If you’re like me and enjoy trying new cuisines, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to our new short series on the foods of the world. Starting with a handful of countries, I’ll walk you through one recipe that each region is known for. By the time we’re finished all the chapters in this series, you’ll have thirty new recipes from thirty countries around the globe. I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I do.
The United States – Hamburger
There’s steaks, brisket, ham and about thirty other foods that could have made this list. In the end, I picked hamburgers because no matter where you are in America, they are the most quintessential food in the whole of the United States.
Burgers can be made in a multitude of ways. From the way you prepare the patties to the ingredients, you top your hamburger with. There seem to be no limitations when it comes to hamburgers and the toppings you can garnish them with.
Come summer, I often like doing burgers when we have a large group of people over for dinner. Typically, I do a variety of stuffed burgers; some with jalapeños, others with blue cheese. There are no rules.
Here’s my basic burger recipe. I hope you enjoy it.
2 pounds mixed ground beef. If possible, I use wagyu and a mix of brisket, prime rib and chuck.
Hickory Smoke Salt + pepper
Optional: raw onions, dash of ketchup and soy sauce for umami
Form the meat mixture into patties. You can do this by hand or with a mold. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and brush with olive oil. Grill to medium rare on the barbecue. Serve on a bun (I like brioche buns) with your choice of toppings.
Canada – Poutine
In Canada, we have a lot of foods that could have easily been picked for this list. From Montreal smoked meat to beaver tails (it’s not what you think), it was a difficult task having to choose just one staple food to showcase. In the end, I chose my favorite; the ever popular and completely satisfying poutine.
In almost every major Canadian city, you can find what we locals call a “Poutinerie”, a restaurant that only sells poutine. From the classic recipe to ones with meats, vegetables and other ingredients piled high, there is no shortage of creativity when it comes to making this delectable dish.
Of course, to appreciate a finely made poutine you need to go back to the basics. Therefore, here is the recipe I use when we make it at home.
Yes, that’s all you need. Three ingredients. Make your fries the way you would normally, although, I usually try and make them slightly crispier than normal, so they don’t get too soft once the gravy is added. I also make my own gravy, but for poutine you can easily just use a packaged gravy. After all, this isn’t a Sunday roast you’re making. The third, and most important thing you need when making poutine is good quality, fresh cheese curds. Many people just use shredded mozzarella or even cheddar, but frankly it’s not the same, and it’s not the classic recipe. You want high high-quality and curds are as good as they get. To make sure they’re fresh, pop one in your mouth, and it should squeak. To check by touch, pinch one, and it will spring back. Here’s a tip: let them come to room temperature before using them in poutine.
Now pay attention. The layering process is vital to taste. Take 1/3 of the fries and put them in a bowl. Add 1/3 of the cheese curds and 1/3 of the gravy. Repeat until all the ingredients are gone. Enjoy.
If you can’t easily find cheese curds where you live, stick with good quality mozzarella – not cheddar. Make sure you shred it.
France – Baguette
France was another tough country to pick one recipe from. French cooking is my favorite style, and there are so many different national foods to choose from. When it came down to it, I decided to go with a staple that can usually be found on any dinner table in France; the baguette.
Although, truth be told I haven’t done it lately, I often make home made bread at home. Sure baguettes are inexpensive and easy to find at any grocery store, but there’s just something about making your own that’s completely and utterly satisfying. Here’s my recipe:
1 1/2 cups of water (between 80° – 90°F)
1 1/2 tsp of salt
4 cups of bread flour
2 1/4 tsp of yeast (I use active dry)
While I don’t bake bread in a bread maker, I do use it to mix and rest the dough. If you have a bread maker, feel free to use it for the mixing, but remember to take the dough out before it begins cooking.
If you don’t have a bread maker or don’t want to use one, mix all the ingredients together, in that order, until they’re smooth. Then, let it rest for about an hour and a half.
Sprinkle some flour on your counter where you plan to knead and prep the dough. Separate the dough into two or even three pieces, all of equal size. Gently fold the dough and roll it out until it becomes a long snake, similar to the shape of the baguette. After they’re shaped, let them rest for another hour.
Preheat your oven on high. I put mine to 500°F. Using a sharp knife, score the bread with diagonal lines on top, evenly spaced.
