In Deep Shishito

OK, true confession time…..I began writing this post on December 4th.  I know, I know….it HAS been a while since I’ve written.  But in my defense, Christmas time in retail is REALLY busy!

So let’s pretend it hasn’t been 44 days since I started the post.  I KNOW you can grant me the grace of using your imagination!  Read on – with love and forgiveness in your hearts!

I cannot believe my stomach is actually growling as I type these words – if you had asked me on Sunday, I would have told you I was too full to EVER EAT AGAIN!

Jeff and I were running errands in Hershey after church and we were both hungry…..when he asked me where I wanted to go I told him I was hungry for a burger.  Of course, ever prepared, he steered me toward Grantville.

I know I’ve shared this previously, but for purposes of this story I need to reiterate that Jeff is a BBQ guy.  He LLLLLOOOOOVVVVVEEEEESSSSS bbq. I tolerate his bbq fetish, but do not readily admit to being a BBQ gal.  Oh, I know, I’ve written about bbq – particularly during our trip to Texas (see Always Bet on Blacks) – and I usually enjoy the bbq restaurants I begrudgingly go to with Jeff, but for some reason I have (or more accurately HAD) it in my head that bbq is not really my thing.

Today, in part due to a fabulous burger experience, I am proud to admit that while I wasn’t paying attention I’ve become a bbq gal!

I write all this to explain that I was less-than-enthused when Jeff suggested a bbq joint when I said I was hungry for a burger.  The mean-spirited, hangry part of me wanted to dig in my heels; but the part of my stomach that knows Jeff very rarely steers me wrong when it comes to food won out.

Shakedown Sign

While we were driving to Grantville Jeff explained to me that he had heard that Shakedown BBQ has some amazing burgers.  So I waited to pass judgment until I tasted them.  I passed the time on the ride looking at Shakedown’s burger menu – there were some truly interesting burgers on the menu, but the one that caught my eye was named In Deep Shishito (IDS).  Having just learned about shishito peppers in the last year and being a lover of pickled ginger, the IDS sounded too good to be true.

The description:

“Bacon – Cooper – Shishito Peppers Wikipedia – Grilled Onion – Pickled Ginger – Asian BBQ Sauce – Habanero Mayo – Cilantro – Texas Toast”

I know, it’s not your traditional burger, but my mouth was watering just thinking about it.  So we ordered one IDS and one The 98 to share.

The 98, Chris’s riff on the Big Mac, is described as follows:

“Bacon – Cooper – Lettuce – Tomato – Onion – Pickles – 1000 Island – Texas Toast”

While we were waiting for our food, we introduced ourselves to Chris – the owner – and told him about our BBQ quest in Texas.  He shared that he had been to the same places we had gone and then some – and not just in Texas but across the country.

Chris brought us a piece of Shakedown’s brisket to try and it was heavenly.  Not since Black’s in Lockhart, Texas had I tasted such a wonderful piece of brisket.  It melted in your mouth, had just the right smokiness and the sauce was a perfect complement to the meat – spicy, but not too and tangy, but not too.

The brisket, however, was forgotten as soon as I took the first heavenly messy bite of the In Deep Shishito.  It was the messiest burger I’ve ever eaten – and I mean that as a complete compliment!  It was also the tastiest.  It was like bbq and asian food had a party in my mouth!

The 98 was good – really good – but in my never-to-be-unshared opinion, it had nothing on the IDS!  Had I not tasted the IDS, I would have said The 98 was a great burger (and it would have been a completely truthful description) but the IDS just completely outdid (and outdoes) every other burger I’ve ever eaten.  It is an explosion of flavors – most of them a seemingly unlikely combination of tastes – of the absolute best kind!

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After we finished eating, Chris generously took us on a “tour” to the smokers.  We talked more about bbq and raved about the food.  I told Chris – and I mean it – that often when we go to restaurants we are disappointed because we can make at home what we had eaten and it is as good as, if not better than the restaurant version for a fraction of the price; but that this restaurant visit did not disappoint in any way.  The food was fresh, tasty and passionately prepared.

