Thursday, December 18, 2014

Soul Burgers - Restaurant Nocturne

This Nocturnal Nosher is back to his old street photography habits. For the last month I've been revisiting past Nocturne videos, as well as shooting new footage for another Restaurant Nocturnes.

The tamales here are fantastic, so moist and loaded with filling, cheap too.

It's been over a year since I've assembled a fresh one. If you are unfamiliar with my photo/video series, it's basically a short video of a restaurant facade taken at night (when everything looks cool and mysterious,) that I then add audio of some menu highlights. Just click here to see the last one I created, Restaurant Nocturnes XIII.

Some new Restaurant Nocturnes are coming soon, including 2 from ABC host of The Taste, Ludo Lefebvre: Trois Mec and Petite Trois. For being a sex symbol to all the female foodies out there (and some males, too) Top Chef Ludo's restaurant exteriors are decidedly unromantic. Trois Mec has no up-to-date billboard; only the original Raffallo's Pzza (sic) signage and an "OPEN" arrow. Just go to the address and walk in, that is, if you have a reservation that must be made two weeks ahead! And you cannot cancel the reservation either, not that you want to bailout of the hottest restaurant destination in town.

That's Chef Ludo taking a cell phone break, above.

When I first started the series 6 years ago, I really crammed-in too much, almost 25 eateries per video! To keep the video around 7 minutes, I barely had 15 seconds to spend on each one. That meant a truncated audio of the menu selects. Well those days are over. Now, I'm dedicating plenty of time for you to hear the luscious entrees of each restaurant. What's the rush anyway? I think it had to do with being too attached to the photo/video side of this series, and giving the audio short shrift.

Well, it exciting getting back into nighttime photography. There has been a lot of new dining destinations over the last year. I don't know how the average foodie blogger and newspaper restaurant reviewer keeps up with the LA food scene. I manage to keep my whisk in it - not too deep, but if you hang out here, you'll get a nice thumbnail of night noshing around town.

Of course, it's not all about the latest, hippest, or most talked about hot spot. A Top 9 Nocturne for me is not even open any more; it was called Soul Burgers.

Located right across from the Hollywood Park Racetrack (also since closed) in an Inglewood strip mall. These really were some of the best burgers in town. So unusual too -- who would believe you could dress a burger with cooked collard greens, pureed yams and turkey dressing, and it would be that dang good. But tasting is believing. When you bite into a James Brown Soul Burger your taste buds will shout and do the splits! Just listen in as Chef Toni testifies (she's the owner and a former Barry White backup singer) -- you'll become a turkey burger believer. What I like most about this Restaurant Nocturne is Chef Toni's enthusiastically entertaining menu description - just watch it below, with your computer speaker volume turned way up.

I'm working on Restaurant Nocturne XIV over the Christmas holidays, so do check back for the most unique and cool nighttime food series around.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cheap$kate Clam Cakes

As the days get colder, I have a recipe you will surely want to try, my Cheap$kate Clam Cakes. While the clams I use are not from the Chesapeake Bay, this New England inspired recipe is the right price when you can get a cheap can of chopped clams from almost any grocery store.

My Clam Cake recipe makes fluffy doughnut-like orbs. They are tender on the inside, but crunchy on the outside. There's a reason for it's popularity on the East Coast - they're frigging delicious.

Clam Cakes aren't luscious like Crab Cakes, because this is real cheap working class food. But, I think you will like them fine.

Canned clams are surprisingly tender and the broth they are stored in is pungent and flavorful. Don't discard it either, you can use it instead of water, when making the Clam Cake batter.

The other batter ingredients are inexpensive, just flour, an egg and baking powder. You do need a couple cups of oil for deep frying, but it's reusable for other deep fried recipes, like Fish and Chips (Chips are French Fries) or Fried Chicken, and click on those names to see the recipes. You want the batter to be thick like pancake batter. The basic mixture is 2 to 1, that is, 1 cup of flour to 1/2 cup of clam broth/water.

I always find 99.99 cent cans of chopped clams at my local 99c only Store. Usually I make a pasta sauce with them, click here to see that recipe.

