Monday, December 22, 2014

Shhh! Sweet Pickles and Secret Restaurant Recipes

So, the other day the book Secret Restaurant Recipes (from the World's Top Kosher Restaurants) arrived at my door.

Hmmm. Did I request this? Win this? 

I'm trying to get all my holiday ducks in a row so I can actually take a few days off, so I've been a little scattered. And some days I just don't remember what I emailed to whom.

In any case, I didn't pay for this book, and I'm fairly certain it came from the publisher and not some secret admirer.

These restaurant-compilation books are always fun because the recipes are usually so varied. Not only different restaurants and chefs, but they're choosing a small sample of their recipes. There was everything from salad to dessert, and a lot in between. Simple and complicated. Common ingredients and not so common.

One recipe that caught my fancy was a recipe for sweet pickles from a restaurant called Milt's Barbecue for the Perplexed in Chicago.

For one thing, I used to live in Chicago. And for another, I love pickles of all kinds.

These pickles looked a lot like the bread and butter pickles that my mom made when I was a kid, with a few interesting differences. For one thing, I had to blend an onion, which then became part of the pickling liquid.

But just like the pickles my mom made, and some of the ones I've made since then, these included turmeric, which turned the liquid a brilliant yellow and colored the pickles and onions as well.

The recipe was supposed to make 1 quart of pickles, but I decided to cut in in half. Refrigerator space is at a premium right now, and I simply figured that a pint would be a good enough test.

So, I cut everything neatly in half ... and ended up with a quart-and-a-half of pickles. Hmmm. That's odd. My first thought was that we understood English cucumbers to be different things, and I had way more cucumber than I should have.

But that doesn't seem likely, since the ratio of pickle to onion seemed right in my jars. If I had used that much less cucumber, I would have ended up with pickled onions with some cucumbers thrown in.

And that wouldn't be right.

I suspect that what happened was that someone took a restaurant-sized recipe and cut it way back to an amount that could be made in a home kitchen. And then they looked at the giant bucket of restaurant quantity pickles and figured that if if was divided, it would be about a quart.

When I made this, I left out one thing - it called for 1 teaspoon of pickling spice, which would have been 1/2 teaspoon when I divided it. My pickling spice includes large shards of bay leaves that wouldn't have fit in a half-teaspoon, along with mustard seeds that are already in the recipe, and some scattered allspice berries. I figured that if I tried to get a half-teaspoon of pickling spice, I'd end up with mustard seeds and not much else.

These pickles were really good, similar to the ones mom made, but with a little more onion flavor. And although these are called sweet pickles, they have a good bit of tartness, too. Which is perfect for me.

I'm looking forward to seeing how these change over the next few weeks.

Sweet Pickles
Adapted from Secret Restaurant Recipes (from the World's Top Kosher Restaurants) 
by Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek
From Milt's Barbecue for the Perplexed; Chef/owner Bryan Gryka
Note: according to the book this makes 1 quart; based on my result,it should yield 3 quarts

The square-ish container is by OXO.
2 yellow onions, divided
1 cup white vinegar
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons pickling salt
1 teaspoon pickling spice (I omitted this)
3 English cucumbers, sliced

Cut the first yellow onion into small chunks and add it to a saucepan along with the vinegars. Use a stick blender to puree the onion. (You can also puree the onion in a food processor or blender)

Add the sugar, mustard seeds, celery seeds, turmeric, red pepper flakes, pickling salt, and pickling spice. Bring to a simmer.

Put the cucumbers in a stainless steel bowl. Slice the second onion as desired and add it to the cucumbers.

When the vinegar mixture comes to a boil, pour it over the cucumbers and onions and give it a stir. Place a plate or another bowl on top of the cucumbers to weight them down a little to keep them below the liquid and set aside until it has cooled to room temperature, then transfer to jars or other storage containers. Cover and refrigerate.

These are ready to sample as soon as they cool, but they're better after 24 hours (particularly the onions) and they'll continue to pickle over the next week or two.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher.