Fried Chocolate Truffle Apple Pies

19 11 2009

As we prepare for Thanksgiving, it can be difficult to keep up with the daily food needs. This is a super easy recipe to keep around to prepare a great dessert or snack during holiday season. I don’t usually recommend a lot of pre-made items, but you can do as much or as little from scratch as you like. Here’s how to do it.


  • 3 Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored and finely diced
  • 2 tsp lemon juice (~ juice from 1 lemon)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp Apple Pie Spice (see Apple Pie Granita recipe in sidebar for spice mix)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

1 Package Egg Roll Wrappers, Chocolate truffles of choice (I use Godiva), Oil for frying, Ice cream and confectioner’s sugar for topping

As you chop apples, add to the bowl with lemon juice. Mix apples and juice. Add all the other ingredients to a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Continue for another 1-2 minutes and the mixture will start to thicken. Add the apples and simmer for about 6-10 minutes until the apples are soft. Remove from heat and cool.

Place the egg roll wrapper in front of you as a diamond shape. Place the  filling in the  middle, slightly towards you leaving room to the right and left. Slice the truffle in half (I like Godiva chocolate mango truffles) and place on top. Fold the bottom diamond over the  filling. Fold the left and right corners into the middle. Fold the top over the middle. Make sure you seal all ends (with water or egg wash/whites). Heat the oil to 375 degrees F. Place the pies in the oil and cook until golden brown, between 1-2 minutes. Upon removal dust with sugar and serve on top of a scoop of your favorite ice cream. For the ice cream, I make a homemade frozen creme anglaise but you can use any good brand-a vanilla works well. Keep this recipe handy to make a quick easy treat (the filling keeps in the refrigerator) while you’re busy with holiday menus.


Fuse-On Cuisine

18 11 2009

I was getting all ready to ease into our Thanksgiving Day preparations. Yet I came upon an experience so decidedly wrong I had to rant. First, let me declare my love for all food things fusion. I am so cool with fusion cuisine I could make Kelly McGillis look like Tom Cruise’s Long Island Lolita.  So cool it is kewl. Yet anything lovely can be twisted into a nightmare; elves into orcs or Joan Rivers into Joan Rivers. But let’s not take my word for it, what does the dictionary say; “Fusion: combining usually widely differing ethnic or regional ingredients, styles, or techniques”. Let’s also look at sushi; “Sushi: cold boiled rice moistened with rice vinegar, usually shaped into bite-size pieces and topped with raw seafood (nigiri-zushi) or formed into a long seaweed-wrapped roll, often around strips of vegetable or raw fish, and sliced into bite-size pieces (maki-zushi). Now I realize sushi in reality refers to the rice used, but in the American vernacular has come to mean sushi rice topped with raw fish and…. Now in the name of fusion cuisine I can abide smoked salmon with a shmear of cream cheese and onion (the jewshi role), the so-called cowboy role with some cooked steak inside-although I avoid the broke back mountain role even if it claims “You won’t be able to quit this role”, the “crabby role” that contains no real crab (which would make it the somewhat pleasant role), etc. What I cannot abide is subjecting the sushi to a technique that so fundamentally alters its core it is no way shape or form sushi. Fusion demands skillful combining and melding. Destroying the essence leads to travesty cuisine, not fusion. When sushi is combined with bacon (which generally makes everything taste better and you could do this here-just don’t call it “Sushi Fusion”) and deep fried it is no longer sushi. It is a Southern Fish Fry; plain and simple. Elves are elves and orcs are orcs, sushi is sushi and deep fried fish is deep fried fish-no one wants a Joan Rivers twisted beyond all recognition and served up because that means dinner with Kathy Lee Gifford.

Real World

16 11 2009

Hey Food Nation! Real world travails a bit overwhelming. Be back Wed with fresh posts!


Before the Feast

12 11 2009

Following our Fall Feast to start the season, another holiday is upon us. Despite what the retailers would have you believe, it is not Christmas. It is Thanksgiving. A time for all of us with deep gustatory desires to allow ourselves some permitted indiscretion. Next week we will work through a sample Thanksgiving menu and prep so that when Thanksgiving week rolls around you can execute a well studied battle plan. For now, let’s look at the time before the Feast. Like the preparation before any battle, or the clean underwear before the operation (I can vouch that most people have gotten slack on that when they show up for the office visit. You know who you are and your Mother would be ashamed) the time before G-Day (Day of Gluttony) is important.