Clam Cakes should be eaten within a few minutes of coming out of the fryer, otherwise the cakes get soggy over time, especially if stored in the refrigerator. They will not taste better like cold pizza or fried chicken.

Clams from the can usually come chopped or minced. If too finely chopped cooked clams tend to dissolve into the batter. You may want to add twice as much clams if they are fine minced. And look for canned clam brands that chop their clams into larger pieces.

If you want to throw a Cheap$kate Clam Cake Party, just double or quadruple the recipe. And keep reading on for my Homemade Tartar Sauce recipe listed below. So fry up a plate of Chesapeake, I mean Cheap$kate Clam Cakes to try on a cold winter day.

Ingredients (makes about 8-12 Clam Cakes, depending on each size)
  • 5 to 6.5 ounce can of chopped clams
  • 1/2 cup water or clam juice  - the can of clams I used had a 1/2 cup of clam juice or brine, so I used that.
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pepper and favorite seasoning - to taste, about a teaspoon total. I find the clam broth is salty enough. I used Cajun seasoning.
  • Enough cooking oil for frying. You can use a deep fryer, a deep frying pan, or pot.
  • Extra batter ingredients: a 1/4 onion fine chopped, and some garlic (1 clove minced, or a 1/2 teaspoon in powder form.)

Homemade Tartar Sauce
for Clam Cakes
  • 1 cup mayonnaise  
  • 1/4 cup pickle relish
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon horseradish

Start heating the oil to about 375 degrees. I heat oil over a medium/high heat. It's hot enough when a small pinch of batter immediately bubbles and browns when added.

If you want round doughnut ball-shaped Clam Cakes, then it is best to use a pot with about 4 inches of oil (or use a deep fryer.) For flatter crab cake-style then less oil is needed, just an inch deep in a frying pan.

Into a large bowl, add the flour and season with black pepper and any favorite seasoning like Cajun or Old Bay, or just use plain salt. Sprinkle in baking powder and mix well.

Crack in one egg. Add the clams with the liquid. Mix well. The batter will be similar to lumpy pancake batter or cooked oatmeal.

The oil should be hot by now. Test the temperature with a small drop of batter. It should immediately bubble and float, browning quickly. Remove the batter piece.

Spoon in one large tablespoon of batter at a time, allow each Clam Cake to cook a few seconds before adding the next one, so they don't stick together.

Cooking time is about 3 minutes total. Turn the Clam Cakes as each side browns. You can double-check by breaking open one of the fried Clam Cakes to make sure the batter is cooked all the way through. It will be like the inside of a doughnut. Drain on a metal rack or paper towels.

You can serve them with any favorite sauce you like: ketchup, mustard, seafood cocktail sauce, hot sauce, or my Homemade Tartar Sauce. They are also tasty on their own.

If you like a lot of clams in each cake then add another can of drained clams to the mix (one can of clams has enough liquid.) This recipe is easy to double or triple for a Cheap$kate Clam Cake Party!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Anatomy of a Trailer - Fried Chicken Sandwich

Before the recipe video was published, I made a trailer for it, that is, an even shorter version of my Fried Chicken Sandwich recipe, to whet the appetite. I usually put these up on my YouTube channel, here.

My first job in the Biz, was as a videotape editor. (Way back before digital storage, most broadcast material came from physical videotape, not hard drives and tiny flash drives that are used now.) So I picked up a few tricks in my commercial and rock video editing days like speeding up the footage, or slowing it down, jump cutting or freeze framing. You'll see these tricks of the trade sprinkled throughout my 200 plus food themed videos.

The challenge in cutting a trailer is to select a couple of scenes from it and make it enticing. You have to show a shot of the finished recipe with the recipe title. The rest is the creative, eye candy, part.
Look at my Fried Chicken Sandwich Trailer below, and see if you notice something peculiar about it.

The trick to this trailer is that everything runs backwards. Each shot starts at the end and finishes at the beginning - does this make sense?

Just look at the sandwich shot. It starts with nothing, then pieces of sandwich assemble until you see the whole thing. What I originally did was to shoot the sandwich whole, then eat it away. That's the normal way. But to make this trailer unique, I thought it would be fun to show the action backwards.

