Pickle Brined Fried Chicken Breasts

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It is no secret I like to brine pretty much anything that benefits from the process. For a lot of meats, brining is far more beneficial than marinading. You can add any flavors you want to the liquid and they will soak all the way to the core of the meat. The end result is always tender, juicy and is such a great way to play in the kitchen.

Like the whole roasted Pickle Chicken that came before, I used the leftover juice from a jar of pickles to brine boneless skinless chicken breasts.

When using pickle juice as a brine, the result will be based on your brand of/recipe for pickle juice so be sure to use juice from a pickle you like and don’t be scared to add additional herbs and spices. This particular batch was a from a hearty garlic pickle so I didn’t add anything else – just straight up pickle juice and remaining contents of the jar.

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After an overnight soak in the pickle juice, I dredged the breasts in spicy buttermilk and seasoned flour and then got to work on some of the most delicious fried chicken I’ve ever had.

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 Pickle Brined Fried Chicken Breasts

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups pickle juice
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha sauce
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 2 cups of high smoke point oil for frying

In a bowl, place the chicken breasts in the pickle juice. Brine for 4-6 hours or even overnight if you want.

Drain the chicken and discard the pickle juice. In a bowl, combine the buttermilk with the sriracha sauce. Add in the chicken and allow to soak while you prepare your seasoned flour.

In a separate container or bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, and poultry seasoning together

Remove the chicken breasts from the milk, letting any excess drain, and dredge in the flour. Repeat, putting it back in the milk and again back in the flour. Place the floured breasts on a plate or rack and just let it hang out while you heat your oil. This will help the coating stick a little better.

In your preferred pan, heat the oil until a sprinkle of flour sizzles when it hits the pan. However, make sure the oil is not smoking. Very carefully lower the chicken breasts into the oil. Fry for 7 or 8 minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked through. Remove the breasts from the oil and drain on paper towels or a rack over a cookie sheet.

Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and serve. DSC_1450

 

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Enjoying our CSA: Herbi-churri Sauce

Herbichurri

There seems to be no shortage of herbs around here lately. From the garden, our weekly CSA pickup, and my impulsive need to hoard parsley from the market, there is a sea of green everywhere around me.

I hate seeing extra herbs head to our compost bin so I like to find new ways to use them. Last week I used our leftover ramps and herbs for a compound butter and this week was to use our surpluss of herbs for a variation on Argentinian chimichurri sauce for skirt steak.

I love traditional chimichurri sauce for it’s lightness and simplicity, but tossing in other herbs in place of some of the parsley makes for a unique yet perfect sauce each time.That is one of my favorite things about cooking – taking something expected and making it your own with what you have on hand.

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No matter the herb, whether it is basil, tarragon or a fistful of dill that needs to be used, they all work in a sauce like this.  You really can’t go wrong when you make a ‘herbi-churri’ sauce. As a marinade, condiment or an ingredient for a whole new dish – you’re going to love it.

Herbi-churri Sauce Recipe

  • 1 large bunch of flat leaf Italian parley, leaves and tender stems only
  • 1 cup other herb leaves of your choice (this batch was 1/2 cup cilantro, 1/4 cup chives and 1/4 cup oregano)
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • heavy pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or light tasting olive oil
  • splash of water (optional)
  • salt and black pepper to taste

In a blender or food processor, add in the herbs, garlic, vinegar, red pepper flakes and oil. Pulse the mixture until the herbs and garlic are very finely chopped . If your machine is having trouble breaking the leaves down, add a splash of water to get the mixture moving easier. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.

Reserve until needed.

Ideas for use:

  • Tossed with pasta
  • Use half as a marinade for skirt or flank steak, reserving half for serving
  • Combine with mayonnaise for a bright salad dressing or dip
  • As is, with toasted bread and shoved right in your face hole
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Momofuku 5:10 Eggs

510 Egg

As I was initially typing this, I was getting a little proud of the fact I was finally able to take a food photo with full natural light again. Now as I’m staring a little closer I realize I chose beyond wrong on the plate color. Coconut rice and an egg – yeah, a white plate totally makes sense. Ugh.

In my defense, I was excited because I had made Loco Moco from the Love & Olive Oil cookbook, Breakfast for Dinner (minus the fried egg, obviously) and couldn’t wait to dive in.

