Smoked Steak Tartare

Smoked steak tartare

We went for the SIP N’ SHUCK event with oysters and sparkling wine to Fulton and (unexpectedly!) discovered smoked steak tartar. I wanted to recreate it in my home kitchen with Cameron’s Stovetop Smoker. I didn’t know how the Fulton steak tartare got its smokey flavor, but since it was barely there, I suspected they used a smoking gun and a relatively short period for the smoke to set. My experimental timing with Cameron’s smoker was a bullseye, and I liked my version even better! My beef tenderloin got the right amount of smokiness, and its internal temperature was a bit above the body temperature. Here is the recipe…

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Oaxacan Green Corn Cakes with Green Chilies

Corn Cakes with Green Chilies

“The Corn Mother from whom we receive our nourishment is thus an entity like Mother Earth, and so closely are they united that they are virtually synonymous. Because we build its flesh into our own, corn is also our body. But corn is also spirit, for it was divinely created, so we are also offering spiritual thanks to the Creator.” — Book of the Hopi

I started with Nopi’s soufflé corn cakes recipe and … changed it to make them greener and gluten-free. I also walked away from the Mediterranian flavors. Oaxacan Green corn flour, miso-glazed shishito peppers, and Roth’s Moody Blue (American smoked blue cheese) made a wonderful contribution to a complex flavor and color of the cakes.

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Cucumber Guacamole Topped with Octopus Ceviche

Octopus Ceviche and Cucumber Guacamole

As you know, the main ingredient of basic ceviche recipe is fresh raw fish marinated in lemon or lime juices and seasoned with salt, chili peppers, onions, and fresh cilantro. Ceviche de pulpo, or octopus ceviche can be made with cooked octopus. This ceviche is good for those who avoid eating uncooked fish (acid marinades do not provide the same level of food safety as heat cooking). In case of cooked octopus, we don’t need large amounts of citric juices and hours of marinating to cause denaturation of the proteins. We mostly add flavor, and the level of acidity in ceviche can be adjusted to your taste.

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Lamb Kabobs: Making Shashlik in Texas

Lamb Cabobs | Shashlyks

How authentic is this shashlyk? Well, let’s see. Instead of traditional mangal, I use shichirin and instead of grapevine — binchotan charcoals from Japan. While true Georgian shashlik is made of non-aged lamb, I choose conditioned lamb from New Zeland. Finally, the marinade is based on local herbs, vegetables, and spices. I couldn’t even find a good substitute for young Georgian wine and decided to use sake for its cleaner taste.

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Dumplings: Dargin Khinkal

Dargin Khinkal

If you are with me for a long time, you already know about my roots and my fascination with layered dough. They come together in this recipe. I’ve seen dargin khinkal on pictures and videos only and know about its taste and texture from somebody else’s descriptions. The combination of boiled beef and garlicky tsahdon (sauce) is the treat from my childhood, one of the dishes my grandma used to make for me.

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Khashlama

Khashlama

I prefer slowly cooked beef shanks for plain khashlama and leg of lamb for festive version. A slow cooker/crock pot is the most convenient device to make this dish. Otherwise, assemble vegetables and meat layers in an iron pot, start on the stove to bring water to boiling and finish in the 300F oven by slowly cooking for another 3-4 hours. There is also a version when meat is cooked first; then it is layered with vegetables in small ceramic or clay pots and cooked in the oven to serve khashlama individually portioned. In this case, it only takes 1-1.5 hours in the oven — just to cook vegetables.

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Red Pozole

Pozole

Toppings are my favorite part of this soup. I think they are what makes this traditional Mexican soup exceptional from the taste and texture point of view as well as its serving and eating experience. I like how some recipe authors refer to pozole as a “soup-salad,” because so many raw ingredients are added to a hot bowl of soup right before eating it.

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Tortilla Soup

Tortilla Soup

Tortilla soup is one of the most popular Mexican soups. Google it, and you can easily get tons of “classic” recipes and even more variations. The base is always the same — dry red chili peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, tortilla chips, cilantro, and lime. In some recipes tortilla chips are used to thicken the soup, in other, they are the topping. In central Mexico, this soup flavor is defined by pungent and tangy thin fleshed pasilla, in Michoacan region it’s a fruity and mild ancho, in Puebla a smokey chipotle takes the place. There are also a variety of additional toppings from cooked meat and poultry to avocado, cheese, and cream. Every local chef or home cook features the best regional ingredients in this soup. I often joke comparing tortilla soup in Mexican cuisine to borsch in Ukrainian.

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Cachucha Peppers Stuffed with Green Mexican Chorizo

Cachucha Peppers Stuffed with Green  Chorizo

To compare cachucha peppers to other green chili peppers I know, I’d say they are close to Spanish padron or Japanese shishito peppers in terms of texture. They are not meaty and slightly crunchy when cooked. To my taste, cachucha peppers are very flavorful and complex with clean and fresh grassy note. There is no heat in them at all. Thus their other name is sweet chili, Ají dulce, though there is no sweetness in them at all, at least when they are green.

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