Fast forward to today (January 17th) and another trip to Shakedown.  Jeff and I took my mom and dad to have the Shakedown BBQ experience.  Of course I raved about the IDS the entire way from our house to Grantville!

We arrived and the first question my mom asked when we pulled into the parking lot was, “This is it?”  Ok, I should explain it’s a tiny place.  And I will also tell you that both times we were there, it was chilly inside – this is not a complaint, simply a note so that you can plan accordingly for your trip to Shakedown.  Today I wore jeans and a sweatshirt and only my hands were chilly.

Of course, once your food arrives and the burger juices are dripping down your arms, you won’t care what the temperature is inside.  And even better, if you order the IDS – which I cannot recommend highly enough – your mouth will be on fire.  The combination of “every 10th shishito is a hot one,” the Habanero mayonnaise and the warmth of the pickled ginger light the best kind of fire on your tongue!

In Deep Shishito

Mimi’s assessment – “unique, juicy, messy, who ever thought of putting pickled ginger on a burger – genius! And French fries – to die for.  Great pulled pork – not too much sauce so you can taste the complex flavors of the smoked meat. The real deal.”  Mimi had the pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw on it.

Pop-Pop’s assessment – “among the best burgers I’ve ever had and probably the best French fries I’ve ever had. The only burger I can think of that rivals this one was at The Village Whiskey (about which I’ve previously written) in Philadelphia.  The homemade thousand island dressing was awesome.” Pop-Pop ordered The 98.

Jeff’s assessment – “amazing. Bangin’.”  Jeff had a special – the Reuben.  I will add to Jeff’s assessment of the reuben – truly the best Rueben I’ve ever had – the smoky flavor of the corned beef brisket was delectable.  And – some of you will understand this – this reuben is wwwaaayyy better than Reuben’s Reuben (what happens when you put a narcissist in charge of snack time)!

The fries that we all raved about – beer battered bbq rubbed fries.  Need I say more?

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Of course, Chris came out to the table and chatted with us for a few minutes.  He talked about changing the menu and my heart skipped a beat.  I said, with obvious concern in my voice, “No – not the IDS – please don’t take it off the menu.”  Chris began talking about the limited availability of shishito peppers in the winter and I think I stared to pass out.  If you taste the IDS, you’ll understand why my blood pressure spikes at the idea of not being able to get an IDS when I’m craving one.  It’s a bit of a masochistic experience – a bit of the gratification of the IDS comes from the “painful” heat from the shishitos, Habanero mayo and pickled ginger.

We oohed and ahhhed through our meal – sharing bites of everything on the table. Then when we were finished, we mopped off with wet wipes and dried off with paper towels.  We bussed our table and on the way out I told Chris – with 100% seriousness – that am not above groveling for him to keep the In Deep Shishito on the menu.  Today is the first day of the week and I can already tell you the IDS will be the best thing I eat all week!

Shakedown – follow the smoke to one of the best meals you’ll ever have! And check them out on Instagram & Facebook.

Have you been to Shakedown?  Please share your experience below!  If you haven’t, what are you waiting for – you need to go ASAP!!!

The Best Thing I Ate All Week

On Wednesday, I had lunch with my mom – Mimi.  She and I met to plan the menu for our Mother’s Day class at The Kitchen Shoppe & Cooking School.

Since she wasn’t exactly sure what time she’d be done with an appointment she had, we met at Sophia’s at Walden – a favorite hangout of mine.  I love to go there because the food is great, the atmosphere is funky and welcoming, and because I can stay all day and write and they don’t kick me out!!!!!

So I hung out there while I waited for Mimi and worked on menus for classes for the spring course catalog, sipped an iced tea and visited with a friend I didn’t know I’d see! I also glanced at the specials board and was intrigued.

