Israel: Christmas Breakfast

Well here it is, Christmas Day, our last post of the year.  When we started this challenge I had no idea where we were going or how we were going to get there.  After starting with a not so great Irish breakfast, we had a hell of a trip to get to our 84th country’s cuisine: Israel.

For Israel we had a staple breakfast/brunch dish called Skakshouka.  It is a very popular dish across the Middle East as well as North Africa.  A dish that was thought to be created in the Ottoman Empire and has survived until this day.

The dish was very easy to make and tasted great when done.  Bridget cooked most of it while I prepped. We halved the original recipe but had plenty for us to enjoy.  I prepped the onions, tomatoes, green pepper, jalapeno, and garlic.  All were sauteed together for about 20 minutes.

After that we put a half bunch of swiss chard and 5 eggs cracked on top.

20151225_100842

In that light it may not look as appealing.  But we covered it and let it cook for about 10 more minutes.  This gave us heaven in a pan.

20151225_103118.jpg

We toasted a few pieces of toast to go with it.  The bread was the key as it soaked up the sauce and flavors that sauteed before the eggs were placed in.

20151225_103254.jpg

As you can see I found a beer from this country.  This beer, called Malka, is a blonde ale that is brewed in Israel.  It definitely went well with the dish and even improved one of the top breakfasts we’ve had with the flavor of a Belgian Wit.

This by far was one of the best breakfasts that we enjoyed throughout this challenge.  It may have started with a disappointing Irish breakfast but we ended with a delicious Shakshouka to close out 2015.

-Matt

 

Advertisements

Lithuania: Last Supper

Back in 1992 the Lithuanian basketball team had special tie dye skeleton shirts made for them.  This is the one and only fact I know about Lithuania.  In fact if not for this information I wouldn’t even have known it existed.

lithuania logo

 

For our meal tonight I found something that would be simple to make for dinner.  If you have kept up and read some of our homemade blog posts nothing is simple.  In fact anything “simple” usually turns into a complete mess, which we were close here.

The Lithuanian dish I made is called Zrazai.   They are popular across Europe and have many different names.  Zrazai are beef rolls stuffed with mushrooms of different types.

Right from the start Bridget was not gonna be happy since she is not a big mushroom fan.  I thought I could hide the mushrooms but boy was I wrong.  I learned how to reconstitute porcini mushrooms.  (Didn’t even know this was a thing at first.) After doing this over the day I cut up another 3 cups of mushrooms (Yeah, there is tons in here and no way to hide.)  The mushrooms, onions and garlic were all sauteed then mixed with breadcrumbs.  This made a stuffing that would be used later.

I wrapped sandwich steaks in rolls, stuffed with the mushroom mixture. I then rigged kabob sticks into toothpicks.  This let me keep the rolls together without falling them apart too much.

20151222_201412

After stuffing them and getting them to stick together in a roll, I floured them and browned them in a pan.

20151222_202334

The rolls were removed and placed in the ninja crockpot as  I put some liquid in (water from mushroom reconstitution and broth), letting it simmer for 45 min.  Instead of simmering most of the liquid burned up and it was done quite early.   They looked a little strange but had good flavor.  In fact Bridget liked them more than me and the mushroom flavor was dulled.

20151222_205932

The other reason we did a cuisine from this obscure country was because I found a beer from Total Wine.  This beer was delicious to me and came in a funky bottle.  No other special reason than I wanted to drink this beer from Lithuania.

20151222_210430

This would be our last dinner we made during this challenge.  Maybe it wasn’t our best but I enjoyed making something different and fun.

-Matt

Canada: A Heart Stopper

Poutine is Canada’s gift to the world.  It is also a dish that might kill someone within hours of eating it.  If you don’t know what is poutine , this is the time to read about what heaven would taste like.

Ketchup is boring now to me.  The only thing I want on my french fries is gravy and cheese curds.  Not gravy OR cheese curds, please make sure they are together.  Now you know what poutine is, let’s show you how we made it.

We went ahead and made everything from scratch except the cheese curds.  I cut up a couple potatoes, rinsed em and threw them in a deep pot of vegetable oil.  After frying on 300°, I dumped them on a paper towel.  I then heated it back up to 375° and re-fried for a couple a minutes.  This 2nd frying made all the difference in the word.  The potatoes were fresh and crisp as can be.

20151221_202811.jpg

While this was going on and of course I was making a mess, Bridget started making the gravy.  Nothing special about the gravy.  Just a thick brown gravy to go right on top the fresh hot fries. (Editor’s note: it was a slightly different gravey, we mixed chicken and beef stock and added some chopped garlic).

To go with the gravy and fries was the coup d’état, cheese curds.  We definitely weren’t going to make our own cheese curds and using mozzarella was a fake way to go.  So we found a local store that sold fresh made local cheese curds.

20151221_194846.jpg

Before we got to eat we drank a few beers that were Canadian.  One was a gross green bottle beer called Moosehead.  I thought I would skip the worst beer from Canada ever, Labatts, but boy was I wrong.  Moosehead is awful. (Editor’s note: I didn’t think it was that bad, Matt has something against beers in green bottles). The 2nd beer was much better and tasted like a Belgium wheat beer, Blanche de Chambly.

