Finland: Deconstructed Hotdogs

Wieners, not only is it fun to say, it can be fun to make into a meal.  Apparently a comfort food in Finland consists of these wieners.  I first thought that the only thing in Finland cuisine was seafood but I found something unfishy: Nakkikastike.

Nakkikastike is a Finnish style hot dogs in a sauce.  On the side we made boiled potatoes and asparagus. Also to go with it we made Rieska, a type of flat potato bread.

The ingredients were basic and this might of been one of the easiest meals we have cooked yet.  The recipe for Nakkikastike called for hot dogs of any kind, so obviously I chose Hebrew National kosher weiners.  Carrots, onions, chicken broth, tomato paste, spicy mustard, garlic and some nutmeg helped make the sauce.

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The wieners were chopped up and browned in butter.  The hot dogs were taken out and then the veggies were sauteed.  After, the rest of the ingredients were mixed in and simmered for 20-30 minutes.  The hot dogs were placed back in and we have Nakkikastike.

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While the wieners (I giggle every time I write it) were simmering Bridget started with the Rieska.  I got some pre-made mashed potatoes mixed it with spelt flour and an egg.  The mixture was made into four balls and flattened on a baking pan.  Here you can see Bridget poking fork holes into the potato bread.

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I sauteed up some asparagus to go with this meal.  The Nakkikastike and Rieska were two amazing Finnish dishes.  Eating hot dogs in a sauce was a great idea.  On the side we made some plain boiled potatoes mixed with butter and parsley.

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We had wieners for dinner, just saying.

-Matt

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Spain: Mes de la Paella

We originally thought of enjoying Spanish tapas as our Spanish cuisine but we stumbled upon  a great surprise at La Bodega (www.bodegadc.com) when we headed over to Georgetown recently. October is  paella month!

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I love paella but Matt and I don’t usually order it since he’s not a fan of most seafood and the portions are always large. Since this was a month dedicated to celebrating paella, there were several (at least six) to choose from. We decided on a pollo y chorizo paella.

But first, drinks. I had a glass of Spanish tempranillo and Matt had a Spanish lager, Mahou.

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The paella would take about 30 minutes to come out, so we started with a light appetizer of Spanish cheeses. Four cheeses: a rosemary manchego, a plain manchego, a gallego, and a valdeon were served with blanched almonds and an apricot spread. I really enjoyed the rosemary manchego, Matt liked the gallego. The cheeses were a great tease but we were ready to dig into the paella when it came.

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When the paella first came out it was too hot to handle.

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Steam came off as we stirred it a bit. It was undeniable that this came straight from the oven to our table. We served ourselves some big scoops and dug in. The pollo and chorizo paella was complex and hearty. It was hard to miss the addition of seafood in this particular dish. The hardest part to wrap my head around was the different texture but the flavors were spot on.20151026_191223

October may be known as the time to celebrate Oktoberfest but paella celebration is totally underrated.  Next year be sure to save a date in October to celebrate a month dedicated to paella because it’s worth it!

-Bridget

Germany: Oktoberfest

Large beers, schnitzel, lederhosens, & more large beers, how could one not love Oktoberfest.  Tonight we went out for these large beers and some schnitzel at a local German joint called Biergarten Haus (www.biergartenhaus.com/).  A three level bar/restaurant with plenty of authentic German beers and incredible foods to go around.

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We’ve come here mostly for football and found out lately there was a large Dolphins fanbase here.  The bartender is a huge Fins fan and his family comes by for the games, all from Miami as well.  The food is always great and today we wanted to enjoy Oktoberfest food and beer.

We started with the most important part of Oktoberfest: Beer!  Bridget ordered the Warsteiner Oktoberfest and I got the Paulaner Oktoberfest-Marzen.  Both were of a golden color and light beers that came in large German Biergarten Haus mugs.

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To start we ordered the best thing they have on the menu: Laugenbrötchen (pretzel bread.)  These are traditional German pretzel rolls served with beer cheese and mustard.  They are hot rolls and plenty of salt on them.  They are delicious and there is never enough served in a basket.