And not only that shot, but all the other shots, too. Just notice in my opening shot how pieces of raw chicken reassemble, then the chicken bone is wrapped up by the meat, and finally the meat is swallowed up by it's skin! Kinda creepy, but cool.

I even ran the final shot of frying chicken in reverse. Plus all the audio you hear is played backwards - I learned this from listening to "backward masking" done on psychedelic records by The Beatles and Pink Floyd (and other groups from the 1960's.)

Here is the complete video of my Fried Chicken Sandwich recipe. It was shot as stop motion animation, with a few live digital video shots, below:

I hope you got something out of this blog post, a bit indulgent I know. If you liked this then click here to read about how I make an animated stop motion and time lapse title sequence.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Chicken, Chickpea & Kale Curry

I like curries of all stripes, and this one is of the unusual type. I combine canned chickpeas (or garbonzo beans) with sauteed kale and browned chicken, in a broth of India spices. It's a heady mix, but cooked together it makes nutritious and satisfying entree.

My curry broth is just flavored with ground cumin, chopped garlic and ginger. I used water with a chicken bouillon cube, but for a richer broth use a small can of coconut milk.

Unlike spinach, kale holds up well to slow cooking, so you can add it right away and allow it to obsorb flavors. My local Latin market is stocking kale for cheap prices, so I'm learning how to use it, both raw and cooked. And chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are found cheaply almost anywhere.

Like the kale I get cheap chicken now at the same Latin grocery store. This recipe is perfect for cheaper cuts of poultry. Just lightly brown one side and start adding the other ingredients to dislodge the flavorful charred chicken bits.

My Chicken, Chickpea & Kale Curry is a one-pot meal that is better reheated the next day. Make sure to cook some rice, pasta or favorite grain to sop up the pungent flavorful curry broth.

4 pieces of chicken - I used thigh and leg meat. You can use any favorite combination.
1 bunch of Kale
15 ounce can of chickpeas - or garbanzo beans, drained.
1 whole onion - yellow or white, chopped.
1 teaspoon garlic - chopped fresh or from jar.
1 teaspoon ginger - optional. Chopped fresh or from jar. Okay to use powdered ginger.
1 tablespoon of ground cumin or curry powder - curry powder is more intense, but ground cumin is close enough and easier to find.
1 1/2 cup water or favorite broth
1 teaspoon cooking oil
Salt and pepper to taste
*For extra richness add a small can of coconut milk or cream. No water is needed.

Add oil to a medium hot pan. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Brown chicken on one side, about 5 - 10 minutes. You don't need to cook the chicken all the way through - you will finish cooking it later. Remove chicken and set aside.

While meat is browning you can chop the onion, garlic and ginger. Wash kale and remove the largest stems - roughly chop kale.

Add chopped onion and saute until it's soft and starting to turn light brown, about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle on cumin or curry powder. Saute it with the onions for a minute. Add ginger and garlic. Saute for another minute.

Add a handful of chopped kale at a time to the onions and spices. The kale will cook down quickly. It only takes a couple of minutes. Keep adding handfuls of kale until all of it fits in the pan. Should take about 5-10 minutes total.

Finally add a favorite broth or just plain water (or a can of coconut milk/cream.) Simplest broth is to add a chicken bullion cube to water. It will dissolve in the water as you break it apart. Bring broth with chicken, chickpeas and kale to a boil, reduce heat and low simmer.

Cook uncovered about 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked all the way. Turn the chicken over, half way through the simmering process. To check for doneness, just slice into the thickest part of chicken and make sure there is no red color or pink juices.

Serve it with rice, a favorite cooked grain, or pasta. You want something that will soak up the flavorful sauce.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thanksgiving & Christmas Recipes

It's the most busy and overwhelming cooking day -- well don't fret, The 99 Cent Chef wants to take the stress out and make it a bit easier for you. I got it all here: my holiday recipes, along with a cupboard full of money saving tips for you during this Thanksgiving and Christmas season.