Here’s the important part: Make sure you place two shallow pans of ice water at the bottom of your oven to steam it. The steam is what causes the bread to turn from a standard loaf of white into an artisan loaf. Place the baguettes in the oven for about thirty minutes, making sure you use your oven light to check in on them now and then. Try your best not to open the oven door as it will let out the steam. Once they’re crusty and golden brown, remove them from the oven and let them cool for about fifteen minutes before cutting them. Enjoy.
(WARNING: In some cases, steaming, as described above, has damaged ovens and can, in some cases, effect warranty. Be sure to check your warranty manual if this is a concern for you. Gentleman’s Gazette cannot be held liable for any damage incurred.)
Spain – Paella
Spain was a little bit easier. There are many wonderful dishes from the region, but in my opinion, none are as acclaimed as paella. What really impresses me about this dish is that there aren’t a lot of one-pot recipes that are as elegant as paella. I have fond memories of my mother making this for us as children and this is a recipe that I personally enjoy:
(You’re going to want a traditional paella pan, but if you don’t have one, you can use any large pan or stock pot)
6 cups of chicken broth (I prefer making my own from the carcass and left over parts of a chicken, but you can use any strong store bought brand)
1/2 tsp saffron
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1 onion, peeled
2 small chickens
2 cups of diced pancetta
1/2 cup high quality olive oil
1/4 lb of chorizo, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
4 scallions, chopped
4 tbsp chopped garlic
2 roasted piquillo peppers
1 lbs small or medium shrimp, shelled
2 lobsters, boiled, split and divided into tail sections and claws
8 king crab claws
8 jumbo shrimp
3 cups bomba or calasparra rice
5 tbsp chopped parsley
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 lb fresh peas
18 clams, scrubbed
18 mussels, scrubbed
Lemon wedges and parsley for garnish
In the paella pan, bring the broth, saffron, paprika and whole, but peeled, onion to a boil. Cover the pan and let it simmer on low for about 20 minutes. Remove the onion and pour the broth into a measuring cup. You need exactly 5 1/2 cups of broth for this recipe.
Using a poultry cutting board, cut the chicken into individual pieces, discarding any of the small bones. Using paper towel, dry the chicken well and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
In the empty paella pan, heat the olive oil and add the chicken to it. Fry the chicken in the pan until it’s got a beautiful golden brown skin. Remove the chicken from the pan and place it in either a sealed container that can be keep it warm, or wrap it in aluminum foil. Add the chorizo and pancetta to the pan and fry it next until it’s cooked. Add the chopped onion, scallions, freshly chopped garlic and peppers to the pan and cook until the onion begins to soften. Add the shrimp and cooked lobster and cook it until the shrimp barely begins to turn pink. Remove the shrimp and the lobster and store it the same as the chicken for later.
Add the rice to the pan and stir it until it’s well coated. Sprinkle in some chopped parsley and the bay leaves. Take the measuring cup with the broth and pour it over the rice. Give it a quick mix through and let it come to a boil.
Add the wine and the peas to the rice and a dash of salt to taste. Bring it back to a boil and cook it over medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the shrimp and the chicken and mix it into the rice. Then, add the clams and mussels, making sure to push them into the rice with the opening edges facing up. Finally, gently place the lobster pieces on top and put the pan in the oven at 325°F, leaving it uncovered. Bake for 20 minutes.
After, remove it from the oven and gently tent it with aluminum foil, letting it rest for 10 minutes. Place fresh lemon wedges on top and sprinkle it with fresh chopped parsley. Serve and enjoy.
Jamaica – Jerk Chicken
There’s really nothing like having authentic jerk chicken when you’re visiting Jamaica.
I’m going to warn you. This is not your typical, throw it in the oven kind of recipe. It’s going to involve sourcing some key ingredients, making it outdoors and being a little creative in the process. Do not try this recipe if you’re not ready for a little bit of work.
Here’s the first and most important thing: You’re going to have to build a barbecue. Now, you can do this by making a pit in your backyard, or you can do what I do, and build it in your charcoal barbecue – for this recipe, I use my Weber Kettle.
Forget the charcoal, you’re going to need a type of wood called green wood which comes from the pimento tree. That or the laurel tree. Once you’ve sourced the wood, you’re going to want logs of it that are about the diameter of your leg and the length of the size of your barbecue or pit. You’re also going to want more of this wood in the form of charcoal. You’re going to place the fragmented wood (or charcoal) under the grates as you normally would to start a fire. You need to get the fire hot. As hot as you possibly can. I’m talking at least 600°F if not much higher.