On a side note – the Loco Moco is awesome – so get the book…so you can be classy like me and tweet things like this to the authors:

 

Anyway, the Momofuku 5:10 egg is not a recipe, but a method – and it works every single time for me. Think of a perfectly poached egg, that never leaves its shell while cooking. When it is cooled, the egg seamlessly steps out of it’s shell, like that one girl in high school after 3 bottles of  Smirnoff Ice.

Momofuku 5:10 Eggs (You can do as many eggs as you would like, as long as the water in the pan of your choice will cover all of the eggs.)

Bring a large saucepan of water to a full rolling boil and prepare a bowl of ice water. When the water is boiling, gently lower your eggs into the water and set a timer for 5 minutes and 10 seconds, exactly (one time, I counted an extra 5 seconds for fun and they were just fine).

When the 5:10 boil is over, remove the eggs and place in the bowl of ice water. After a few minutes, lightly tap all over and very gently peel under cool running water. Be very careful handling the peeled eggs.

Whether it is on Loco Moco or a simple piece of buttered toast, slice into your egg and watch in amazement:

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Yes.

 

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Cream of Crab Soup

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Maryland weather isn’t known for it’s consistency. Last week we were all told to expect upwards of 10 inches of snow. Jokes were made about water, milk, toilet paper and bread. Thankfully it was just too warm here, so when the snow fell, it was just rain. Lots and lots of rain.

Although the sheer warning of snow led to the closing of the federal government, and among other business’, my office (YAY FREE DAY!!). With the day off, I wanted to make my daughter and husband something that would warm their bellies. But I’m not in to stews or chili as comfort food – so cream of crab it was.

Just like all recipes that I use crab in, I mix a cheaper crab meat throughout the soup so that crab flavor and texture permeates the entire dish, and then gently fold in lump crab meat towards the end. Every spoonful is full of tender vegetables and tons of crab meat wrapped in a silky broth.

When it’s freezing and blustery outside, it doesn’t get any better than cream of crab soup – except, when it doesn’t snow at all. That tickles my fancy almost as much.

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Cream of Crab Soup

  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 6 oz backfin crab meat
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon celery salt
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 12 oz lump crab meat
  • 2 Tablespoons cream sherry
  • 1 Tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • salt and pepper

In a medium pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the celery and onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add in flour and whisk until you can’t see any white spots from the flour anymore. While whisking, add chicken broth.

Once this mixture begins to thicken, add the backfin meat, half and half, Old Bay, hot sauce, and celery salt. When the mixture returns to a simmer, cook for 5 minutes.  Slowly add the half and half and milk. Simmer for another 2 minutes.

Gently fold in the lump crab meat and simmer for another 15 minutes, stirring gently occasionally. Turn the heat off and add the sherry, parsley and lemon. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper.

Resist the urge to eat it all by yourself while the others are occupied.

Oh, and make snow never come to the East Cost again. Please and thank you!

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Beet, Feta and Herb Farro Salad

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It has been silent here for far too long. This little spot on the internet has lay barren of any content whatsoever for more time than I am comfortable with. I could certainly blame it on the lack of lighting in our home by the time dinner is made after a long day at work. I could blame it on all of that wedding planning we had been doing up until November, but that was over three months ago.

Insert self gratuitous wedding photos here:
Wedding

To be entirely honest, it has been my own laziness and a general sense of apathy that has kept me from writing; here or anywhere else. Even saying it now “out loud” breaks my heart a little. Things are different in my life than they were the last time I posted in 1769…or however depressingly long ago it was.

But the passion inside never went anywhere and I’ve still been cooking, creating, testing and immersing myself in all things food. Food and the love for cooking it is what I’m made of. It is my blood, my brain and is forever on my skin. Any tools I use feel like an extension of my limbs and I still swoon when onions and garlic hit hot butter in a pan. I’ve been making things I’ve never made before and discovering new techniques for recipes I’ve been cooking for years.

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As it turns out, I make a mean fried chicken, love cold beets in salads and didn’t realize just how much I missed writing about all of it. So I’ll start small by sharing a recipe for farro salad – and see where it goes from here.

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Beet, Feta and Herb Farro Salad (adapted from this recipe in the New York Times)

  • 1 cup farro
  • 2 1/2 cups water or stock
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced or pureed
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium beets, steamed, peeled, and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup broken walnut pieces or toasted pine nuts
  • 2 ounces feta and more for garnish
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs – I’ve used parsley, thyme, dill and basil – and all have worked nicely alone or together. Play around.