 Below is everything you need to serve a sumptuous and cost-saving dinner table feast. Presented with links to my recipes, easy to follow directions, and illustrated with yummy photos and fun videos. And make sure you bookmark this page because Christmas is right around the corner -- yikes!

First up, if you live in Los Angeles, the Grinchiest Chef would recommend getting your big bird at any Superior Grocers -- just click here to see the great deals to be had, it's incredible. (Be sure to check back, the deals to be found here are just beginning.)

You can get a 10-27 pound turkey for 47 cents per pound with a $25 purchase. That's no problem, when Superior Grocers sells yams at 5 pounds for 69 cents, russet potatoes 8 pounds for 99 cents, tomatoes 4 pounds for 99 cents, yellow onions 7 pounds for 99 cents, green bell peppers 5 for a dollar, collard greens for 69 cent per pound, and pork butt (2 per package) for 89 cent a pound. (I made a Mexican Carnitas recipe  video for you, just click here.)

The main event is the centerpiece, a fat turkey overloaded with stuffing. Now, wouldn't it be great if you could get away with just setting out a stack of heated Banquet Turkey Dinners? That really is the cheapest way to go. Well I know that won't fly, but one year in my bachelor days I had one. My wacky review of this frozen poultry fiasco dinner is a click away here.

But seriously, I posted my version of a Turkey with Stuffing recipe, click here to read all about it. Not only is there a recipe that features my Mother-in-laws decedent sausage stuffing, but I made a video below for you. And it's done in my movie technique of stop motion animation to boot.

My recipe is stuffed with cooking tips and cheap shopping sources like my local 99c only Store that carries boxes of stuffing and Hormel Bacon & Pork Sausage Links for, you guested it, 99.99 cents. Right now they are selling everything but the bird!

Come take a walk on the wild sides with The 99 Cent Rebel With a Cause Chef. And you can be sure the following links will go over big with your hungry family and visiting neighbors. You've never seen stuffing made like this: Stuffing Cupcakes with Cranberry Topping & Gravy.

To get the step-by-step directions for this most deliciously unique savory and sweet stuffing recipe click here. It's easy and quick to make, all you need (to borrow) is a cupcake pan. Stuffing Cupcakes are portable for an office party or a pot luck dinner. If you are like me, stuffing, next to roasted turkey, is the main event for my ravenous taste buds.

Boring Creamed Spinach is a typical Christmas side, but I have a Hindi twist. One of my favorite India restaurant side dishes is Saag Paneer, which is just like creamed spinach, but with cheese and the added spice punch of ground cumin . My version is made with easy-to-get (and lower fat) cottage cheese instead of Indian Paneer (cheese) and Ghee (butter). Once you and your family try my cheesy and creamy Saag Paneer, you won't go back to Creamed Spinach. And the recipe is a click away, here.

If you are looking for traditional sides I have the old school French Fried Onions and Green Bean Casserole, that is right out of the 1960's themed Mad Men TV series. Yeah, all you need is a can opener for the green beans and Campbell's Mushroom Soup. This is a classic recipe were Betty Crocker has it right -- creamy, crunchy and so satisfying. Click here to see the Cheap$kate Chef's version.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts are edible Christmas ornaments that you can add to the oven during the last 30 minutes of your roasting turkey. Just drizzle them with oil and dust with salt and pepper. Go here to see the recipe details. It couldn't be simpler to do and here is my stop motion animated video to prove it.

Of course, I have some more sides for you, just click on any of the following names: Green Beans with AlmondsWhiskey Yams with Brown Sugar Pumpkin Seeds, Squash Tomatoes and Onions, Brussels Sprouts in Sour Cream, Roasted Potatoes with Carrots, Honey Orange Glazed Carrots, Collard Greens with Molasses, Asparagus and Red Potato Salad, and a Pear and Spinach Salad with Creamy Dressing.

And don't forget the appetizers like: Artichoke Dip, Black Olive Tapenade with CrostinisBacon Wrapped Dates with Cream Cheese, and Roasted Asparagus Wrapped in Salami.