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For dinner we each got a couple of German staples.  Bridget went with a type of schnitzel, the Paprika Rahmschnitzel.  Schnitzel is a flat tenderized meat that is breaded and was covered with a sauce.  The sauce was a paprika cream sauce.  On the side she got two other German staples that are typically served with this dish, spatzle (egg noodle with butter) and red cabbage.20151020_185024

I went with another German food that is typically ordered on Oktoberfest: wursts.  I figure the only way to really enjoy Oktoberfest is to have beer and wursts.  I ordered 2 types: Bauernwurst which is smoked pork and veal & Knackwurst which is a pork, veal and garlic.  The wursts were a bit oily but tasted great.  On the side I got another German specialty, Kartoffel Puffer.  Kartoffel Puffer is basically a potato pancake (as close to a latke as you can get.)   With the wursts came a side of hot sauerkraut and mustard.

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Sadly there were no typical German desserts to order from other than Apple Strudel which neither of us wanted.  We enjoyed our small Oktoberfest dinner at this Biergarten Haus.  Not only is it great for German celebrations but they have a great group of Dolphins fans.  All in all, beer, wursts, and potato pancakes are a great way to help celebrate Oktoberfest.

-Matt

Pakistan: The Naan is Gaan!

It turns out that there is a local place that we’ve been to a couple time just for drinks and hanging out that has Pakistani cuisine.  Cusbah’s (www.cusbah.com), which translates to “Little Village” is a small place on the corner on H Street in DC.  We’ve been here before with a band squeezed inside that had a fun tuba player (that’s all I remember from that night.)  Tonight we come for the Pakistani cuisine.

Pakistani is a mix of South Asia and Northern Indian traditions.  They have many influences from these areas but are unique in their own right.  We started with an appetizer called Pakora, a vegetable fritter.  Pakora comes from South Asia and is popular around the area.  They were crunchy and fried well, coming with a few dipping sauces: a mint chutney (on left) and a tamarind chutney( on right).  Both were refreshing and went well with the dish.

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this is the only picture without Bridget putting her hand in

For dinner we both got a couple of dishes that are Pakistani traditional. Bridget ordered the Peshwari Chana Masala dish.  A very popular dish in Pakistan and India areas.  Peshwari is chick peas that are slowly simmered in tomatoes and onions, with tons of spices. Spices consisting of tumeric, cardamom, and chiles.

I went and ordered the Biryani, a fried rice with lamb.  Biryani is very popular in Pakistan and has so much flavor.  It is basically frying basmati rice with lamb, cooked with so many different spices.  Spices mostly consisting of nutmeg, pepper, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves, coriander, mint, ginger, onions and garlic.  The Biryani was served with a side of Raita, a cucumber flavored yogurt sauce.

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Top right is the Peshwari. Bottom is the Biryani. Bottom left is the Raita sauce.

To go with this meal we ordered Naan of course, which made its way to our table way after the food was served.  We waited patiently (not very well) with the food in front of us for the garlic naan to make its way out.   When it did it was well worth the wait and it was eaten quickly.

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I couldn’t leave without getting a taste of Pakistani dessert since I know how close related they are to Indian, which are all delicious.  I skipped right over the rice pudding, as this is not exactly a friend to me.  I decided to order the Gulab Jamon, something Bridget wanted to stay away from. Gulab Jamon is sweet milk dumplings covered in warm syrup.  They were heavenly in my mouth and were an amazing treat.

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I always thought Pakistani food was the same as Indian but there is a definitely a difference and Pakistani has their own unique flavors.  The spices they use and the way it is cooked gives it a different flavor than Indian food.  Cusbah’s was a great place to find this out and I look forward to another trip across the Indian border to Pakistan.

-Matt

America: Red, White, and S’mores

Matt and I have tossed around a lot of ideas about how to celebrate cuisine from the United States. We’d eat a meal or see a recipe and say, “This could be American (referring to only the US of course).”

