Pakistani Via Mississippi

Last Saturday, we ventured out with our friends Paul, Angela & their kiddo Patrick, to this quaint Pakistani & Indian joint they discovered in the boonies just across the Mississippi state line. You would never know this place existed, if someone didn't tell you. We are more than thankful they shared this hidden gem with us, because it rocked. We will definitely be making the pilgrimage again.

We have never tried Pakistani food, but we love Indian & other Middle Eastern cuisine, so we were more than intrigued & we love ALL cuisine so the decision was easy. The place is in a tiny strip mall type building connected to a gas station. If you have never been to Mississippi, or heck the South even, you might think this is odd. It is not. More of the norm & I am betting the gas station probably served up some nice meat & threes, fried catfish, fried bologna sandwiches or all of the above. The setting might have scared away some less adventurous epicureans, but not us, the intrepid epicureans (hungry too, I might add). On the inside The Shahi House was simple with little, to no atmosphere & I could tell the focus was on the food. The walls were lined with giant photos of most of the dishes they offered & boy, did it all look tasty. A heady aroma wafted out of the kitchen making our stomachs growl. It looked like the place was pretty much set up for take-out, because there were only 4 booths & they serve the food on paper plates.

We started things off with some puff pastries. We had one potato & one chicken. They were comprised of filo dough, with spicy fillings of potato & chicken. Both were excellent, but the potato was our favorite. Paul & Angela also ordered a middle eastern version of a soft taco that we split. Just because I can't remember what it is called in it's native tongue, doesn't mean that it wasn't absolutely delicious. The chicken was spicy but not hot & was accompanied by some fresh cilantro & onions, all in a vessel that was somewhat between a tortilla & naan which was basically fried flour & water. It was served with a yogurt based dipping sauce that added a nice tang to the equation.

The first course sufficiently whet our appetite & left us wanting more, much more. Just in the nic of time our meal was ready. La had the chicken biriyani (pictured to the left) & I had the chicken karahi. The biriyani was was my favorite & La's was the karahi. The biriyani was a spciy chicken dish served amongst some of the best rice I have ever eaten. I couldn't get enough & couldn't keep from getting it all in La's lap too. The karahi was top notch as well. The chicken was stewed in a spicy red sauce full of onions chiles & tomatoes, garnished with a huge jalapeño & a handful of cilantro. I am not the best judge of heat, because I have been eating chiles of all kinds (& recently habaneros) since I was 5 or 6. I could tell this had a good amount of heat to it, because it satisfied both La (she is a chile head too) & my thirst for the fire. Plus everyones noses were running.

I think I can safely say everyone enjoyed their lunch & we definitely enjoyed our first taste of Pakistani. After lunch we headed back north to Memphis for libations, but first we stopped at an Indian grocery in Collierville to stock up some exotic goods. All we bought was a 5 lb. bag of biriyani rice & have already started to experiment with different ways to cook it & plan to try a Persian rice recipe soon. It was a great deal too, for only five dollars.

After perusing their imported goodies we were on the road again. Great Wines was having the final blind taste off in their Summer tasting series so we stopped by to taste & to vote for our favorite wines. I was in the minority & was the only one who liked any of the whites, but it is funny because we came home with the only white I really didn't like, a 2005 Craneford Viognier. The reds were good too & I am anxious to see which wine won. I will post the winners when I get word.

A trip to Mississippi & our culinary horizon has been broadened in one the most unlikely of places. It was a great way to spend a Saturday.


When the Moon Hits Your Eye Like a Big Pizza Pie, That's Amoré

Well, It's official. We will never buy store bought pizza crust again. I have been experimenting with homemade pizza dough for quite some time now and think that I may have finally come close to perfecting my recipe. It still lacks in a couple of pizzeria qualities that I enjoy but it has turned out fluffy and golden every time I have used this recipe. The topping always differ. Pizza is usually a "clean out the crisper night" but the final results are always scrum-didly-umptous.

Pizza Dough
1 Packet instant or rapid rise yeast
1-1 1/4 cup of water
3 cups bread flour (about 14 oz.)
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 teaspoons of corse kosher salt plus more for sprinkling
chopped rosemary or other herbs to taste (optional but I think this makes the dough)

I use plain old fashioned 'have to proof it yourself' yeast, why, because I like to challenge myself for no good reason whatsoever.
So proof the yeast with a pinch of sugar and some very luke warm water (you don't want to kill it because that makes for some nasty dough.) I also make my dough with a stand mixer, because while I like a 'don't kill the yeast and ruin your dough' challenge, I don't enjoy a physical challenge so much. A stand mixer makes this so easy.