When Mimi arrived she asked what I was going to have and I told her there was a special on the board that had piqued my interest. We ordered our lunches and set about our work.  When our food arrived, we set aside our menu planning and dug in since we were both really hungry.

She commented on how good her soup was.  For a change I was nearly silent – I was stunned at how good my sandwich was.  So good that I had to think twice about sharing even a bite with Mimi!  But the share was worth it because her soup was really yummy.  Now when I tell you it was ham and bean, you’ll likely dismiss it as ordinary.  You’d be wrong.  It had a wonderful smokiness and great flavor!

Mimis Soup (2)

Glad for the taste of soup, I turned back to my sandwich.  It delivered everything you want in a grilled sandwich – it had a crisp exterior with a hint of butteriness, a gooey interior and a combination of flavors that both intrigues and satisfies.

OK, I’ve kept you in suspense long enough….the sandwich…….sliced pears with provolone and goat cheeses, bacon and apricot jam grilled to perfection!  Mmm mmm mmm.

TBTIAAW (2)

The picture doesn’t do the sandwich justice.  There’s just no way to convey the complexity of flavors in words or photos – you have to taste for yourself!!!

If you haven’t eaten at Sophia’s at Walden, I’d enthusiastically recommend it for lunch.  I’ve never eaten dinner there; so on that I cannot comment.  Although it’s a bit pricey, the rest of the package delivers.  The décor is comfortably trendy with lots of natural light, the service is attentive and the food is yummy 99 times out of 100 (ok, maybe I haven’t been there 100 times, but you get my meaning)!

 

TBTIAAW – The Best Thing I Ate All Week: A Salad?

I have quite a bit of fun testing and tweaking recipes for my classes and I’ve been doing just that for the last week.  The class I’m working on now is entitled Pasta Perfection, so I have to make sure my recipes are as close to perfect as possible.  That can be a good news/bad news thing for Jeff….when recipes turn out well it’s great to be the taster; but when they flop (which thankfully doesn’t happen that often, but it DOES happen) being the taster can be a real drag!

Fortunately, this week has been chock full of homemade pasta.  And how can that be bad?

On Sunday, when the rest of the world was glued to the Super Bowl – which I understand wasn’t all that super – I was hand forming tortellini for a tortellini salad.  And I can assure you I enjoyed being in the kitchen much more than I would have enjoyed watching the Super Bowl.

I made lemon pepper pasta for the tortellini wrappers and let it rest while I worked on the filling.  After it rested, I rolled out the pasta as thin as I could and cut, filled and formed each tortellini by hand.  I have to admit, as much as I dread routine, there is something about getting the assembly line process rolling smoothly that is comforting to me.  Perhaps because I know I don’t have to do it forever!

The tortellini salad I’m working on is not your typical pasta salad.  It’s more like a green salad with tortellini in it.  I thought about the individual ingredients and flavors I wanted in the salad; then I decided which ones would work best in the filling and which would work best in the salad itself.

The next test was to decide which ingredients to cook and which to leave raw.  In order to do that, I made two different salads for us to try – one on Sunday and one on Wednesday.  Incidentally, one of the great things about testing recipes is that you don’t have to think of several different dishes to make during the week – you just keep eating different versions of the same thing, which makes meal planning quite easy! But, as usual, I digress.

Featured Image TortelliniSomething unusual happened as a result of trying both salads, we discovered that both were really good and we’re still having trouble deciding which was better!  Since I will be serving my pasta dishes with Italian wines, I’ll do at least one more test with wine so I can make the final tweaks. [A special thanks to Kirt from the State Store in Lemoyne for helping me with my wine pairings!]

I’ll keep you posted on the salad’s progress and may share the recipe on the blog someday, but for now you can be sure to get the recipe by coming to the Pasta Perfection class!  Oh, and not only will you get the recipe for this salad, you’ll get the recipes for all the dishes AND you’ll sample some really good Italian wines!