In a saucepan combine the farro and water, and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for up to about 30 minutes, until grains are tender and have absorbed all of the liquid. It may take as little as 20 minutes or up to 45 minutes, depending on the source of your farro. Allow to cool to room temperature.

While your farro is cooling, make the dressing. Combine the vinegars, garlic and Dijon mustard in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to combine and emulsify the dressing. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside until ready to use. You may need to whisk it again before adding it to the farro.

Toss the farro with the dressing, beets, nuts and herbs. Taste and adjust seasonings if neccesary. You can serve this room temperature or chilled.

Enjoy!

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Apple Cider Pork Chops (with Honeycrisp-Thyme Compote and Pumpkin Alfredo)

 

“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”  George Eliot

It’s no secret that for me, it isn’t the right time of year until the leaves beneath my shoes crunch and I’ve made the transition from iced to hot coffee. There is something peaceful for me when I look around and see the vibrant colors of changing leaves and the scent of changing air perfumes every breath. Give me hoodie weather, and I’m the nicest person you’ll ever meet.

There are times I’m glad no one besides my fiance and my daughter are around to see how these food ideas come to fruition. What started as a great idea to brine a pork chop in apple cider, quickly spiraled out of control with making this Autumn on a plate. I wanted to take the very best things about the season and make them friends at the table.  For me, it’s all about pumpkin – put that word in front of anything and I’m liable to try just about anything. My mother and Alora don’t consider it fall until Honeycrisp Apples have hit the scene.

I don’t know anyone with a grudge against this time of year, but I bet your ass that if you know one, this dish will turn them around.

Together it seems like a lot to make for one meal but you can space it out. I did it all on a  lazy Sunday where I had nothing more to do than watch Netflix.

Honeycrisp Apple and Thyme Compote

  • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 Honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Heavy pinch of salt and pepper
In a medium saucepan, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes.  Add in the remaining ingredients. Bring to a gentle boil, stirring frequently until the sugar has dissolved completely. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring every once in a while  until the onions and apple are tender. This was about 15 minutes for me.  Remove from heat and taste for seasonings.
Note: The mixture will thicken up even more as it cools.

 

Pumpkin Alfredo Sauce

  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin (not pie filling)
  • 2 Tablespoons of water
  • 1/16 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan Reggiano cheese
  • salt and black pepper

In a sauce pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Dump in the cream, pumpkin and water, whisking to combine. Stir in the nutmeg. Add the cheese a little at a time, whisking between additions. This helps things from getting gritty.

Taste and determine how much salt and pepper you need. Adjust as needed.

Apple Cider Brined Pork Chops

  • 2 Cups apple cider
  • 2 Cups water
  • 2 Tablespoons salt
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 1 sprig of fresh oregano
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 1/2 lbs. boneless pork chops (Note: This was four chops for us. They were friggin’ huge! If yours are smaller, I’d cut the brine time as deemed necessary.)

In a large pot, combine all ingredients except the pork chops. Heat over medium heat until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Turn off the heat and allow to cool completely. I recommend doing this in the refrigerator so it’s really cold.

Never ever put meat in a hot brine. It will start to cook the meat and that is just gross.

When the brine is cool, submerge the pork chops, put in the refrigerator and allow to sit for 12-24 hours.

To cook the pork chops, remove from the brine, rinse under cold water and pat dry. In a large skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat.  When it is shimmering, sear the pork on all sides (about 2 minutes per side). Remove to a plate. They aren’t done yet. Add in a couple splashes of water or more apple cider to losen all the brown bits in the pan.

Turn the heat down to medium. Put the pork chops back in the skillet, cover with a lid and allow to continue cooking until the internal temperature of the chops is to your liking.

This is one of those instances where I’m not going to tell you what is right or wrong in regards to temperature. People get far too testy over things like this. Do your own independent research and do what tickles your pickle. Although please remember two things: once you remove meat from heat, it will continue to cook anywhere from five to ten degrees more and also,  since we brined these bad boys, they’re going to cook quicker than they will if we hadn’t brined them. 

