Saturday, March 20, 2010

No Buffalo were Harmed in the Creation of this Buffalo Chicken Dip

There's a well-known saying about opinions, and how common and pointless they are.  Whoever coined that saying never met me, because my opinions are like gold.  That said, it is my opinion that we needed to post something simple and relatively reproducible.* Thus, with the help of Luke's amazingly experienced girlfriend (see "My Hands Were Thai'd" entry from July), we have a brand new tasty dish for everyone: good ol' homestyle Buffalo Chicken Dip.

*It should be noted that we usually screw up something somehow in just about every recipe we attempt, so take "reproducible" with a grain of salt. Or pepper.

Our Ingredients:
 Note: the specific brands and amounts that we used will be in parentheses. Feel free to try different things; this is meant to be the kind of thing you can just make using stuff you have.

  • Buffalo Wing Sauce (Moore's)
  • Bleu cheese or ranch (we used bleu)
  • 1 and a half blocks of original cream cheese (Philly) the more of this you use, the gooier it will be.
  • 2 big ol' cans of chicken (two 12.5 oz cans, Tyson)
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese - a few handfuls
  • Hot sauce (Frank's) a few splashes. Obviously this will make it spicier.

1. Preheat that there oven to 350°.
2. Mix the chicken, buffalo sauce, and dressing in a bowl.  Shred the chicken with a fork til it's nice and shreddy. I gave no exact amounts for the buffalo sauce and the dressing because there is no exact measurement; look at how much chicken you have, and judge based on that.  More buffalo sauce will make it hotter and zestier, more dressing will cool it down.  I definitely added about half the bottle of buffalo sauce, and that was way too much... Erin said something like "I like it to be most of the buffalo sauce, and blah blah blah..." and I assumed she meant most of the bottle.  I'm pretty sure there's also a saying about assuming... oh well.
3. Add shredded cheese; enough to make it unliquidy. Again, this isn't exact.
4. Take your cream cheese and spread it across the bottom of a baking dish evenly.  Ours was 12x8 or something like that.
5. Pour your chicken/sauce mixture on top of the cream cheese.
6. Top the whole thing with more shredded mozzarella.
7. You can splash a bit of Frank's on top for even more spice; we put Frank's on half of it to test it both ways.
8. Stick 'er in the oven and check after about 10 minutes.  It should be bubbling a bit when it's done; use your judgment.
9. Devour greedily with tortilla chips!

Experiment with this, you guys!  It's tasty, zesty, and a nice break from all that difficult Austrian stuff.  In short, it's good American eats.  I definitely added about twice as much buffalo sauce as we needed, but it was still quite edible (just very very zesty. I like that word.)  It's pretty difficult to mess this recipe up; there's really nothing that can ruin it.  Just decide what proportions you want your deliciousness to be in.

That's all for now, folks... we've been trying to figure out how to somehow create an entry for our AWARD-WINNING chili, but it might be difficult seeing as we really didn't write down the stuff that we put in there.  It was a lot of stuff.  Different stuff.  Like, we don't even remember a lot of the stuff we put in there... but with any luck, Captain Candy's Catastrophic Chili (a Culinary Conquistador Creation) will be on the horizon soon enough.  Until then, good luck gettin' yo' buffalo on!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


... Okay, this post isn't about beer. I had enough of beer just trying to weave my way from my office on Public Square back to my car many blocks away... Cleveland was teeming with rowdy drunks, questionable driving, and the remnants of a parade that half the people on Euclid Ave. may never remember. I didn't have to see much beer today, I saw enough of its traces.

St. Patrick's Day, I've realized, is about the same on city streets as on a campus.

While today may be the Day o' Ireland, we're actually going back to Austria / Bavaria briefly to finish up the latter half of our great goulash experiment... The omni-present knoedel.

Knoedel is the name for a form of dumpling found commonly across German-speaking territory. It comes in many forms, from leberknoedel (liver-based) to kartoffelknoedel (potato-based) to the more basic brotknoedel (bread-based). To be honest, I bet you could use about anything that can be made into a ball. Want to try Playdoughknoedel? Let us know how it goes.

