At the Waldorf

This is one of the sides that brings me right back to my humble days of early chef-dom - a very classical and very good Waldorf Salad.

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Waldorf-Astoria Hotel c1899

A bit behind the salad history: Oscar Tschirky, who was maître d’hôtel at the Waldorf Hotel in NYC is credited with creating this recipe in the 1890’s, as well as many other recipes. Veal Oscar anyone? I'll save that for another post.

The Waldorf Salad is simply apples, celery and mayonnaise served on a lettuce leaf. But, that’s where it all begins. Walnuts became a common addition years later, as did grapes, other dried fruit such raisins, apricots and sultana. My friend Tony even opted to add the fore mentioned and cut the mayo with good Greek yogurt; which is very refreshing and lighter than all mayo or a combo mayo & unsweetened whipped cream. 

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Things have changed since the 1890s, so go ahead and put your own spin on the Waldorf, Oscar won’t mind. Use culinary license, prepare it with apples and toasted nuts; cut the mayo, even sub with today’s olive oil mayo, which I prefer. Serve some grilled chicken or shrimp on the side and you are talking a healthy main dish. 

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Toad in a Hole

Here's a fun all-in-one-pan kind of breakfast combo - the egg in the hole, aka egg in a basket or cowboy breakfast, amongst other names. I enjoyed this growing up during family camping trips, but we called it "toad in a hole", which is quite different than the English dish with the same name of sausage links in Yorkshire pudding. 

All you need here is one slice of good bread + one egg. Make a hole in the center of the bread. Add a small amount of butter, olive oil or a little fat from cooked bacon or breakfast sausage in a pre-heated egg pan. Crack an egg in the center of the hole, cook one minute and flip (or turn with a spatula). Cook both sides. Top with fresh herbs such as chives, thyme & parsley. Serve immediately, toad optional!

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Beer Batter Cod

Buying food and reading labels can be a dizzying task. One can't help but be overrun with questions like - Is this good for me and my family? Is it safe to eat? Where did this come from? Is this sustainable? Reading labels can work most of the time, but what if there’s no label, as with fish? You would think if a fish has been around since the beginning of time and spawned billions of eggs - there wouldn’t be any problem, right? But not so fast, too much of anything can be harmful, even cod. 

Fishing off Montauk Point, East End LI, GHL

Fishing off Montauk Point, East End LI, GHL

With it’s mild flavor, low fat content and a dense, flaky white flesh, it's no wonder cod is one of the most common fish used for fish & chips along with haddock and plaice. But, did you know it is currently at risk from over fishing in UK, Canada and other Atlantic waters? So be in the know with Seafood Watch. Use this guide to find ocean-friendly alternatives to seafood on the Seafood Watch “Avoid” list. It’s a good thing to use discretion and follow their lead so in the future when we are calling all cods, there are still some around.

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The carbonation in the beer makes the batter exceptionally airy and produces a crispy coating. Malt vinegar is a British favorite on fish and chips.

George's Beer Batter Cod

makes 4 - 6 servings 

chefgeorgehirsch.com | George Hirsch Lifestyle 

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 eggs

1 teaspoon hot sauce

1 cup beer, a strong full flavored Stout or India Pale Ale

vegetable oil for frying

2 pounds cod fillet, cut into serving pieces

Malt vinegar for serving

Combine 1 cup of the flour, sugar, baking powder and black pepper in a medium bowl. Stir in the eggs and hot sauce. Slowly pour in the beer, stirring constantly, until the foam subsides and the batter is smooth. Let the batter rest for 15 to 20 minutes.

Heat 2 to 3 inches of oil to 370 degrees F. in a deep sauce pan or deep-fat fryer.

Dredge the the cod in the remaining 1/4 cup flour, shaking off any excess, and dip into the batter.

Carefully slip the pieces into the hot fat and cook until brown on both sides, turning once. Drain on paper towels. Serve with french fries and malt vinegar.

Spaghetti alle Vongole

Quick, easy and one of the most delicious pasta dishes outside of a good pesto. Afterwards, just sit back and enjoy a crisp Pinto Grigio or Rose like you're sitting seaside on the Almafi coast.  

The clams are the star of this dish, but co-starring is the garlic. You may also call this dish 'Aglio con Spaghetti alle Vongole.'  I've cooked this recipe for years using the sweetness of caramelized garlic, which adds a nice component to this dish. Yes, my family in Italy is shaking their heads right now as they cook with a very little amount of garlic. Go figure? But here in the US we've become accustomed to big flavors in our dishes. So get out my old recipe for caramelized garlic and make a half dozen heads, I guarantee you won't have any left. 

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Spaghetti alle Vongole recipe by George Hirsch

makes 4-6 servings

chefgeorgehirsch.com | George Hirsch Lifestyle from Know Your Fire Cookbook

1 pound dry spaghetti or linguine

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

2 heads caramelized garlic cloves, crushed

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 pounds Manila or littleneck clams, scrubbed and rinsed well

1 cup dry white wine 

Juice of 1 lemon

4 Tablespoons sweet butter

Freshly ground black pepper

4 Tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, rough chopped

2 Tablespoons fresh basil, rough chopped

Optional: 1/4 cup lightly toasted bread crumbs

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente.

Prepare the sauce while the pasta is cooking to toss the spaghetti directly into the sauce.

Pre heat a deep side saute pan or dutch oven; add olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes; saute for 1 minute. Add the clams, wine, half the parsley and lemon juice. Cover and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until all the clams are opened, about 5 - 8 minutes. Discard any clams that do not open.

Increase heat to medium temperature add the hot, drained linguine to the pan; add the butter and season with pepper. Toss the pasta with the clams to coat pasta with clam sauce. Top with chopped parsley, basil and toasted bread crumbs. Drizzle with additional olive oil. Serve immediately.

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