Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Paleo Argentinian Appetizers with Chef Carlos Crusco

In October, I had the opportunity to go to a wine tasting at The Austin Winery through the Austin Food Blogger Alliance.  As much as I wanted to sip some local wine, I was even more excited about the promise of Argentinian Tapas by Chef Carlos Crusco.  

Two of the tapas impressed me and seemed to be ones that could easily be made paleo.  The first was Chef Crusco's Coulotte Crostini.  While at the happy hour, I simply discarded the crostini.  The meat, as you can tell by the name was from a Coulotte Roast and it was incredibly tender.  

The second tapas that stood out to me was Chef Crusco's Gazpacho Andaluz.  This was hands down the best gazpacho I've ever had.  It had a great pickle tartness to it.  

I posted those pictures to the blog's Facebook page and Chef Crusco commented on them.  I've looked back at the post now and he must have deleted his comments or I am hallucinating.  I don't think I'm hallucinating as that exchange led to some emails (referencing those posts) wherein he agreed to share the recipes with me the recipes for both if I blogged about them.  Sure thing!  I will blog for recipes!   

I'm going to digress for one moment, and talk for one second about The Austin Winery Wines. They make wines from both imported grapes from California and Texas grapes.  You'll see the tasting list for that evening in the gazpacho picture above.  My favorite was the Wild Hare Sauvignon Blanc. The winery is only a few miles from my house.  Dangerous.  If you're not in Austin, you can buy their lovely wines online and they have a wine club as well.  Ok, back to the tapas! 

Here is a link to a google document with the recipes for both of these tapas.  I've struck through the unpaleo ingredients or parts of the recipe that did not work for me and added any ingredient substitutions in italic type.  I've made both and am so glad Chef Crusco decided to share these recipes with all of you.  

I was a bit surprised when I got the recipes as they had some unexpected really unpaleo ingredients, but I didn't let that stop me.   I started with the Coulotte Crostini. 

Coulotte Steak and Mustard Crema

Of course, I wouldn't be using any Crostini.  Chef Crusco suggested that I simply prepare some Coulotte steaks rather than make the appetizer.  Well, I did both. 

Aside from being a great appetizer idea, I was excited to try a cut of beef that I wasn't familiar with. The recipe actually calls for a roast, but as I am only one person, I decided, with Chef Crusco's blessing, to use some steaks.   I took a trip to a fancy full service butcher shop, Salt & Time, as none of my usual go to grocery stores, including Whole Foods, carried this cut.  I did see that U.S. Wellness Meats carries Coulotte steaks, but I've never ordered meat from them so I can't speak to their quality or service.  Just look at these beautiful steaks.  I didn't get a receipt, but these were around $14 a pound.  That's actually not bad for high quality steaks, but, nevertheless, this will be a special occasion cut at my house.  

Since the recipe called for a roast, I needed to find a good method for cooking these beauties.  I found this recipe and ignored all of the seasoning advice and just used the cooking instructions. Following Chef Crusco's recipe for seasoning, I seasoned the steaks with salt and pepper.  

I watched these steaks like a hawk as I did not want them to over cook.  I started by cooking them one minute per side and then an additional 30 seconds per side and I declared them done.  

Next,  I prepared the mustard crema.  Chef Crusco's recipe uses sour cream as the base for this sauce. When I suggested using paleo mayo, Chef Crusco was skeptical.  I knew from making creamy dressings with paleo mayo that are typically dairy based that it would work out just fine.  I mixed the paleo mayo, mustard, horseradish and lemon juice and the result was a lovely sauce.  I caution you to add a little lemon juice at a time as if you add too much, your "crema" will be runny.  Mine turned out a bit thin, but I learned my lesson this time and will be more careful next time.  

You'll note that the recipe calls for some breaded shallots as garnish.  I tried making these using arrowroot powder as a substitution for the flour Chef Crusco calls for as I've seen it used as a breading  before, but it simply did not work.  The shallots came out bitter, so I decided until I find a better flour substitute, I'll just skip that part.  Does anyone have any suggestions?  

Once the sauce was ready, I cut into the steaks.  