That’s because if you use this time correctly, I believe it can help you eat more responsibly the rest of the year. The only certainties, they say, is Death and Taxes. We must eat to live, and living is a prerequisite to be involved in the former certainty. If we pay taxes then we must also work, a prerequisite to the latter certainty. Having a guilt free fun Feast is like a dietary holiday. Multiple studies have shown that to be the best worker, one needs some vacation:

Taking time off work, however short, is necessary in maintaining the stress levels of work and home life. Workers who are under extreme stress experience headaches, irritability, eyestrain, digestive disorders, and panic attacks, which all directly lead to less productivity.

Employees who work 10-12 hours per day are significantly less productive and efficient than employees who work 6-6.5 hours a day, according to a long term study done by the Organizational Psychology Program at Rutgers Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology. The most effective executives (a high stress and high demand position) take mini breaks throughout the day to give their brains a rest. This is not to say those who work less or take multiple breaks throughout the day are lazier than their counterparts, but that the human brain and mind become tired and less efficient while focusing for an extended period of time. To be more efficient, workers should take time to stare out the window, take a walk, or even make a phone call to a friend.

Taking time away from work does not just improve productivity; it also improves a person’s health. People who take vacations are more positive and healthier, as many studies show.[1]

Treat the upcoming poultry party as you would a planned vacation. Use that time to “work” on basic dietary fundamentals. You will have then earned a guilt free opportunity to see exactly how far spandex can stretch while sitting at the dinner table. These basic dietary fundamentals, or as we label such things in the Martial Arts I practice, are the hon waza for healthy eating. It is a simple Sanshin, or three pronged approach.

  1. Time: We’re talking about some simple time related concepts. Take time to taste your food. Sounds simple enough, but watch a few people chow a Super sized double stuffed extra bacon McMortem sometime and you’ll realize that to consume that volume in that time frame they actually created a miniature black hole within the space of their pie hole literally sucking the tasteless matter, and all available light, into that maw. No way you tasted anything; if you did you wouldn’t inhale the stuff in the first place. It is interesting to note that in some forms of meditative practice they actually address this issue. They tell their practioners to chew the food slowly, savoring and acknowledging the taste by chewing at least between 18 and 36 times for each bite. Try it sometime; it’s like a spike strip to your belly. Next, consider some time between courses. It takes at least 15-25 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain you’re full. Just think of your stomach as the friend who still calls you on your landline because they don’t text or have email. They don’t even have a cell phone. The time you allow from a first course to the main course helps you to develop some feeling of satiety before the main course. Which permits me flawless segue….
  2. Portions: Using time correctly as you dine, as outlined above allows you to portion control. I believe this is one of the biggest, under-rated contributors to dietary related issues out there. We Americans super size everything; we act like we’re the international Texas where everything has to be bigger and more. For Christ’s sake, I’m even using super size as a freakin’ verb now, as in super size me. And you all know what I mean. That about says it all.  We live in a world constructed of space-time; so slow down the chow time and leave some space on your plate.
  3. Menu items: Perhaps the most talked about of the three. To me, people focus greatly about what we put on the plate. To a large degree, I can see that it is justified. Slowly eating candy bars all day long is not a great long term choice. This is where the choice of fresh healthy food and learning the techniques to make it delicious apply. Large events often turn on small, almost insignificant occurrences. Knowledge to recognize these opportunities is what we cover a lot in the space of this blog.

So with that in mind, let’s look over the coming week to some delicious healthy things to try taking time in our moderation. It’s like the stuff you have to get done before vacation. Do a job well done and you enjoy a guilt free respite for a day, your “Foodie Holiday.”

[1] (Knowles, 2009)

Computer H1N1

11 11 2009

Hey Food Nation,

Computer just resurrected from virus.  New posts up in am!