And if that isn't enough -- it's dessert time! After you push yourself away from the table and waddle to the couch to catch a holiday game on the TV, be sure to grab a handful of  my wife's Cranberry Orange and Coconut Cookies (click on the name for recipe.)

But you can't do better than desserts made by Mom. They know what makes a family happy and mine has been generous enough to show me how she does it. Here are a couple of videos I made of her homemade Pumpkin and Mini Pecan Pies.

Now is the time to hit up your local grocery for cans of pumpkin, or, if you are cheap like me, less expensive cans of sweet potato. You can use either, as the taste is identically delicious.

Read the recipe details of my Mom's luscious Pumpkin Pie by clicking here. And watch the video below to she how she does it.

Every Christmas holiday my wife and I eagerly await a package from Mom of her famous Mini Pecan Pies. A dozen of them travel well inside a shoe box from Louisiana to Los Angeles. These small pies are the tastiest present one can receive, and I got her recipe for you -- all you have to do is click here.

This is a great Christmas party dessert, but make sure to give your host a few, as they will disappear way too fast. If you don't believe me, just check out the video I made of Mom setting out a plateful -- and watch my relatives devour them in no time flat! (By the way, I think you will be impressed how the Chintzy Chef gets around paying normally exorbitant pecan prices.)

Well after all that slaving in the kitchen you deserve an Egg Nog. In my first holiday themed video from 2008, I made a Homemade Egg Nog that went a 99 cent airline bottle of rum too far. Be sure to view past the recipe for my humorously Tipsy Tree Trimming fiasco -- blogpost with written recipe and photos here.

The holidays wouldn't be complete without leftovers. I have a hearty Tea Party Chicken Soup, click here (of course, substitute leftover turkey and the carcass, for chicken.) And the most fantastic Turkey Sandwich video is a click away, here.

I hope all my visitors have a great holiday. Keep checking back here for more budget recipes and loads of new food videos.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Fried Chicken Tenders

A bowl of these golden brown fried mini-fillets will liven up any party, so read on to get the recipe for my Fried Chicken Tenders.

This recipe is based on my earlier Fried Chicken Sandwich video, click her to see it. You'll like the crunchy texture and spicy kick to the coating. This recipe is easy to adjust to your own taste. If I add too much black pepper, then take some out, or if you don't have a Cajun/Creole spice mix then use any you have on hand, or just use regular salt. I try to use ingredients everyone may have.

I found skinless and boneless chicken leg quarters (thigh and leg combined) on sale at my local Latin market, along with the standbys of chicken breast and regular leg quarter whole pieces.

Chicken legs and thighs are the cheapest and it's not too hard to debone. Just cut to reveal the bones and cut around them. You don't have to slice the meat off perfectly, since you will be cutting the meat into bite-sized pieces. Check out my GIF to see how I do it.

And while chicken breast is a little more expensive, it's the easiest to debone. All you do is slice along the breast bone, and the meat almost slides off. Plus white meat has less fat and ligaments to deal with. Just check out my GIFs below, it's really simple to do.

My recipe also calls for buttermilk to soak the chicken in. Well that is often hard to find and expensive. But I Googled a recipe for Homemade Buttermilk, so I have you covered cheaply there.

It takes some oil for deep frying. I always have leftover oil set aside for this. 

And listed below I added a few dipping sauces you can serve. I've got all the bases covered for you to pull together a delicious batch of my crunchy party friendly Fried Chicken Tenders.

Ingredients (about 12 chicken tenders)
  • 1 large chicken part - boneless. Thigh and leg, or breast. Slice deboned chicken into bite-sized pieces. Watch my animated GIFs above to see how I debone chicken.
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk - For homemade buttermilk add a 2 tablespoons of white vinegar or lemon juice, to half cup of milk. Stir and let the mixture sit for a couple of minutes.
  • 1 tablespoon seasoned salt - use favorite seasoning like Creole/Cajun or any spicy mix. This seems like a lot but seasonings goes into a lot of flour. Okay to substitute with a tablespoon of regular salt.
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder - or granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon paprika - optional, okay to substitute with chili powder.
  • 1 teaspoon pepper - add more or less to taste.
  • Oil for frying chicken - at least half an inch deep in a pan or pot. I used regular cheap vegetable oil.
  • *Extra ingredient is a teaspoon of favorite dried herbs like: sage, rosemary, basil or oregano.

