Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Wing Doctor

So, the Wing Doctor shows up at my door one day with three samples of his sauces with the challenge to create recipes using the sauces. The Wing Doctor is a professor of biology at Ohio State University and has been working on his sauces for several years (nevermind the website, I hope to be creating him a new one soon.) Block parties, housewarming, gatherings always feature the Wing Doctors wings if he's there. The doc is a great guy. The most notable sauce that he makes is his Red Ranch Sauce. Spicy, cool, tangy, mmmmm. It's mild enough that my wife will even eat it. And it makes a great dip for chincharones (mexican pork rinds).

Of course I was up to the challenge and my mind began reeling with ideas beyond the ordinary wings. Calamari? Chicken? Eggs! Yes, eggs. Specifically, deviled eggs. I made about 2 dozen eggs to serve at our local brewpub, Barley's Smokehouse, to share with the doc, his family and friends...and the staff. Needless to say they were a huge hit and all were devoured. So here's the first of my Wing Doctor recipes:

Devilish Eggs
3 eggs, large
3 slices pancetta , very thinly sliced
1.5 tsps Dijon mustard
1.5 to 2 tsps wing sauce
2 Tbsp mayonnaise

Place eggs in one layer in a pot and cover with cool water. Heat until boiling. Cover and remove from heat. Let set for 10 min. Cool eggs unter running cold water still in pot, drain, but leave water halfway up eggs. Add 32 oz, or so, of ice to cool eggs further. When cool, dry and store in refrigerator. Brown pancetta in pan until crisp. Drain on paper towel or rack. When cool, crumble.

Peel eggs and cut in half lengthwise. Place yolks in bowl for mixing. Place whites arranged on a platter. Crush egg yolks with folk until fine then mix in dijon, mayonnaise and hot sauce. Blend to combine until smooth.

Pipe (medium star tip) egg mixture into egg white halves and top with small amount of crumbled pancetta.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Columbus Calamari Showdown 2006

Throughout 2006 I visited some of the best recommended restaurants serving calamari in and around Columbus, OH. With the constant expansion of Columbus and it's importance as a retail shipping hub has also expanded Columbus as a restaurant test bed. Columbus boasts the home of Cameron Mitchell restuarants, Wendy's and White Castle burgers and our own Bocuse D'Or winner, Harmut Handke.

I chose calamari mainly because I can never get enough of this succulent little ocean dweller (though I'd also love to see more cuttlefish use as well), but also because it seems to be a ubiquitous appetizer on menus. With the wrong preparation calamari can become tough and chewy, but when done right it has a nice bite and a rich softness.

The main criteria in my ranking was the desire to have more. Would I immediately order another dish of this food after finishing off the first dish? Secondly is how it's prepared. I am disappointed in the number of identical Calamari Fritti offerings at many top restaurants. Sure, for most folks the ever familiar breaded and fried calamari is comforting. But that's not what I'm looking for. I'm looking for new preparations, ones with lots of forethough and experimentation.

So, here's the best of 2006:

  1. Cameron Mitchell's Ocean Club - Fried Judith Point Calamari

  2. Elevator Brewery - Fried Judith Point Calamari

  3. Q2 Bistro - Spicy Salted Calamari

  4. Cameron Mitchell's Cap City Fine Diner & Bar - Hot & Sour Calamari

  5. Ha Long Bay

Notable restaurants that did not make the top 5 are Smith & Wollensky (overly salty), McCormick & Schmick (ordinary), Brio Tuscan Grill (ordinary), Bucca Di Beppo (ordinary).