On the side!

You’re only as strong as your weakest link, and I don’t plan on having any. 🙂 Side dishes are often my very favorite part of the meal, in fact if we’re talking cheese grits, macaroni and cheese, fried potatoes, or a good Caesar salad, I’ll go ahead and just have that. All of that. Hahahaha! It can become a cheese and carbohydrate massacre to be certain, but you can’t be profitable while trapped in a box. The Crappy Little Chuckwagon needs sides that break these boundaries and change the way folks view BBQ side dishes.

The 3 main dishes that we have tested, tasted, and approved are fairly monotone in color. As juicy and saucy as it is,  my Smoked Brisket is brown, despite it’s pink smoke ring. The Sweet & Spicy Pork Burger has a beautiful red sauce, a vibrant yellow pineapple, and toasty bun, but they come together with a very similar color pallet. My Texas Flat Bread is golden and crispy and stuffed with brown and red hues. We need green!!

Onto the drawing board

As usual…I have needs. I want 2 side dishes (remember that less is more. Too many choices will ruin the food truck ordering experience) that must be:

  • Brilliant green to pop next to their Earth colored counter parts
  • One starchy for the traditionalists
  • One light and refreshing for nutritionists
  • As bold in flavor as any entrée they may be accompanying

It just so happens that I have 2 perfect side dishes in mind. They’re classics from “Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens,” but don’t worry. I’ll throw you these recipes for free. 😉

On the plate

Over the weekend, my friend Justine had a group of us over to grill some pork loin. Perfect opportunity to dust off these recipes and make sure they’re still as good as I remember.

Herb Potato Salad

Herb Potato Salad

Red potatoes, large…………………………………… 5 (about 2 lb)

Sea salt…………………………………………………… to taste

Fresh cilantro, chopped……………………………… ¼ c

Mayonnaise…………………………………………….. ¼ c

Basil pesto, store bought……………………………. ¼ c

Red onion, small dice………………………………… ¼ c

Black pepper……………………………………………. to taste

  1. In a large pot, cover the potatoes with water and place it over a high heat. When the water has begun to bubble, add 2 T of sea salt to the water and allow the potatoes to simmer until just tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain them and put them in a large bowl to refrigerate.
  2. When the potatoes are cool, carefully cut each potato into large cubes. Place the cilantro, mayonnaise, and pesto into your blender and puree til smooth. Add your herb mayo and diced red onion to your diced potato and fold them together. You don’t want to break down your potatoes too much, so be gentle! Taste the potato salad to see if you need more salt or pepper.
  3. Pile high on a serving platter, and wrap tightly to refrigerate until you’re ready to serve ice cold.

Roasted Poblano Slaw

Olive oil………………………………………………….. 3 T

Poblano peppers……………………………………… 3

Red cabbage, shredded…………………………….. ½ head

Green cabbage, shredded………………………….. ½ head

Limes, juiced……………………………………………. 4

Rice wine vinegar……………………………………… ¼ c

Honey……………………………………………………. 1 T

Ground cumin, spice…………………………………. 1/2 T

Olive oil………………………………………………….. 1/2 c

Green onions, chopped……………………………… 4

Carrot, peeled and grated………………………….. 1 large

Sea salt…………………………………………………… to taste

Black pepper……………………………………………. to taste

  1. Preheat your oven to 500°. Place the poblano peppers on your baking sheet and lightly drizzle olive oil over them. Roast them in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until they have begun to blacken and blister all over. Remove them with your tongs and Roasted Poblano Slawplace them in a mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow them to sit this way and steam.
  2. Once the peppers are cool, pull off their tops and allow the seeds and juice to spill out of the top. Carefully peel off their skins, and don’t rinse under water while doing this,  or you’ll lose too much flavor.  Once they are peeled, dice them into a medium dice.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the lime juice, vinegar, honey, cumin, and ¼ cup of olive oil. Toss together with the cabbage, roasted poblano, green onion and carrot. Taste at this point and season as needed with salt and pepper. Store in an airtight container, and serve ice cold.

To recap:

When people walk up to the window, we will ask, “Cow, pig or flatbread?”

Depending on what they say, we’ll either plate up thick sliced Texas Brisket in a smokey homemade BBQ sauce, Sweet & Spicy Pork Burger with pickled pineapple on a kolache bun, or Grilled Texas Flat Bread stuffed with grilled mushrooms and Chipotle tzatziki.

Then we ask, “Tater or slaw?”

The response will then either be an Herb Potato Salad or Roasted Poblano Slaw.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Yummy

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For the Vegetarians

In a chef’s head

Pig, cow, duck, and all their tender inner (delicious) workings are constantly on the mind and preferably tongue of most chefs. The perfect preparation, how you had it in San Francisco, what you read about it in Food Art, and the bacon design of your next tattoo (time to get off the pot Chef Marcus) are just some of the topics that rattle around bar stool conversations. With so much thought and energy dedicated to meat and its cookery…chefs often fully disregard the possibility of meatless dishes.