Dipping Sauces
  • Thai Peanut: 1/2 can of coconut cream or milk, 2 tbsp. peanut butter.
  • Garlic Mayo: 1/4 cup mayo, 1 tablespoon garlic powder (or granulated.)
  • Honey Mustard: 1/4 cup mustard, 2 tablespoons of honey.
  • Tonkatsu Sauce (Japanese): 3 tablespoons of steak sauce (A1, or your favorite,) 3 tablespoons of ketchup, 1 tablespoon soy sauce.

Remove bone from chicken pieces. Slice chicken fillets into bite-sized pieces. The chicken pieces don't have to be exactly the same size.

I went the easy route and bought skinless and boneless leg quarters on sale. The pieces are quite large, so I sliced it into about 12 bite-sized pieces. White meat is easy to work with, as it slices cleanly from the bone.

Deboning it yourself is the cheapest way.

Thigh and leg meat takes a little more work to debone. Just slice to expose the bone. To remove the meat in one piece, hold the exposed bone and cut around the bone and cartilage ends. It takes a little practice, but one you've done it a few times, it gets easier. Of course, use a sharp knife and be careful with it.

Use a large skillet or pot. Put enough oil to reach 1/2 inch deep. Get the oil hot over a medium heat, to about 300 degrees. I don't use a thermometer, as my gas stove setting is close enough.

Lay out one plate for flour and a wide shallow bowl for buttermilk. (For Homemade Buttermilk mix half cup of milk with 2 tablespoons of vinegar.)

Add all the spices to flour and mix well. My spice amounts are just suggestions, you can adjust any of them to suit your own taste. Too much black pepper? Okay then add half the amount. Want more spice? Then add a sprinkle of cayenne pepper. If you are on a salt restricted diet, then just omit it.

And leave me a comment if you have a great Seasoned Flour Recipe, I'm sure other visitors would be curious, too!

Take some chicken pieces and dip into the buttermilk, moisten all sides. Return buttermilk coated chicken pieces to seasoned flour. Coat the chicken pieces on all sides, pressing the flour into any crevices.

For a less messy method you could put the seasoned flour in a gallon ziploc bag, then add a few of the buttermilk coated chicken and shake the bag to coat chicken.

Now time to fry it up.

When the oil is hot, carefully add coated chicken pieces. Fry each side about 3-5 minutes each, until brown.

Allow chicken to fry a couple of minutes without moving it around. The coated chicken may stick to the pan, but don't move it. It will release itself.

When chicken is done let it drain for a minute on a rack or paper towel - I prefer a metal rack, as paper towels get damp with juices and may make the crust slightly mushy. Although you can blot off excess grease from the fried chicken with a paper towel. (Letting the fried chicken set for a minute allows it to cool down just a little, so you can bite into it without burning yourself.)

If you're not sure the Fried Chicken is cooked all the way through, then make a small slice into the thickest fried chicken nugget to see that the juices run clear, not red or pink - return it for frying if chicken is not cooked through, and give it another minute or so to cook through.

Serve with one of my dipping sauces.

For a lighter crust, leave out the buttermilk wash step - just coat the chicken in flour only.

Remember to let fresh fried chicken cool down for a minute, or you will get burned.

It's can be messy frying chicken. First, flour can get all over your counter and there will be grease splatter. For my video I fried the chicken pieces in a regular frying pan. If you have a deeper pot, then that will keep most of the hot grease splatter off your stove top. You can half-cover the pot when frying - but keep a lookout on the frying chicken to make sure it doesn't burn.

My Fried Chicken Tenders are well seasoned. Once you've done my recipe, fell free to adjust the seasoning amounts - more or less to your taste.

White meat, while more expensive is easier to work with. I prefer dark meat for the flavor, but it does have more fat and some chewy tendons - hey, I like me some chewy bits and extra texture.
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