American Cheese

10 11 2009

It was many many years ago, while traveling overseas I first came upon an “American Breakfast”. It was an interesting thing, having lived my entire life in the United States as an American I had never come across an American Breakfast despite having traveled throughout the continental U.S. Although the tradition, I mused, was probably not that unusual. After all, while in France you may order some pommes frites or pain perdu but you won’t find French fries (and you definitely won’t find freedom fries) or French toast to order. Yet unlike stealing some native dish and renaming from whence you found it, the American breakfast was what the folks there assumed we ate for breakfast. All the time. The breakfast portions of the traditional cuisine were small, with a small bit of protein that was usually fish. The “American Breakfast” was huge by comparison; two eggs, two slices of toast and several slices of bacon all served with coffee (as opposed to the preferred tea). It says a great deal about how we as a culinary culture were viewed at that time; even how we were really at a more general societal level.

Things do not always translate well across cultures and it is easy to sometimes explain away popular misconceptions and their derivatives. But how do you explain something that a culture embraces as its own and places its moniker on it? I don’t mean claiming hot dogs and apple pie as American icons.  I mean creating a processed food like substance in shades of color not found in nature and proudly labeling it throughout the land, throughout the world as “American cheese”. What does it say about us as a society?

Well, in the first the “cheese” is actually a processed food substance. It does not even meet the definition of a real cheese. It is sold as a cheese product or something like that-really, check your refrigerator and look at the label. Many brands are rich sources of additives, emulsifiers, artificial coloring, sodium and fat. In fact a single slice contains over 4g of fat (around 60 calories), lots of sodium and other processed ingredients. 10 slices of the stuff exceeds the RDA for fat and sodium. Think about that on the next double cheeseburger you order. More importantly, what does it say about us that we, seemingly proudly, have named the stuff after ourselves and wave that moniker about along with the flag. We represent ourselves with fat, salt and something so processed it can no longer be labeled the food it was actually derived from. All in an attractive hue not naturally produced on the globe. Better living through Chemistry? An excellent source of calcium (foods that are an “excellent source” of a particular nutrient provide 20% or more of the Recommended Daily Value, based upon United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines)? So are crushed oyster shells, but I wouldn’t want to dine on them.

The peasant revolt against such Frankensteinian food abominations begin with us. Personally, I wish that American Cheese was known worldwide as one of the delicious artisanal cheeses from say, Cowgirl Creamery or some other such place. Regardless, like a vote, changes begin with each individual’s decision. Cheese is good. I love cheese. Let’s just see if as Americans, we can’t represent ourselves as something better than an over processed, artificial fat and salt filled substance covered in fake colors. Our own kitchens are a great place to start. I hear it now “Real Americans for Real Food!”-you heard it first right here.

The Home Cook Gourmet

9 11 2009

The home cook has, I believe, the hardest job of all and often receives the least amount of respect for performing the tasks at hand. In fact, many home cooks perform at a level more worthy of the title home gourmet.

Let’s look a little more closely to those who strive in the unpaid daily kitchen grind. What must the home gourmet do compared to the restaurant professional chef?

  • While both have to work within budgets, the home gourmet cannot simply pass along any increased costs in the form of increased prices to his or her customers; he or she and family are the customers.
  • Going out to restaurant is often somewhat celebratory in nature. The vast majority of customers do not dine at the same restaurant every night. Unlike the home gourmet, the diners are not relying on the restaurant chef to provide for their long term nutritional and health needs.
  • The folks at home want the food to be as tasty as when they dine out.
  • Although this is changing as equipment and supplies become more accessible, the home gourmet often does not have access to the resources of a professional kitchen.
  • The home gourmet may be under a different, but equally demanding, set of time constraints compared to the restaurant chef-and they often have no helpers.
  • The skill set of the home gourmet is often self-taught.

So in summary, you have an environment in which meals and dining must be prepared to have the taste appeal of a good restaurant meal with an eye toward the repercussions on the diner’s nutrition and health. While professional restaurant chef’s can offer some “healthy options” on their menu, the home chef is often limited to a relatively fixed daily menu in terms of the number of offerings. In some ways, this seems an even more daunting, albeit different challenge, from a culinary perspective than the daily challenge facing a professional restaurant chef.