In a chef’s experience

In the 1st restaurant I ever worked, where eventually I was promoted to sous chef, the menu was very concise in order to accommodate a very modest dining room. We could seat about 30. 🙂 Along with the small dining room came the very 1st professional crappy little kitchen that I ever worked. It had 1 crappy stove, the dish machine shared a workspace with the salad station, but worst of all there was ZERO storage. If it wasn’t on the menu at that moment, we didn’t have it in the kitchen. Thus it was an absolute nightmare for someone to come in and demand an off menu dish.

The easiest one to head off at the pass was, “I’m a vegetarian. What do you have that I can eat?” Ask any chef and they’ll tell you the same, half of these people end up ordering the fish or the chicken anyway because lots of people suck. Hahaha! BUT, I always found coming up with new and exciting vegetarian dishes to be quite a stimulating challenge. All the vegetarian entrees in “Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens” are those vegetarian dishes from my restaurants.

Why would I waste this experience? What a shame to fritter away that expertise? I’ll be cooking in the ultimate crappy little kitchen with a petite menu to match, so one of the 1st thoughts that I had when developing said menu was, “I should give a vegetarian option. It is Austin after all.”

In a chef’s process

As I’ve said before, beef brisket on the menu is a no brainer. It bursts all the Crappy Little Chuckwagon parameters. Last week we dealt with a pork selection, and knocked it out of the park by deconstructing what is beloved by all Texans, the kolache.

What does all this mean for my vegetarian entrée? What are our parameters?

  1. Has to be vegetarian… obviously. My go to, spotlight veggie is the mushroom. For myself, I love a splash of Worcestershire sauce, but that doesn’t work here. For those of you who don’t know, the secret ingredient of Worcestershire is anchovy. While it might seem funny to sneak vegetarians (real vegetarians– not those sucky fake ones) little fishes, it is unethical and I won’t do it.
  2. Must be hand held, but can’t be a repeat. I thought about grilled Portobello sliders. With a hamburger on the menu, I’d really rather not have another sandwich let alone a tiny burger. Plus I tried it, and the Portobellos didn’t shrink enough on the grill to be a slider; they just looked like mushroom burgers. :-/
  3. Has to be accessible and sound delicious to everyone. What is a popular food truck item that I can recreate in my own crappy
    Grilled Texas Flatbread

    Grilled Texas Flatbread

    little image? Hmmmmnnnn…

While I’m making homemade kolache dough for our burger buns, why not see if we can roll it out and throw it on the grill?! While I worked at The Grape in Dallas, we made a grilled Tuscan flatbread  It was essentially pizza dough that we grilled before service. When an order came in, we topped it, flashed it in the oven, and sent it on it’s merry way. Texas flatbread really has a nice ring to it. Sure enough the soft and pliable dough rolled out and grilled perfectly. The beautiful circles with flawless grill marks looked remarkably similar to pita bread, which is a much better idea than a topped flat bread giving us the need for a crappy little oven.

Grilled Texas Flatbread

Grilled Texas Flatbread

My Texas Flatbread needed a filling, and using the pita/gyro as inspiration, I sautéed diced yellow onion with garlic, dried Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper. Once brown I added a ton of chopped mushroom (cremini and Portobello), turned the heat up slightly, and seasoned with a bit more salt and pepper. Typically a Greek style gyro would have a meat filling and a sauce called tzatziki. It’s a very refreshing sauce made from yogurt, cucumber, and lemon, so to adapt it for my Texas flat bread, I made it with yogurt, chipotle, and lime. Add fresh cherry tomatoes and spinach (instead of romaine lettuce) and we have a winner!! Just needs bacon… Hahaha, but I’m not wrong! Maybe as an add on option?

The chef’s menu

As I’ve said before, I freakin love this process. You start with ideas that roll around in your head like powder kegs ready to explode into something more. In the kitchen you break down the ideas to see what works, how it could be better, and can it make more sense. Can we make this more cost effective without sacrificing quality? Can we make this taste better without hurting food cost? This is the nuts and bolts of a successful food business; the very beginning of a continuous progression of change and improvement as a chef hones their craft and becomes one with their space.

As for my space, the Crappy Little Chuckwagon is on the horizon. Each day I feel her coming closer, and you can plan on May being a big, BIG Crappy Little Kitchen month! Now that the menu is tested and planned, I enter the design phase. You faithful CLK followers will be the 1st to see the menu, along with it’s maiden voyage next month as we raise money to begin our Crappy Little Culinary Journey. I’m so happy to have you with me.

Stuffed Texas Flatbread (vegetarian)

Stuffed Texas Flatbread (vegetarian)