The best thing I ate all week (TBTIAAW): Lemon Goat Cheese Tortellini Salad with Roasted Vegetables. Mmm mmm mmm!!!

TBTIAAW: The Best Thing I Ate All Week – Tammy’s Cornmeal Cheddar Scones

I’ve decided that periodically I will write about the best thing I ate during a given week.  This week it was hands down my friend Tammy’s Cornmeal Cheddar Scones.

Before I tell you about the scones, I should let you know I ate some pretty great things this week – at least I tasted some really great things.  Lest you think I eat like a queen – which some weeks I admittedly do compared to what other people eat – I should be honest and tell you that like everyone else, sometimes I drive-thru, sometimes Jeff and I order pizza, sometimes we eat leftovers, and sometimes we have cereal for dinner!

But working at a cooking school dramatically increases the probability of me tasting really amazing foods!  This week, for example, I sampled beef tenderloin with a red wine reduction, stuffed mushrooms, pork tenderloin stuffed with butternut squash and blue cheese, and Bananas Foster, among other things.  So to say the BEST thing I ate all week was Tammy’s Cornmeal Cheddar Scones is to say that they were, in my opinion, marvelous!

Before baking they were brushed with butter (and to quote my friend, Barb, “Everything’s better with buttah!”) and sprinkled with sea salt; so they had a crispy, lightly browned exterior and a nice salty snap. Mmm mmm mmm!

Tammy is another one of the instructors at The Kitchen Shoppe & Cooking School and a wonderful cook/baker.  Like me, she enjoys entertaining in her home.  So it is no wonder we have quickly formed a bond.  She and I spend a great deal of time together prepping ingredients for our classes and for classes given by guest chefs as well.  Some of Tammy’s upcoming classes include:

But back to the scones.  With Tammy’s permission, the recipe is below.  I made the scones at home today so that I could take some photos of the process for this post.  These scones would make a wonderful accompaniment to chili, a hearty soup, a main course salad or, let’s be honest, almost anything you make.  Being someone who prefers savory things to sweet things in the morning, I would have some scrambled eggs and fruit with one of these scones and be happy until dinner time!

Here’s how easy they are to make…

1. I started by preheating the oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Next I measured the dry ingredients.

Dry Ingredients with Measurements

3. Then I measured the wet ingredients.

Wet Ingredients with Measurements

4. I placed the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, ancho chili powder and salt in the bowl of the food processor and gave it a whir to combine the ingredients.

5. I added the butter in chunks and pulsed the food processor until the mixture resembled coarse meal.

Butter in Dry Ingredients

6. Then I placed the mixture into a large bowl and stirred in the cheese.

7. I whisked together the egg and buttermilk until they were blended.

8. I made a well in the center of the dry ingredients, added the egg mixture and stirred just until the dry ingredients were moistened.

9. I turned the dough onto a well-floured surface and kneaded lightly a few times to make sure all the ingredients were well incorporated.

10. I patted the dough into a 10 x 7 inch rectangle.

The Dough

Cutting the Dough

11. With a floured pizza cutter, I cut the dough into triangles and diamond shapes (but you can cut them into any shape you desire with the pizza cutter or you can use cookie/biscuit cutters to cut shapes as well).

Cut Dough

12. I melted about 2 Tbsp of unsalted butter, which I used to brush on the tops of the scones after I moved them to a cookie sheet lined with a baking mat (you could use parchment paper).

Melting Butter for Brushing Scones

13. Finally I sprinkled the scones lightly with sea salt and popped them into the preheated oven where they baked for approximately 18 minutes (watch your scones carefully as the baking time will depend upon your oven).

The result?  Some of the best scones you’ve ever tasted!

The Finished Scones

Flaky Interior

A special thanks to Tammy for her permission to share this recipe, but more importantly for the friendship we have built over the last year.  I love working with you. I appreciate your guidance, support and wisdom.  And I look forward to many more years of talks, laughs and shared recipes!!!!

What is the best thing you ate all week?