We took on the bread variation this time and found ourselves again referencing the handy-dandy Austrian Cookbook of Birgit Wiedemeir (noted awesome cook of Salzburg College). Knoedel, I learned in Austria, goes with just about any meal. Substitute it in for other starces like potatoes, rice, noodles... whatever. If made right*, it can be the object of much anticipation.
*It should be noted that we have, in fact, never made it "right".

As Mom said as she placed a plate of green eggs and ham in front of me this morning before I left for work, "Try them, try them, you will see!"

Dumplings (Knoedel)

  • 600g of bread cubes, cut into 1/2" chunks [HA! Welcome to Austria and the metric system. 1 pound = 16 ounces (NOT FLUID OUNCES) = 454.55 grams. So 600g is 1.32 lbs. or a little over 21oz.... this is essentially a bit more than your average loaf of white bread (the one sitting on my counter weighs in  at 567g or 1lb. 4oz.)]
  •  1/2 l. of milk (1 liter is about 4.23 cups... so a little under 4 1/4c. should be good) 
  • 1 medium finely chopped onion
  • 1T. chopped parsely
  • salt (to taste)
  • nutmeg (to taste)
  • 5 eggs
  • 125g of butter (.275lb. or 4.4oz.)
How to Make It

Brown the chopped onions  in the butter and warm the milk. Add onions, milk chopped parsely, and the eggs to the bread cubes. Add salt, nutmeg, and flour*. Knead the mixture thoroughly and let it stand for about 5 minutes. Wet your hands with water and form dumplings (balls). Cook them for 10 minutes in salted water (they'll float to the top when they're about done) Serve immediately (slightly burnt butter drizzled on them is helpful if your meal doesn't feature another sauce!).
 * You'll note there is no flour measurement. This is essentially, from what I can tell, a "to taste thing" like the salt and nutmeg going in. It allows you to correct for slight imbalances in the conversions for the milk and bread weight.


 Alright. Pretty simple, right? Well, I have some good news and some bad news.

First the good news. I figured out, as I was doing all of the conversions above from metric to American measurements, what we've been screwing up with the knoedel! The bad news is we have yet to do it right.

Now comes your all-too-common lesson on what NOT to do from the Culinary Conquistadors. As stated above, do not assume that 16oz. = 16 fl. oz. Weight does not correspond directly to volume! Think about it (because we didn't); if I have 1 cup of water and 1 cup of fluffy bread chunks, will they really weigh the same?


In hindsight, we used probably 1/4 the amount of bread we should have... which explains why everything was so runny! I had to pile in flour like you wouldn't believe to make something that could be molded into balls. For a recipe that gives no flour measurement, I thought something was wrong.

From the glue-like consistence of the dumplings once served, I KNEW something was wrong.

Honestly, I am extremely relieved that I figured out what our issue was. Knoedel was much-loved by my compatriots (and myself) in Austria but it has been killing me that it has been so sub-par here. My great-grandmother used to make them the right way for my dad, so he appreciated that we were trying.. now I think we can get it right.

So what is the bottom line? Try it. They really aren't hard to make and they can be delicious. Don't be discouraged by our trip-ups... this is why we have Deering around to double-check our work. Knoedel may require a decent bit of raw materials to make, but it is something pretty exotic to show off while still allowing guests to take comfort in a familiar main course!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

And You Thought You Had Finally Finished That Gumbo

Hello hello hello! Hi.

For those of you who don’t know me/missed Luke’s shpeel on what I will be doing here, I’m Pat Deering. Most people just call me Deering, and you can as well. Anyhow, I will be filling two roles here on the Culinary Conquistadors: First, I will be recreating Luke and Matty’s dishes in a different environment; the dread and sparsely stocked kitchen of a college student. In doing so I hope to offer a little insight on the ease of recreation for these meals as well as some variations that you can try. Secondly, I will be doing my best to come up with beer and wine pairings for the dishes that Luke and Matty throw your way.