Code Blue

8 11 2009

Hey Food Nation,

Rough weekend on call means Code Blue (meaning I’m very sad I am so busy I can’t get a  post out!) outranks Code Delicious! Be Back Monday with all new Food for Thought!

A Time to Wine

6 11 2009

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven”- Ecclesiastes 3:1

I think one of the reasons I love this time of year, apart from the weather, is that it feels to me to be the time of the year for a bit of reflection. Perhaps that’s just the spirit of Thanksgiving reaching out to tap me on the shoulder like one of Scrooge’s Christmas Eve visitors. Halloween is gone, the veil thickens and it’s time to turn our heads forward-looking again-but not without a bit of the perspective and knowledge we’ve gained from looking back. We move on from the Dead and focus on celebration, sharing and giving Thanks with family and those we call friends. With those deliberations, the Thanksgiving feast is planned.

With Thanksgiving a special Holiday (it usually is for those of us food-centric types) it amazes me how often the complementing drink is an uninspired afterthought. A great beverage pairing can lift a good meal to an unforgettable experience. With as much work as I put into the Thanksgiving meal, I want it to be something everyone remembers-with good thoughts. When creating meal pairings, there are two options: pair food with a wine or pair a wine with the food. Since the Thanksgiving menu is determined by the food, I use the latter. To give you an idea, here’s a sample of the upcoming Thanksgiving menu:

Potato and Leek Soup

  • Hickory Smoked Turkey with Pumpkin Cornbread Stuffing and Giblet Gravy
  • Roasted Butternut Squash with Pomegranate
  • Pickled Beets
  • Wilted Red Chard
  • Mashed Potatoes with Mustard Vinaigrette and Country Ham

Sweet Potato Crème Brûlée

As noted by many sommeliers, a Thanksgiving dinner can be problematic because of the many different flavor profiles. Among the professionals, recommendations  include a fruity Zinfandel, a dry sparkling Shiraz or other dry bubbly Champagne (let’s face it, with Champagne it’s really a question of what’s not good with it). I think all of these are excellent, and I highly recommend them. Yet I have a seasonal favorite that to me is just perfect for the dinner; Beaujolais Nouveau.

On the third Thursday of November (no earlier by French law) each year the first new wine of the harvest heads to Paris for worldwide shipment. About half the region’s total wine production (about 65 million bottles) will be distributed for immediate consumption. This wine, unlike many others, is meant to be consumed immediately. Weeks ago it was but a cluster of grapes upon the vine, now it is literally the new wine.

I find this wine particularly appealing for Thanksgiving because it is about as close as a red wine gets to a white wine. Because of the way it is made, the normally astringent tannins found in red wine are essentially absent. This leaves an easily quaffable, fruity red wine that matches perfectly with a menu such as the one above. Additionally, because in the South the weather can still be a  bit on the warm side, this red wine can be served (and it is often recommended to do so) slightly chilled. It is a light, fun complement and should satisfy any wine drinker at the table; a perfect ingredient to create a memorable Thanksgiving experience. And for anyone at the table for whom the wine is “not sophisticated enough”, well you know exactly what who to eliminate from the menu guest list next year.

Doc talks Turkey

5 11 2009

Okay, okay. First let me deal with the purists. Yes, if you like you can do a turkey stock for Thanksgiving. Take the recipe from yesterday and use turkey bones, especially the neck, instead of the chicken carcasses and you will have a lovely turkey stock. Do not use giblets like the liver, they will bitter and cloud the stock.