To Serve:

This is up to you, hot pants. You can serve the Pumpkin Alfredo sauce as a topping or as the base of your dish. You can treat the compote like a topping or a condiment. Regardless, you will not be disappointed.

Happy Yay Summer is Over!

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My Daughter, the Ten Year Old

“Once you have mastered time, you will understand how true it is that most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year – and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade!”

Amen.

When you’re pregnant, they tell you all about babies – how you’ll be perpetually exhausted and your breasts drained from the constant whimpers of your child. Even commercials remind you, that yes, a baby changes everything.

They never remind you or allude to the fact that this tiny being not only needs your care and nurturing – but guidance to become a good human being. The little pamphlet they hand you post-partum in the recovery room of your birthing center doesn’t prepare you for this future person…just the tiny babe that precedes them.

Ten years. A decade. My little baby, born just the other day, turns 10 years old today. In my head, I never truly and wholly imagined what this day would be like. And if I had, I’m sure what life is now, looks nothing like what I ever could have predicted.

Alora is the definition of what parents aspire to raise. Thoughtful, introspective, hilarious, caring, and any other positive adjectives one could think of. Does she have her…..moments? The kind where you want to pull your hair out and either want to cry or declare you’re probably the worst mother ever? Absolutely.

Alora’s birthday list was a mash of books, art, technology, science, and music. The choice for her birthday dinner is a French restaurant because once she saw the menu, she was totally in love. She’s hoping to meet the chef to get some pointers and I admire that about her.

Ten years. A decade. All eyes pointed to the future. As I put her to bed the last time as a nine year old, she gently pressed her forehead to mine and gripped my hands. She didn’t say a word but I knew exactly what she was saying.

This girl is full steam ahead to becoming a young woman and I think we’re ready.

Maybe.

Happy Birthday, my beautiful girl! I love you. More than any words in the dictionary.

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Tomato Tartare with Shallots and Chive-Lemon Creme Fraiche

I have less than 5 months until I get married. While terribly exciting – I’m also a  bit nervous because, well, I lost my mind a little and decided I’m catering the reception myself.

Yeah.

So I’ve been testing my ideas to see what works and what doesn’t. Playing around with concepts and replications of dishes that have made memories.

This was my first stab at recreating a small bite that I had at a work meeting a few years ago. The chef had walked me through the steps of the dish, and I hope I did his process justice. Although, it’s been more than 2 years and I’m blonde – so nothing is a guarentee.

I will say though that Mike and Alora both loved it. The leftovers were brought to my parents and sister, and all three of them gave a thumbs up. If you knew my father, you’d know that is about as close to a miracle that I’ll ever get.

I hope you try it and enjoy it as much as we did.

Tomato Tartare (serves 4-6 as an appetizer)

  • 1 pound of tomatoes (I used an assortment of heirlooms to make it purrty)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large shallot, minced as small as you can get it
  • Chive-Lemon Creme Fraice (recipe follows)

Bring a pot of water to a simmer. As it’s heating, fill a large bowl with water and lots of ice. This is going to immediately stop the cooking process once the tomatoes are removed from the simmering water.

Carefully slice the stem end off of the tomatoes. Use a knife to slice a shallow ‘x’ into the blossom end of the tomatoe (the other side).

Drop the tomatoes in the simmering water for 10-15 seconds. Immediately remove and plunge in the ice water. Allow to sit until entirely cool. The skins will peel right off.

Remove the seeds from the tomato and dice into small 1/4 inch pieces. Put the tomatoes into a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. Sprinkle with the salt and toss. Allow to sit for an hour, to let water leech out of the tomatoes.

This will give the tomatoes a firmer and meatier consistency. What drains is called tomato water and can be used in salad dressings, cocktails, soups, salsas and so many other dishes!

To serve, fill a shot glass or small bowl with a small amount of tomatoes. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of shallots for crunch and spice.

Spoon the creme fraice on top – just a little bit.

Adjust the amounts depending on your taste and size of serving recepticle.

Chive-Lemon Creme Fraiche

  • 3 Tablespoons Crème Fraîche
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh chives
  • fresh black pepper to taste

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. Taste for seasonings and chill until ready to use.

ENJOY!

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Steamed Maryland Blue Crabs

I should probably be scrubbing the kitchen floor on the weekends. Or hanging up the pile of clean laundry that’s been sitting beside the bed for an embarrassing amount of time. I’m thoroughly convinced hangers are overrated.

