/3 of them left over, so we just might make these again. Anyways, we possess lots of tortillas, a pound of ground beef, and many packets of taco seasoning. I also just happen to have a convenient quesadilla-maker, so, I realize that this recipe is of little use to most people out there (though quesadillas can be made in a skillet easily enough - melt some butter* in a skillet on medium heat, flop in a tortilla, add your fillings, then place another on top... flip when a side gets brown). I'm just letting you know what we've been up to; it's not quite as exotic as the usual, but by no means are we slacking!

*or other buttery substance

La Stuff:

-Tortillas (we used burrito-sized)
- Beef (1/2 a pound makes about 3-4 quesadillas)
Note: Chicken is probably optimal, though chunkier. We were chicken-less.
- Cheese (shredded, lots. What's a quesadilla with no queso?)
- Tomatoes, diced (we used multiple kinds, green yellow and red, like what Luke used in his sandwich)
- Sour cream
- Jalapeno sauce (that green sauce from Chipotlé)
- Cayenne pepper sauce
- Salsa

La Process:

- Put your ground beef in a pan and brown it, until it is... brown.
- Put first tortilla on the quesadilla-maker. Put on cheese, beef (or chicken), and whatever else you will be adding. We used everything in the "Optional" column, but don't be afraid to add more.
- Put on the top tortilla and close the lid. Note that you shouldn't put on too much stuff or it will leak; cheese will probably ooze out the sides no matter what, so have a paper towel to clean it between quesadillas.
- Use your spidey-senses to detect when it is done; or just lift up the cover and you will be able to tell. Repeat according to hunger.

All in All:

They were delish. We made a total of three, each better than the last as we gained experience. We also found a packet of microwave Mexican rice, which actually made it a meal. The Conquistadillas are highly recommended, and feel free to experiment if you have the ability. We realize that very few people have quesadilla-makers, but we thought we would let you all know what we've been doing.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

GQ's Ultimate Summer Sandwich: Tomato Revelation

So this month's issue of GQ had a recipe for a summer sandwich* which can only really be enjoyed best for a short time - the simple tomato sandwich. I thought I'd be able to find the recipe on their site to post on here but I searched with no avail... I guess I'll manually post it... it isn't exactly difficult to produce.

- Two slices of country white bread - Don't use normal sandwich bread, I tried and it is simply two small and frail to really support the large tomato slices
- A few of the multicolored tomatoes that are in season (but only for the next month or two) - I chose a green, a red, and a yellow tomato, but you can mix them up. Just be sure to have variety
-Mayonnaise - I used light Hellman's but I don't suppose it matters too much
- Sea salt
- Ground pepper

And that is it. Basic ingredients, but a very seasonal (and fairly healthy I imagine) sandwich with a lot of color. Take your bread, toast it. Spread the mayo on the bread while it is still hot to release some of the oils. Slice your tomatoes about 1/4" thick; I put one green, red, and yellow slice on each piece of bread. grind a generous bit of sea salt and pepper on top. Eat open-faced. Enjoy.

I had my doubts about this one... tomato alone seemed a bit boring and a bit, well, squishy... but I was surprised how good it was. The salt and pepper augment the natural flavors, and different colors of tomato do have distinct tastes based on acidity, sweetness, etc. I liked it, and as I still have a good bit of the tomatoes left, I'm sure I'll be trying it again... consider trying it yourself. It's only summer for so long...

*Credit to Andy Ward of GQ for the original article which spawned this experiment

Monday, July 20, 2009

Le Torpille du Matin

The two intrepid adventurers awoke today with a fire in their hearts; it wasn't heartburn, but rather a strange, foreign feeling, known to some as "ambition." Armed with this new and different sensation, the Treu brothers readily descended upon their first task - a Breakfast of Champions that wasn't Wheaties. And thus, the Culinary Conquistadors set out on their first epic quest: breakfast.

Anyways... I'm Matty, and this morning we had our first experience in investigative cooking. Since this is the first time we've done this, we thought it would be suitable to start with breakfast; or maybe we were just excited to try this. Whatever the case, we found ourselves at the kitchen counter with a baguette, a loaf of sourdough, lots of salami, some eggs, and various cheeses. We decided that whatever we made, it would have to include egg - Luke is a self-proclaimed egg-frying champion. After a little brainstorming and bad ideas, we came up with a good one; a breakfast sub of sorts, made from a baguette.

It was the baguette that prompted the name for our creation: Le Torpille du Matin (The Morning Torpedo.) Despite its delightfully suggestive nature, it seemed pretty promising.