Next, let’s talk about the turkey itself. There are a lot of different terms being thrown around out there when discussing the birds. Know the lingo so you don’t get a jive turkey. As I’ve discussed before, I am not a believer in mass-produced industrial factory farmed birds that grow up crammed into gobbler ghettos. I realize most people are far removed from their food sources, just purchasing the end result, ready for the stove or oven direct from the supermarket. However, if you’re traveling down the road, particularly the highway in Virginia, the Carolinas or Georgia (interstates I’ve run many times) you may encounter the smell. It’s not a bad smell, it’s the bad smell. Imagine, for a moment a combination of bloated roadside carcass, nasty baby diaper and a GI bleed. For those never having the pleasure to smell a lower gastrointestinal bleed, just imagine your morning constitutional that is so foul it actually drives you out of the bathroom. That begins to describe the stench, a result of the excrement and waste, where these birds are raised. I have visited some of these commercial mills and the conditions are crammed to say the least. These places make those vans stuffed with illegal immigrants look like deluixe suites on the Queen Mary. Forget the genetics for more breast meat, etc., we (meaning all sentient creatures) are in some way products of our environment. Ask Frodo Baggins, my friend, but Mordor was not the breadbasket of Middle Earth. So if you want a tasty, delicious, nutritious bird that hasn’t been pumped up with more chemicals than Amy Winehouse on tour try a free range or pastured, heritage bird.

I hear you: “WTF!?” First, I realize it costs more than a store-bought turkey. No matter how good your gravy is you can’t, as we said yesterday, make Foie from feces. Start saving now or even serve something else. I budget way ahead so I can order the bird around Thanksgiving. If you want a detailed dissertation to fully persuade you about industrial farming, read Jonathan Safran’s “Eating Animals”. Let’s move on to deciphering the many confusing terms applied to turkeys. Here are the USDA classes of Turkey and what they mean.

Class Description Age Weight (lbs.)
Fryer/Roaster Immature bird of either sex < 16 weeks 4-9
Young Tender bird with smooth skin Older than 16 weeks but    < 8 months 8-22
Yearling Mature bird with somewhat coarse skin  Older than 8 months but  < 15 months 10-30
Mature Older bird with coarse skin and tougher flesh Older than 15 months 10-30

 All these birds, indeed all poultry consumed for public consumption in the US is inspected. This is the round stamp on the packaging. It indicates that the products are processed under sanitary conditions fit for human consumption. It is not a measure of quality. The grading process for poultry is voluntary, so what you buy may or may not be graded. If it is graded, this is the shield like emblem on the packaging marked A, B or C. An “A” bird simply indicates it is free from deformities, has thick flesh, is free of pin feathers, cuts, tears or broken bones as well as free from discoloration. It has no bearing on tenderness or flavor. Here are some other terms.

Certified organic; there are many organizations that “certify organic”. Generally this means that

  • the land on which organic food or fibers (e.g. cotton) are grown must be free of chemical additives/pesticides for three years prior to being certified;
  • farmers and processors must keep detailed records of methods and materials used in the production process, particularly those which replenish soil fertility;
  • all methods and materials are inspected annually by a third-party certifying agency (under the jurisdiction of the USDA);
  • as indicated above, products must be free of chemical additives, such as pesticides, chemical fertilizers, hormones, and antibiotics.

Naturally grown indicates that the producer may prefer not to pursue an organic certification, but do follow organic principles in growing their produce.

Certified Naturally Grown is a grassroots certification program created specifically for farmers that sell locally and directly to their customers. CNG’s certification standards are based on the National Organic Program but with some variation.

Grass Fed / Pastured animals are raised on pasture, as opposed to being kept in confinement and fed primarily grains.

Heritage breed is a breed of turkey as opposed to the Broad-Breasted White. The broad-breasted white is what 99% of Americans consume on Thanksgiving. It is a quick-fattening genetically bread bird specifically for the industrial-scale setting[i]. This bird likely would, if not slaughtered, be unlikely to survive to a mature stage; they often get so heavy their legs collapse and they are incapable of flying, foraging or mating being bred specifically for consumption. The heritage breeds were derived from the wild turkey and bred for flavor. They can forage, fly, strut and mate (and gosh, that’s got to make for a happier bird). In essence a “real turkey” that hasn’t been supersized for another tasteless meal.

So, if you can, maybe trade in the jive turkey for a heritage; downsize the bird if you need save dollars (you really don’t need leftover turkey rations for a month) so it’s just a Thanksgiving meal. But one you can give thanks for something delicious and nutritious. It is something to savor with friends and family specifically because it won’t be there tomorrow-and being thankful for what we’ve been given is supposed to be the theme of the day.

[i] (Trueman, 2008)


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 39 other followers