Combine half of the flour with salt, yeast, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and one cup of water in stand mixer, blend with machines paddle. With the machine on slow speed, add the flour a little at a time until the mixture has become a sticky ball that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Kneed for a minute by hand adding as little flour as possible. Put in a bowl greased with olive oil and cover with plastic wrap or a dish towel and leave to rise in a warm, draft free place. I put mine in the oven (don't turn it on.....). This process will take about 1-2 hours.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven as hot as you can get it. I can get mine up to about 575ºF. Most comercial ovens bake at about 700ºF. Heat is important in getting a good crunchy crust.

Remove dough from resting place after it has doubled in size and kneed slightly. Push dough down and roll into a ball. Leave wrapped in plastic wrap or towel for 20 minutes or until it fluffs slightly.

Remove dough from wrap and place on pizza pan. I just spread the dough out with my hands to the edge of the tray making sure not to rip it. Holes in pizza dough isn't great, you lose a lot of valuable juices. Then I spray with olive oil over the crust and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Top the pizza with anything you like (our pictured pizza has marinara, sausage, onion, tomatoes, oregano and basil and feta cheese on it), and put in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes or until the crust looks done.



Cheap Thrills: Black Box Wines & Pop Music

I have two new cheap thrills I have been enjoying for the last few weeks. They are boxed wine & cheezy pop music. In my car, my usual mix of NPR & WEVL, the local volunteer station, has been trumped by one of the local Top 40 stations. If you pull up next to me at a red light you will more than likely here a muffled rendition of Christina Aguilera, J-Tim, or Nelly Furtado (her new song with Timbaland, Promiscuous is my new jam) escaping my windows. Don't judge. I have my reasons for my new listening pleasures.

I also dove head first into the boxed wine world which strike me as being very similar to the world of pop music.

We tried two of the Black Box Wines, the Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles & the Shiraz from the Barossa valley in Austrailia.

The Black Box Wine & the Top 40 hits I have been enjoying are both superficial pleasures, not meant to be explored too deeply, because if you will certainly be let down. Take Justin Timberlake's new hit "Sexy Back" for example. It is an infectious groove with a bouncy disco-house beat & some cool synthesized vocals in which J-Tim proclaims to be "bringing sexy back". If you think about it was sexy ever really gone? If so, where did it go? The French Riviera for holiday? I dont think so.

Both of the Black Box Wines we have tried are great weeknight wines with beauty that is no deeper than skin deep or deeper than the catchy hook, if you will. The Cabernet Sauvignon was full of flashy fruit & mellow tannins. It was simple, but not quite one dimensional. It was fantastic with left-over meat loaf sandwiches & an enjoyable week night wine.

The Barossa Shiraz was similar in style, but had a little more depth to the flavors & aromas. The typical shiraz meat & pepper were represented in the nose & palate, albeit somewhat subdued. We enjoyed this one more than the Cab because it showed a lot more varietal characteristic & there was a little more structure.

One thing that drew me to the Black Box line of wines was the fact that they from specific appellations & they are vintage wines. Instead of being a blend of grapes from all over California or Australia & a blend of grapes from different vintages, at least by law, 85% of the grapes came from where the wine is labeled & all of the grapes were picked in 2004. This usually means you are getting a little higher quality wine. Most of the other boxed wines I saw were non-vintage & only labeled as California wine. Which typically means a little lower quality wine. Basically, the more specific the place the wine comes from, the better quality of wine it is.

These boxes sell for about $20 & have four bottles worth of wine concealed in a silver bladder within the box. This has been dubbed by my brother "The Silver Tittie". That equals to about $5 a bottle. Not a bad deal if you ask me & definitely falls under the "Cheap Thrills" category along with the J-Tim I have been jamming out to.


Weekly Fresh Seafood in Memphis

From Whining & Dining....

Red Truck Seafood is making another run to the Gulf!!
Place your order now for the freshest shrimp available.
We will make the run on Thursday, August 17 and
deliver on Friday, August 18.

Don't forget to let us know your wish list
for fresh fish. We will try for Grouper, Trigger, Amberjack, Red Snapper, and Mackerel. Availabilities and prices vary.

You can call in orders to:
JD 901-921-0010
Cynthia 901-218-5399

Recipe: Anise-Scented Short Ribs

Well, It has been a long time coming, but this recipe is too good not to share. The key to getting a perfect, melt in your mouth experience with this recipe is to hit up the beef guy at the Memphis Farmers Market for your short ribs. Three bucks a pound (last time we were there) makes this a super affordable meal. This is a great cold, rainy day recipe because it stews for a couple of hours, which warms the house up nicely. And the smell, ahh the smell of slow cooked meat and anise, Glade Plug-Ins I scoff at you. You can also do this in a pressure cooker in a fraction of the time and have it turn out just as good. Just follow the rib cooking times on your machine.