After the fire is up and the wood is burning red, you’re going to place the logs of greenwood on top of the metal grate. It’s the logs that you’re going to actually cook the chicken on.
Now onto the recipe…
Dried and ground allspice berries
Chopped and blended scotch bonnet peppers
Chopped scallions, both the white and green parts
Fresh grated ginger
Young chickens, butterflied
At least 24 hours before you plan to cook the chicken, make the marinade by mixing together all of the ingredients, except the chicken and soy sauce. I didn’t put amounts, because quite frankly I just use a pinch of this and a pinch of that. Once the dried ingredients are mixed together, add enough soy sauce that it’s nicely moist if it isn’t already. You’re going to want to make enough that it completely covers all of the chicken.
Spread about 1/3 of the marinade on the bottom of large, plastic, sealable container. Place the chicken over top and spread the remainder of the marinade over the chicken until it’s well coated. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
Now, back to the fire. Once your fire is ready and everything is hot, take the chicken and place it on top of the green wood. Cover it with a large sheet of metal and let it cook for an hour. Flip the chicken over and cook it for another hour. Remove it from the grill and enjoy. I like to serve it with fried plantains.
Greece – Moussaka
From gyros and souvlaki, to baklava and a range of other dishes; Greece is home to wide variety of foods that easily could have been put in this list.
However, my go-to dish has always been moussaka. I write quite a number of restaurant reviews every year and whenever I go to a Greek restaurant that doesn’t have moussaka on the menu, I am instantly disappointed. How an authentic Greek restaurant could not feature such an incredible dish is beyond me…
Here’s the recipe I use for moussaka. Enjoy.
2 lbs of ground lamb
Red onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 can of unseasoned chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp of tomato paste
1 tsp of sugar
1 glass of red wine
Salt + pepper
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 cup of olive oil
3 1/2 cups of milk
7 tbsp of butter, not margarine
7 tbsp of flour
1 pinch of nutmeg
2 eggs, yolks only
7 tbsp of Kefalotyri cheese, grated
Remove the stalks from the eggplant and cut them into thin slices. Season them with salt and pepper and place them in a colander for about 30 minutes. Once they’ve sat, rinse them off with water and then pat them dry with a towel, making sure to squeeze any excess water out of them. Put the eggplant in a pan and fry them with the vegetable oil until they change color. Once they’re fried, remove them from the pan and place them on some paper towel to cool.
Heat another large pan on medium to high heat and add olive oil. Add the chopped onion and cook them until they’re almost, but not quite caramelized. Add the garlic, tomato paste and lamb, being sure to mix it consistently. Once it’s almost fully cooked, add the red wine and continue cooking until it’s reduced. Once the wine has evaporated, add the chopped tomatoes, sugar, cinnamon stick, bay leaf and salt and pepper to taste. Bring it to a boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer. Cover and let sit for half an hour.
In another large pan, heat the butter on low until it’s fully melted. Slowly add the flour and mix it into roux. Warm the milk in either a pot or your microwave – you don’t want it hot, just warm. Slowly pour the milk into the roux making sure to continually whisk it. Simmer the sauce on low heat until it thickens. Once the sauce is thick, remove the pan from the element and stir in the egg yolks, nutmeg, salt, pepper and the cheese. Whisk it rapidly or else the eggs will cook and you’ll have an omelette instead of a sauce.
In a large casserole dish, spray or butter the bottom and sides and place the first layer of the eggplant. Pour the meat mixture over the eggplant, making sure that it’s evenly distributed throughout the pan. Add another layer of eggplant and pour the béchamel sauce on top. Even it out using the back of a spoon, a butter knife or a spatula. Cover the sauce with the grated cheese and bake it in the oven at 375°F until the top is golden. Remove it from the oven and allow it to cool for about 15 minutes before serving. Cut it into pieces the way you would a lasagna and enjoy. It works tremendously with warm pita bread and a Greek salad.
This is just the beginning of our tour of 30 foods of the world. Stay tuned for famous dishes and recipes from another handful of countries around the globe.
What’s your favorite cuisine or recipe?