So, without further ado, allow me to share with you the first of the dishes that I have managed to slam together in my oddly shaped and poorly situated student housing kitchen: the Shrimp, Chicken, and Andouille Gumbo.

Now, as was made quite obvious by Luke’s original post, this dish is enormous. Enormous in the way that causes smugglers to mistake it for a small moon as to the battle station of southern goodness that it is. Due to this, and my kitchen’s tiny cooking apparatuses, I quartered the recipe as best I could, which gave me something along the lines of this:

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped (I really like garlic)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (Careful…)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • Handful of Chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 diced tomatoes
  • 1 8-ounce bottles clam juice
  • 1 cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 1.5 pounds andouille sausage, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1/2 pound skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 8oz sliced, frozen okra (about half a standard grocer’s freezer bag)
  • 1 pound peeled deveined medium shrimp
  • Minced fresh Italian parsley
  • Steamed rice

As you can see, some of the ingredients were not quartered exactly. 1. Fractions are terrible, terrible things. 2. Some ingredients don’t need to be exact. Since I really enjoy garlic and sausage, I let those two ingredients stay on the heavy side. Always feel free to experiment with cooking. This isn’t baking; it doesn’t need to be exact.

I was lucky enough to be able to make the base ahead of time (and to find room for it in my fridge). If you want to make the base ahead of time as well, remember to let the mixture cool slightly before putting it straight in the fridge. Melted fridge racks from hot soup pots are sad, sad things. Also, don’t cover the mixture right away once it’s in the fridge; let it chill before covering. This prevents discoloration and lets some of the extra moisture from condensation escape.

The next day, I brought the base back to a simmer, and added my shrimp. I decided to halve the shrimps before I added them, since my over all serving space would be smaller. Be wary though, cutting up raw shellfish can be messy, and you don’t want to waste any. Anyway, feel free to dive into this versatile meal anyway you feel. One of the great things about soups, stews, and the like is that you can come up with countless variations on the same basic recipe.

Now, onto the good stuff…drink pairings!

I must admit, that I am rather new to the arena of food and wine pairings myself, having spent the past three years of my life drinking whatever could be found on a college student’s budget. (Don’t worry. I will never recommend Natural Light for your fancy at-home dinner date.) However, with my new found employment at Season’s Bistro and Grill ( in Springfield, OH, I have learned some of the ropes of wine pairings as well as rekindled my passion for artisan beers and the foods that can be enjoyed with them. So, while I will try my best to find you the best selection possible, remember that this is a learning process for me as well.

Red Wine: Now, since gumbo is very heavy on its base flavors (cayenne, sausage, chicken stock), heavy reds might not be the best choice; you don’t want a metallic wine taste to destroy the more subtle parts of the gumbo, like the shrimp and thyme, leaving you with nothing but a chicken soup flavor. However, you can make this work. Avoid high tannin wines like cabernets, and opt for a Pinot Noir or maybe even a Shiraz. In this regards, Claus du Bois offers a pretty decent Shiraz from their North Coast and Alexander Valley, California vineyards. It has a bit of a blueberry (maybe? That’s what I got) aroma, as well as vanilla flavors and a finish that reminds me a lot of cracked black pepper. This finish complimented the flavors of the gumbo well, without masking the shrimp.

White Wine: I would certainly more commonly recommend a white for use with this dish, especially one of a more crisp and refreshing variety, like a Sauvignon Blanc. The bottle I selected was from the Robert Mondavi Private Selection, a reasonably priced line from the Central Coast area. This wine offered a citrusy aroma with a similar flavor and a mineral filled finish. This worked well to cleanse the palate of excess heat and spice and allowed me to resample each flavor in the meal with every bite.