Anise-Scented Short Ribs
Time: 2 hours or more, largely unattended

  • 1 Tbs Olive oil
  • 3 Pounds meaty beef short ribs
  • Freshly ground black pepper or szechwan peppercorns to taste*
  • 1 medium to large onion chopped
  • 5 nickel sized slices of fresh ginger or 2 teaspoons of ground**
  • 3 cloves of garlic lightly crushed
  • 5 whole star anise***
  • 1/4 cup of soy sauce or fish sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp rice or white wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
  • Salt (optional)

  • 1. Heat oil over medium high heat in a dutch oven. Brown the short ribs well on all sides. Season with pepper as they cook. Don't rush the process, which will take about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on the heat so you don't burn the ribs or get the oil too smokey. You can also do the initial browning in a 500º F oven in a roasting pan turning the ribs every so often to get an even brown. This takes about 20 minutes as well.

    2. Remove the ribs with a slotted spoon and pour off most of the fat. Lower heat and cook onion until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger cooking for another 2 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients except carrots and salt. Bring to a boil and return ribs to the pot.Reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook slowly, occasionally turning the ribs, for about 1 hour.

    3. Add carrots and re-cover pot. Cook 30 minutes more until ribs are tender and meat is falling off the bone. Remove carrots and ribs from stew juices and place on a platter in a warm (200º F) oven. Discard the ginger and star anise pieces. Turn pot heat to high and reduce the liquid, stirring until thick and syrupy, about 10 minutes. Add more salt or soy sauce to taste. Serve sauce on ribs with white rice. I also like crusty bread to soak up the juice, but I am rather gluttonous when it comes to this recipe.

    *Szechwan peppercorns have a far superior flavor in this dish, use them if you can find them.
    ** Fresh ginger is easy to come by, use it over ground ginger, the flavor doesn't come close.
    *** Viet Hoah Market on Cleveland has the hook up on affordable star anise. They have the hook up on a lot of spices but that's for another post. you might be able to pick up some szechwan peppercorns there too.

    Recipe source: How to Cook Everything, Bittman



    Video Blogcast #1: Home Coffee Roasting

    *** server MAY be down for maintenance. If so, please check back soon.***

    Show Notes:

    Roasting coffee at home is fun & really cheap...about half as cheap as store bought beans. One pound or so of beans roasted pretty much pays for the popper. There is also no better way to get The. Freshest. Coffee. Ever. It is fun to experiment with different beans & see how they taste at different roasts. Blending different types of beans is great too. The possibilities are endless.

    I failed to mention in the Blogcast that if you smell the coffee beans burning, you roasted them too long...but I guess common sense would dictate that. Usually if you can hear the second crack slowing down (less frequency of beans cracking), the beans are close to burning.

    I also should apologize for the poor resolution. Once I get a dedicated server, that will change. YouTube doesn't cut the mustard.

    Sweet Maria's
    Degree of Roast Pictorial


    My Little Black Book

    I started writing tasting notes right before I started blogging & sort of, but not quite, a few years ago. One year La got me The Unoffical Guide To Wine & I started writing the name of each bottle we purchased & where it was from. No tasting notes or whether or not we liked the bottle, just the basic info. The few blank pages at the end of the book filled up rather quickly. Looking back I am glad I did this. When I read some of the names I could remember the occasion & hazy details of enjoying the wine. This marked my unofficial genesis of becoming a wine geek.

    The picture is of my current & second 'little black book'. My first one was half was filled with caffeine fueled coffee roasting notes & then, the vinous words of my new wine obsession took over & the rest of the pages are now filled with tasting notes & purple stains.

    Why take notes?

    Well, I do it for many reasons. Blogging about wine being one. Another reason is, I feel it helps to hone my palate & figure out what I really enjoy about certain wines. I tend to ponder the flavor & nuances of the wine more when taking notes. I start to wonder about the process of how the wine was made, why certain flavors are stronger or more subdued. It raises my awareness of what I am drinking in a sense.

    Of course I can delve that deeply into a glass of wine without taking notes, but I like having a reminder on paper, so I can remember all the details. For instance, I was thinking the other day about a wine I recently tried, that reminded me of an orange creamsicle & I couldn't remember the name or variety of wine at all, but I could taste vividly it in my mind. After thumbing through a few pages, I saw where I had noted those flavors under my notes for a 2005 Epiphany Grenache Rosé. It was very good rosé, but I also noted how it was huge for a rosé too. This bad boy came in at 14.5% alcohol too. Too much for a 95º+ day outside in the sprinkler.

    My notes are not strictly for record keeping either. My notebooks are like a scrap book of fond wine memories & some bad ones too. Taking tasting notes or at least noting the bottles you drink is something I would recommend to anyone who enjoys wine & doesn't mind looking like a total wine geek.


    Meals From The Road: Pismo Beach, CA

    This is the first post of many more to come, about the food we ate on vacation. Starting with The Splash Cafe & The Cracked Crab. Why defy a chronological order by starting this series of posts in Pismo Beach? Because I am jonesing for some fresh seafood like a junkie craves a hit.