20151221_193056.jpg

Back to the heart stopper.  When you put all three of these ingredients together you get the most heart stopping dish ever made.   The hot fresh fries were thrown in a bowl and salted.  The gravy was ladled from the pot onto the fries.  They were tossed with the cheese curds as well.  This gives you heaven on a platter when mixed together.

IMG_20151221_203117

If the picture looks greasy, it’s not doing it enough justice.  I informed Bridget that this will be my last meal if ever on death row (just sayin.)

-Matt

Argentina: Too Fancy for Flip Flops

As the year winds down we find it harder to find a decent restaurant for a new country’s cuisine, much less brunch.  While we have enjoyed most of South America, one main country we have missed is Argentina.  Luckily I found a restaurant, Rural Society (dc.ruralsocietyrestaurant.com/) in a Loews hotel  (Which apparently is too fancy for flip flops).

As I said the options for brunch and a new country’s cuisine was slim pickings by the end of our challenge.  We were embarking on cuisine #81 and we didn’t realize this would be one of the best.  Rural Society had a brunch menu that was prix fixe (for those not as sophisticated as me that means “set price.”)  Again, easy for Bridget to order and not make a difficult decision.

Both our meals came with Facturas, a variety of Argentinian pastries.  There were 4 different types in the bread basket, including a dulce de leche stuffed pastry.

20151220_111414.jpg

The prix fixe meals each came with two courses.  Bridget ordered a dish called Morrones.  Morrones, which means a variety of peppers in Spanish.  This dish was roasted red peppers with whipped eggplant and anchovies on top.  The anchovies were a surprise to Bridget since she didn’t exactly read that far in on the menu.  Not the most appealing part of the dish at 11am.

20151220_111846.jpg

I ordered a dish that is basically hot cheese in a skillet and on the side was a salad of arugula.  Now that may not sound as tasty as you think, but I wanted more of this after I finished.  Provoleta is trademark for an Argentinian type of provolone cheese.  As you can see the cheese was boiling hot and cooked right in the skillet.

20151220_111942.jpg

After sharing the pastries and first courses we were mostly stuffed.   We were definitely not ready for the giant second courses that were coming up next.  Not like that stopped us from trying.

Bridget ordered the Medialuna, which means half moon, a sandwich served on a croissant (That’s where the half moon comes in).  In the half moon was a large amount of smoked ham, fontina cheese and a fried egg.  On the side were perfectly cooked breakfast potatoes with Merken, a smoked chili pepper.

20151220_114044.jpg

For my second course I went with the Gramajo, an Argentine omelet.  When it came out I had no idea what I ordered anymore but I wasn’t disappointed. This omelet is very popular in Argentina and was enjoyed at this table as well.  Their way of doing fried potatoes were fantastic and enjoyed with the serrano ham on the omelet.

20151220_114031

Argentina is our 81st country’s cuisine we visited during this challenge.  It will also be our last restaurant we visit on this challenge in 2015.  There was no better way to enjoy our last restaurant in DC with this special prix fixe brunch.

-Matt

 

 

Chile: Fruit Cake Christmas Bread

There is a certain staple in the DC late night scene that I was told about before I even became a DC resident; Julia’s Empanadas (Juliasempanadas.com) is located in several neighborhoods in DC and is open late on the weekends.

It turns out Julia’s Empanadas has a Chilean specialty, an empanada made with raisins, olives, and hard boiled eggs.

I’m not a fan of raisins, even in my Chilean empanadas, but I was able to successfully pick them out and enjoy the empanada. Matt doesn’t mind raisins so he munched through his without complaint.

20151215_204032

We couldn’t settle for just empanadas for our Chilean celebration so Matt picked up the ingredients for a Chilean soup, porotos granados, and a specialty bread, pan de pascua. We also had a delicious Chilean red wine, Casillero del Diablo.

IMG_20151215_201457

This best part of this soup was hunting down some of the ingredients we needed. In addition to pumpkin, corn and many different spices, the recipe called for Cranberry beans or Romano beans. We knew we could find these in Mt Pleasant or Columbia Heights and we struck gold at the Giant.

20151215_202656

Into a giant pot it went to simmer for a while. While it cooked, it smelled awesome. We couldn’t wait to dig in.

20151215_212850

I really liked this soup, it had a deep smokey flavor that made it seem like it had been slow cooked for days. Matt, I think, wasn’t a huge fan of the chunks of squash but he ate it a few times for dinner later in the week.

The last part of our Chilean meal was supposed to be a tasty Chilean Christmas bread, pan de pascua. We had high hopes for this bread, it sounded great based on the ingredients – dried fruit, nuts, and brandy. In the end, it turned out to be a pretty dry mess. That might have been a chef error, but we don’t need to go into details. (Editor note: I don’t like baking).

20151215_212639

Like most of our home cooked meals, nothing ever turns out quite perfect.

20151215_224231.jpg

 

We’ve learned a lot about cooking and cooking together through this entire experience. Luckily, we’ve also tried out some really great recipes that we’ll make for years to come (and I’m sure they’ll get better with practice).

 

-Bridget