Taking Chef Crusco's suggestion, I plated some of the steak slices with some of the sauce as a main dish.  Yum.  These slices were tender and juicy, just as I remembered.  

Though Chef Crusco was skeptical, I decided to try using a cucumber slice to make a paleo version of his appetizer.  I think it turned out great.  I could imagine using other veggies as the Crostini substitute.  I'd not turn this away at a party for sure.   

Gazpacho Andaluz

Next up, I tried the Gazpacho Andaluz.  I was shocked when I got the recipe from Chef Crusco and found that there was bread in it.  Bread in gazpacho?  What the heck?  I guess this shows what  non-foodie I actually am as when I did a little research into gazpacho and bread isn't an uncommon ingredient in it.  But the good thing is, that's the only ingredient that needs to be excluded from the original recipe.  Chef Crusco said eliminating the bread wouldn't be an issue and may only effect the texture.  

I started chopping vegetables and adding them to my food processor.  The recipe calls for 1-2 small cucumbers.  I used both cucumbers pictured.  I'd say they were about 8-9 inches long.  I meant to take volume measurements but got caught up in the chopping.  

I actually decided to add the tomatoes in batches as the bowl was quite full once I had added the other vegetables and seasonings, except for the salt.  Once they were all in, I let the processor run for a while as the goal is to get this as smooth as possible.  I added 1/4 cup of water to thin the mixture a bit.  

A note on the vinegar and salt.  These are the major flavorings of the gazpacho and you'll need to adjust these to your taste.  The recipe calls for a Vinagre de Jerez Spanish Sherry Vinegar.  The "Vinegre de Jarez" designation is much like the "Vinegar de Moderna" designation for balsamic vinegars.  I bought a bottle at the more gourmet oriented grocery store for $4.99.  There were cheaper and more expensive bottles, so let your budget be your guide.  I used 3 tablespoons vinegar in my batch.  

Chef Crusco recommends Matiz Sea Salt.  I found some at the more gourmet grocery store in town for $11.99 for 4.4 ounces.  Ouch.  While this is more expensive than I'd typically spend on salt, I wanted to follow the recipe's recommendations, so I splurged.  

If you're curious, here's a picture of the texture of this fancy sea salt.  

I added a total of 1 tablespoon of salt to this batch.  I started with a mere 1/2 teaspoon.  If you want to see how salt can brighten the flavor of your dishes, start out with a small amount like I did and add salt in small amounts.  When I first tasted the dish, it had none of the zing I remembered, but once I added more salt, that bright pickled zing came through.  Yum.  

I did prepare some garnish but they didn't work well in the bowls I had, so make sure you think about your serving vessel when choosing your garnish.  Really, the gazpacho is so good it doesn't need anything extra, so I wasn't too disappointed. 

Chef Crusco gives the option of running the gazpacho through a sieve for a "more elegant" dish, so I did.  

For the sake of comparison, the strained gazpacho is on the left and the more rustic version is on the right.  I'd not turn either of these bowls away, but I must say I liked the strained better.  

Just for fun, I made some olive toothpicks to give my very non-appetizer size rice bowl an appetizer look.  This soup is just amazing.  Fresh, easy and simply lovely on a hot summer day.  

I am so honored that Chef Crusco allowed me to share these recipes with you.  At a recent food blogger's conference I attended, I saw Chef Crusco who was helping out the Texas Beef Counsel with some Coulette Steak breakfast tacos.  I can attest that would be another great use for Coulette steak. He was kind enough to let me snap a picture.  

If you're in the Austin area, or not, you might want to check out his facebook page and webpage.  In addition to his chef services for hire, he often partners with local restaurants/wineries to do themed dinners.

Do you have any favorite paleo appetizers/tapas?

Cavegirl Couture Sale Reminder:  Use the coupon code FALLCOOKING to get $10 off your purchase of $35 or more through the end of the year.  

Sources/Affiliate Disclosure-  Chef Cruscos provided me copies of his recipes so that I can share them with you.   Other than the free wine samples at the tasting, I received nothing from The Austin Winery.  I own and make all of the products at Cavegirl Couture.  This post contains affiliate links for which the blog earns a small commission if you purchase items through those links.