Beer: Well, now that I’ve made myself seem to be some highbrowed city fop, allow me to systematically destroy that image with this: I would recommend a beer over a wine pairing for this meal any day of the week. In a basic sense, you would probably want to begin with a lager. This lower hop count brewing style can cut through the fatty tastes of the sausage without overpowering the rest of the dish. I would recommend and amber lager as the malty backbone of this drink will bring out the spice and vegetable flavors of the gumbo and blend smoothly into the chicken and shrimp, as well as offering a cooling palate refresher if the cayenne is just a little too much. The beer I selected for this is a local Cleveland favorite, the seven-time Gold Medal winning Elliot Ness Amber Lager from the Great Lakes Brewing Company. This lager is a bit heavier on hops than others in its class, but with the potency of the gumbo I had at my disposal, since I left it a bit more garlicky, I feel it worked well.

Anyway, that’s it for me today. Hopefully I’ll be back next week with drink pairings for that there Goo-lash.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Adventures in the West Side

Hungarian bread.
Pig's feet.
Bison burgers.
Quail eggs.
The best gyros in the U. S. of A.
     This is but a taste (hehe) of the many food items one can find at Cleveland's West Side Market.  It was... an experience for us, to say the least.  You see, one of our problems has been that Luke has all of these cookbooks with exotic ingredients; the recipes all look good, but there is invariably at least one or two things that a guy can't find at a normal grocery store.  Today, we happened to be in the Cleveland area and we checked the West Side Market out.  We were hardly prepared for what we found.
     The place is a zoo, with a weird kind of anthill-style order to it.  Everything seems to flow, even though nobody is sure exactly where they're going most of the time; it's not really about the destination anyways.  You wander, comment on some weird meats, stare longingly at the pastries, and every now and then stop to buy whatever tickles your fancy.  Everything looks fresh, and you know it probably is.  It's noisy and crowded, but fascinating, like an elevator full of Sean Connerys.
     We have procured some very interesting foods, some of which you will probably see in future entries.  We decided about halfway through that we'd have to go back there sometime, because A.) there was too much good food to get all at once, B.) it was an eye-opening experience that merits further investigation, and C.) we were already carrying about 6 heavy bags.  Specifically, we'd like to get some pork belly for some of the crazy recipes in Luke's Momofoku book; that's the kind of thing that you find at the West Side Market.
     That whole "best gyros in the U. S. of A." thing? That was not a lie, and not just personal opinion.  Maxim magazine rated Steve's Gyros the best gyros in the country in 2007.  Steve's gyros is a market stand at the West Side Market that looks like every other market stand in the place.  The one thing that set it apart for us was the fact that the line was about 20 people long when we first saw it (no other stands had lines in front of them.)  In my personal opinion, I would have waited twice as long to get that little piece of heaven; it was a small, rare incidence of perfection on this Earth.  Many thanks to @Steponice who suggested this little gyro stand to Luke.
     If it were more convenient, I'm sure we would go to the West Side Market or some other similar place more often. It's fresh, variant, and kind of an adventure in itself.  If you have a similar open-market style place near you, don't write it off because it's not a grocery store; give it a try! Or you could fly all the way to Cleveland to get one of them gyros...  I certainly wouldn't blame you.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Gulag? No, Wait... Gulash! That Was It...

Alright! Almost 10 days into March now and we're going to finally post our final entry from February's Soup Month series.

Can you say, "on top of our game?"

Doesn't matter. I can.

Anyhoo, to cap off Soup Month we decided that we ought to bring out the ol' Austrian cookbook. An artifact once promised its own month of glory (see the triumph of laziness that was November), this slender tome has been in hiding for a good bit now. We'll see if we can't win back its favor. We never did write down the recipe for Apfel Streudel... it would be crazy not to stay in its good graces.

Some may argue that trying impress a cookbook is crazy enough.

Regardless, we're back in the last of Osterreich. Or at least in the land of the Austro-Hungarian Empire... gulash technically hails from Austria's paprika-rich neighbor. Same thing, right?