  • Baguette (about 4 inches for 1 person)
  • 1 fried egg
  • 2-3 slices Genoa salami (interchangable)
  • 1-2 slices Provolone cheese (interchangable)
  • Spices: we made one with oregano and one with paprika to compare, but use whatever you like.
  • Butter

  1. Put some butter in a non-stick frying pan, and fry that egg. Our resident egg-frying expert, Luke, says not to bust the yolk too much when flipping. He also highly endorses salt and pepper on the egg.
  2. Turn your piece o' baguette on its side and slice it down the middle, like a sub. Butter the inside of the baguette.
  3. Put on the salami slices first, then the cheese. Apparently putting it on the bottom lets out the flavor or something.
  4. Sprinkle on your choice of spices; we used oregano on one and paprika on the other. The oregano was much easier to taste we thought, but don't be afraid to experiment. Remember that this sandwich will taste pretty mild, and the flavor will pretty much be determined by what spice you add and how much.
  5. Optional But Recommended: toast or bake it for a little while to melt the cheese and release the salami juices. Mmm, salami juices.
  6. Add your egg to the sandwich, and poke the yolk to release eggy goodness. Eat.

When we made this, our portions were about 6 inches long. We soon realized that this was probably way too much, and we now recommend not making much more than 4 inches; it's a lot of food, you'd be surprised. Just because you can eat 12 inches of Subway does not mean you can eat 12 inches of egg.

Matty - Tastes like you would expect; it's pretty mild. I would recommend you go a little on the heavier side in terms of spices, for flavor. I wouldn't suggest much more than 4 inches; this is very filling.

Luke - Pretty mild, but good. Could substitute a harder salami or ham I suspect. Perhaps we could have used more pepper or salt on the eggs. Agreed, very filling.

Final Thoughts: Was it worth it?

M - It was interesting and exotic, so I'd recommend doing it once, but I don't know if I'd make one again... If you have the time on your hands, then it's probably worth it. Flavor-wise it was mild, but that's how breakfast is supposed to be; the flavor is really controlled by what spice you put on and how much of it. It was definitely fun though, to pretend to be Subway-God.

L - Pretty much what Matty said. More spices = more flavor, keep that in mind, and perhaps combine it with some fruit for additional sweetness.


All-in-all, our first creation turned out to be a success, and there were no casualties along the way. Once again, we will be the first to admit that we are inexperienced, so experiment with our experiment. I have just realized that I'm pretty much writing a book here, so I'm gonna call it a day. We'll be back with more exciting adventures into the world of delicious. Tune in next time, same bat-time, same

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Glorious Formation of the Culinary Conquistadors

Once upon a time in a magical land called Auburn, two brothers stared blankly into an overfull and somewhat grungy-looking refrigerator.

"This sucks," the older of the two stated bluntly.

"Well you know what they say," replied the other.

"Not really. What's that?"

"In order to clean something, you have to get something else dirty, but anything can get dirty without something else necessarily getting clean."

"Oh... What does that have anything to do with us cleaning out the refrigerator?"

The younger shrugged.

"You're right," the elder brother replied.

And so started what promised to be an arduous Sunday afternoon peregrination into a world of strange, slimy funk, blocks of cheese playing host to a metropolis of mold, and, oddly enough, a food-related revelation.

The two brothers, Mattias (Matty) Treu and his older brother Lukas (Luke) had realized upon Luke's return from the grocery story that it was about that time of year again... the time where enough food had been lost in the crevasses and dark places of the refrigerator that it was getting both difficult to store food and, well, gross to imagine what lurked just out of sight. As they started, Luke shared a bit of his newest lunch creation with Matty - an oven baked flatbread with roasted, olive oil-marinated tomatoes, strips of genoa salami straight from the deli, a few chunks of fresh mozzarella, some basil, and a dash of both sea salt and ground pepper. It was, as one may imagine, both pleasing to the eye and the palate.

"That... that's really good," Matty stated as his eyes lit up.

"Yeah... I dunno was just trying to think of some interesting stuff to cook while at the store. You know, just different stuff. Doesn't have to be hard. Just shake stuff up... with the right ingredients you can make some pretty cool stuff," Luke replied.

"Yeah... I'd be into that. We should make some exotic stuff... I bet it's easier than people think... and will be much more appealing once this *pointing at the refrigerator* is cleaned up."

"We should... we have the stuff. We could write about it or something."

"Like how?"

"I dunno, a blog or something... I haven't made one before but I bet we could. We could like, cook some cool stuff a few times a week, look up recipes in books or online, talk about finding the right ingredients, relay the recipes, and talk about our experiences... How hard it is to cook, what it was like for normal, non-experienced people, how it tasted, whether it was worth it, stuff like that. It could be fun... and even if something didn't work out right it may be worth it just to read for laughs..."

"Hmmm... we could be....... CULINARY CONQUISTADORS!" Matty thrust an invisible fork toward the threatening puddle of sludge at the bottom of the fridge. "It sounds like work, but it could be pretty fun and humorous. Heck, we ain't got jobs."

"You're right."

"You took a cooking course, right?"

"Uh... yeah, sorta. Austrian Cuisine when I was studying in Salzburg."

"That's vaguely applicable."




And that is how this blog came to be. Whether it will be vastly successful, wholly neglected, or passingly unimportant we cannot say, but we'll be whippin' up some strange and (with any luck) delicious dishes one way or the other. We're two slightly inept brothers with a lot of time on our hands and little "foodie" experience. We're culinary conquistadors.

Food, I hope you're ready.