Just as a complete side note: I feel very 2015 Carrie Bradshaw typing this blog post. I’m taking the train back to DC from visiting my good friend Paige for the weekend in New York. What makes this so 2015 and not 2001? I’m using the train’s wifi for one, I’m writing about food, and it’s a post for a blog, not a newspaper column.

OK back to what you came here for.

So what did Matt and I decide was really American? Well instead of choosing just one dish, we went with a day of food and activities.

Sunday morning started out casual, like the way I like them to. The dogs woke us up at 7am, like they like to. We made a simple American breakfast, no photos because I was hungry. Whoops.

Breakfast needed to be big enough to hold us over until our late lunch. But before we could head over to DC Mash (#DCmash) we went on a little American adventure. As many of you know, at least those that are states side, Halloween is approaching quickly. While the notion of Halloween is not exclusively from the States, the over-the-top way we celebrate it is definitely akin to only the US. I’ve always loved Halloween (Happy birthday, dad!) and growing up it was always one of my favorite holidays.

Last year Matt decorated our apartment one afternoon while I was at work, and it was an awesome surpise. This year we decided to decorate together. So before heading to eat, we took a detour to the ‘burbs and went to a pop up Halloween store – you know the type, here for a month gone by November 1st. We found a couple of fun signs and a cool spider web that would go well with Matt’s zombie squirrel and gnome.

After our Halloween overdose, we worked up an appetite just in time for DC Mash’s Three Headed Beast to begin. From their website, Brooklyn Brewery describes Mash as, “a week of dinner parties, comedy, debates, screenings and art, all featuring humanity’s favorite beverage.”

DC Mash concluded with a benefit for The Food Trust featuring a fall feast of three different whole roasted animals, appropriately titled Three Headed Beast.

Wikipedia says that pig roasts have been a tradition of the United States for the past several hundred years, especially in the south. So it must be true.

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We arrived at the painted church in SW DC, home of Blind Whino, to a quaint scene of picnic tables and a cotton candy machine (we ate that too – it’s definitely American). The food wasn’t ready yet so we headed over to the beer booth to grab a seasonal Brooklyn Brewery beer. Matt had a Brooklyn East IPA and I tried The Defender IPA.

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Once the food was ready to go, each chef gave a brief introduction to their meal. We jumped in the shortest line and tried the lamb first. The lamb was slow roasted in Szechuan pepper, ginger and star anise, and served with roasted delicata squash and romanesco, and butternut squash puree.

The lamb was good, really good. But it was only a taste and we were ready for more. The pig line was still daunting, so we went with goat next. The goat was by no means American but it was delicious as well.

Finally we had what we really came for, the pig. As I mentioned above, pig roasts are a southern tradition.

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(smoked pork shoulder and tails with chow chow, pork rinds, and house baked Parker roll.)

Chef Russell Jones from Jack Rose Dining Saloon in DC prepared the pig portion of this three headed feast. We had smoked pork shoulder with chow chow (another southern cuisine) and a parker roll. The small plate was a delicious compliment to an early autumn day.

Our American fun did not end here.

We headed home to get ready for our next stop on the all American Sunday. Matt plays in a softball league on Sundays. Did you know that softball was invented in Chicago? It was!

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I rooted for Matt from the bleachers (and snapped that sweet photo).

Luckily, our night wasn’t going to end on a loss. We had one more stop planned for our festive evening.

You want s’more, you say?

There was no better way to end our night than with a very traditional dessert from the US, s’mores! 20151011_224223

Of course you can’t make a proper s’more without a bonfire. Bonfires may not be exclusively from the US but they are certainly a cherished fall tradition.

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I snuck this one in here on the edit- Matt (muahahahh)

At the end of our long day of celebration, I think we were quite happy with our “America” day. While possibly a bit DC cliche, it was still indicative of the way we enjoy food and culture from the US. (Maybe the addition of a pumpkin spiced latte would have made it a complete cliche.)

-Bridget