This guy knows.---------------------->  

So gulash, or Ungarishces Saftgulasch, if we go by the proper title in our book, is essentially a fancy beef stew with a tomato-y, well-spiced base. Hungary, as I referenced before, is widely known for its high-grade paprika exports... always has been. Paprika, if you know a little bit about it, comes in both hot and sweet varieties. Our recipe today uses the sweet variety, though we're eager to experiment with its hotter counterpart in the future. Something we'll certainly be keeping in mind when we do, however, is an old Hungarian saying: "Good paprika burns twice." Confused? Wikipedia, in its infinite knowledge, explains. "Paprika contains strong spices; these may cause a burning sensation in the mucuous membranes of the anus." Eek. A rootin' tootin' good time for sure... O_o

As is the case with most of the Austrian recipes we plan to feature, I've made gulash once before in a group setting during my Austrian Cuisine course in Salzburg. I had some idea, therefore, what our end product ought to look like... but not a good one. I probably just chopped onions last time.

Oh well. It wouldn't be C.C. material if we knew what we were doing.


  What You'll Need

(Serves 4-6)

1 oz. cookin' oil
5 oz. finely chopped onions
1 t. finely chopped garlic
3 T. sweet Hungarian paprika
2 lb. beef chuck, cut into 1/2 in. cubes
1/2 t. caraway seeds
1 1/2 pints chicken or beef stock or water (we used beef)
1.2 t. (or so) salt
To taste: freshly ground pepper
1 T. tomato paste
1 lb. tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped (approx. 1 1/4 cups)
2 medium sized green peppers, with seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped
1/2 t. marjoram or oregano

The Process

Heat the oil in a 4-5 quart heavy saucepan* until a light haze forms over it, then reduce the heat to medium and add the onions. Cook them for 8 to 10 mnutes, or intil the onions are lightly colored. Add the beef cubes; fry until the meat turns light.
*We used an electric frying pan. Note that if you do this, you'll have to adjust the cooking times accordingly as the increased surface area with cause faster evaporation / heating

Add a T tomato paste and stir for about one minute. Remove pan from the heat and stir in the paprika until the onions are well coated (and it BEST be Hungarian or else).

Add stock or water and season with caraway seeds, salt, pepper, garlic, and marjoram. Bring the liquid to a boil and partially cover the pan. Simmer for 1 hour, or until the beef is almost tender.

Add the tomatoes and the peppers** to the stew. Partially cover again and cook over medium heat for 25-35 minutes, or until the beef is tender. Taste for seasoning.
**As is generally the case, we managed to mess something up here. We forgot to buy green peppers, using a red pepper and a can of diced tomatoes with chopped green peppers already included... Not a very professional shortcut and not one that I'd recommend, but I'm just tellin' it like it is. We're not pros. NEVER forget (the Alamo soup).

Serve the gulash with dumplings***, potatoes, or Spaetzle.
***We made dumplings, Austrian-style "knoedel", which we'll detail in the next post.


There you have it. Gulash at its finest. Don't worry if it doesn't look like much... its finest isn't saying much. Gulash is an ugly dish (like many we've shown recently), but an interesting one if nothing else. It's the spices that make a difference in this beefy stew, adding a little bit of "OIC whatchu did there!" to your dish.

The response, overall, was mixed. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't overly memorable either. Using the electric frying pan, neglecting correct pepper color, and screwing up spice proportions somewhere along the line (I'm just assuming) probably detracted from what the gulash could have been. As I mentioned earlier, we made knoedel with this dish and I still can't quite get the recipe straight on that one. It's a work in progress, anyway.

Overall, we give this one a mediocre rating plus points for intercultural style. A pseudo-thumbs-up, if you will.

If you're HUNGARY for something different, give it a try.

Oh come on, did you really think I could avoid that lame joke throughout the whole post?? As good as I may be, I'm not THAT good.

Best of luck.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Today will be a very, very busy day for the Conquistadors! It is the Chili Cook-off at church, we have valiantly entered the competition, and we have NEVER made chili in our lives!

The blog, as I'm sure you can see, is under construction today. We'll finish work on it ASAP!

We'll have at least three entries coming soon... stand by!