Sometimes after a long week of work it just doesn’t happen.

The weekends now are the screeching of neighborhood kids, like they’ve just been let out of a cage. It’s the ice cream truck playing Christmas music in June and the smell of smoky grills wafting in every direction.

It is driving home from the market and seeing handmade signs in someone’s yard advertising live crabs, just caught.

We asked for a dozen and since it was our first time buying from him, he slipped us five extra crabs. Any good dealer gives you more just to entice you and let you know how good his product is. And it was.

Every once in awhile rather than bombard your life with tasks, just sit with your family and encrust your nails with spices -  enjoy the moment entirely – eat it up. Consume love.

Steamed Maryland Blue Crabs

Whatcha Need:

  • One large pot with a platform, rack, or screen in the bottom (You want the crabs to steam, not touch or cook in the liquid – that is no good).
  • One part water, one part apple cider vinegar, one part beer. This amount will vary depending on the size of your pot.
  • Live crabs. Please do not cook ones that have already gone to the bay in the sky.
  • Old Bay or JO seasoning. The choice is yours – but man, people have some strong feelings about which is better. I’ll stay out of this one.

In the bottom of your large pot, combine the water, vinegar and beer. Place your rack/screen over the liquid.

Bring the mixture to a boil. Layer the crabs, and with each layer pour on the seafood seasoning. Don’t be shy – pour it.

Cover your pot and steam for about 20-30 minutes. When they are all fully red with no dark or green spots, you’re ready to serve. Cover your table with the finest tablecloth.

Dump your crabs on top and dig in. I’d tell you how to pick a crab but I don’t like hate mail. Plus, you know how to Google.

Optional for serving:

Like your seasoning of choice, people have big opinions about how to eat their picked meat. Some like it straight, and some like to dunk! Here are a few things you might want to serve with your beautiful crabs (besides beer).

  • Melted butter
  • Vinegar
  • Cocktail sauce

Cleaning the crime scene is just as easy; just roll the newspaper up and throw it away!

Cheers!

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Pork Meatball Bahn Mi Sandwiches

I read somewhere that the majority of families rotate the same meals every week. Our family isn’t immune to this either. Sure, we mix it up and try new meals very frequently, but there are some weeks that if someone suggests pasta one more time, I’m going to stab my eye with a fork. This was one of our new favorite additions!

Sandwiches are one of my favorite things – you’ve got carbs, fun fillings, and condiments. They’re able to be personalized to taste, which is highly important at meal times in our house. 

When I showed Alora the recipe for these online, she was so excited because it had so many things she loved on it; meatballs, cilantro, carrots, cucumbers and mayonnaise. She kept calling them ‘Vietnamese Meatball Subs’.

Plus, they are so easy to make but give off a ‘I’ve been cooking these for hours’ vibe. Oh you picked vegetables? Why, yes, yes you did.

Pork Meatball Bahn Mi Sandwiches

Ingredients

Recipe taken from bonappetit.com with a few revisions for the sake of picky palates in my house. You can find the original recipe here.

Hot Chili Mayo

  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 heaping tablespoon sriracha sauce

Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • 1 scant tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Sandwiches

  • 2 cups coarsely grated carrots
  • 2 cups coarsely grated radish
  • 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 4 10-inch-long individual baguettes or four 10-inch-long pieces French-bread baguette (cut from 2 baguettes)
  • Thinly sliced jalapeño chiles
  • cilantro for topping

Preparation

Hot Chili Mayo

  • Stir all ingredients in small bowl. Season with salt. Cover and chill until ready to use.

Meatballs

  • Line baking sheet with foil. Gently mix all ingredients in large bowl. Roll meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs and line them on the baking sheet.

Sandwiches

  • Toss first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour, tossing occasionally.
  • Preheat oven to 450°F.  Place the lined baking pan of meatballs in and cook for 10 minutes per side.
  • Cut each baguette or baguette piece horizontally in half. Pull out enough bread from each bread half to leave 1/2-inch-thick shell. Spread hot chili mayo over each bread shell. Arrange jalapeños, then cilantro, in bottom halves. Fill each with 1/4 of meatballs. Drain pickled vegetables; place atop meatballs.
  • Top with the top of the baguette and shove it in your face piece.

So yum.

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