    For our anniversary dinner, which turned out to be a multi-dinner, cross country extravaganza, we went to The Cracked Crab in Pismo Beach, just south of Avila Beach on US 101. We knew before we got there what we wanted, the big bucket for two. The "Big Bucket" is, well...a big bucket full of enough crustaceans, potatoes, corn & sausage to feed two hungry souls. First we split a bowl of Crab Bisque, that was touted to have "made them famous". It was only mediocre & it tasted heavily of chicken broth. When it came time to order our "Big Bucket" we opted for rock crab, slip lobster & dungenese crab.

    We brought an indigenous bottle of wine with us that we had picked up earlier. It was a 2005 Zaca Mesa Viognier. It was outstanding & went perfectly with the assortment of sea dwellers with its lively acidity & floral notes.

    After a glass of Viognier with our bisque it wasn't long before the attentive staff emerged with our implements of destruction, a mallet, some crab crackers, a couple of chop sticks (for picking the hard to reach meat out) & some small forks. But what they brought out next caught us off guard & all we could do was laugh. Two CC staffers, at the same time, tied big bibs with giant crabs on them, around our necks. Good thing too. After we emerged from the restaurant we had crab bits in our hair, but not on our shirts.

    The shellfish was outstanding. It was so fresh & plentiful. When the bucket was dumped out on the table, my jaw hit the table. It was no small task but we devoured it all, minus a few pieces of sausage & corn. If you are in the area & love seafood, we highly recommend The Cracked Crab.

    The other seafood joint we ate at in Pismo Beach was The Splash Cafe, famous for their clam chowder. It was so good we went back a couple days after our first visit. With our clam chowder we also enjoyed am order of steamers. Both times we at The Splash Cafe we sat in the window & enjoyed some prime people watching. The little town was full of vacationing families, surfers & four-wheelers, all enjoying the summer. It was delicious both times, really affordable & comes with our recommendation as well.

    There is a lot to cover when it comes to the food & wine we enjoyed on our 16 day trek, so stay tuned for more recaps.



    Gifts From Paradise

    Our friends, neighbors, & fellow food bloggers just returned from Hawaii bearing gifts. They stopped by Friday afternoon with a fresh Maui Gold Pineapple & a bottle of pineapple wine, decked out in a lei, grass skirt & coconut bra. The Hawaiian garb still cracks me up. We have yet to try the wine, but the pineapple...oh, the pineapple.

    It was so ripe, you could smell the sweet aroma wafting to your nostrils as soon as you picked up the prickly fruit. It was delicious. One thing that struck me was, how low the acidity was. Usually with store bought pineapples, the acidity literally burns my tongue after eating a few pieces, not with this pineapple though. It was so sweet the juice had a pineapple syrup quality. Only a fruit this sweet could come from paradise.

    The pineapple wine will be uncorked soon. I have a strong feeling it will help us cope with the heat wave that has a death grip on most of the nation right now. It will most definitely be a wine for an afternoon sprinkler session.


    Farmers' Market Finds

    For the last two Saturdays we have been up bright and early to peruse the Memphis Farmers' Market downtown. Last Saturday we arrived at 7.00 sharp. Venders where still unloading and some had not arrived by the time we made our purchases and moved on to The Complex for breakfast.

    This week we decided to take it easy and arrived just as things were getting into full swing. The plan was to get everything for dinner from the market. Too late to catch the steaks from the beef guy (he said he sold out of most of that in the first hour)so we settled for short ribs. We were too late for the cheese folks as well, they had sold out of almost everything but gave a sample of some delicious petit basque. Alas, we blew the budget so we'll have to be patient until next week. We finished up our shopping with some stone ground yellow grits, baby carrots, blueberries (best. blueberries. ever.), cabbage and peppers. A lot of the really good looking produce was already sold out by the time we got there, but I was very happy with our booty. Our friends came along and got some phenomenal granola. I plan to pay more attention next time, so we can give props to the vendors.

    So the meal (recipes to come) that we got out of this trip was: Anise scented short ribs, stone ground cheese grits and steamed cabbage (best cabbage I have EVER eaten). All in all I think the entire meal without the wine cost about 5 dollars a person. Well worth it.

    The farmers' market is great. It opens at 7:00 am on Saturdays only and get there early because the popular vendors are very, very popular. The beef guy is worth the trip. The short ribs melted in our mouths.


    Wine South 2006

    Mark your calendars. The biggest wine event in the South is a little over a month away. On September, 15th, Wine South 2006 kicks off for the whole weekend, through September 17th. With over 600 wines & food from Atlanta's best restaurants & caterers, any food & wine lover will certainly be in heaven.

    On Friday the 15th, the event kicks off with the Reserve Tasting Event and Silent Auction for Angel Flight. The wineries pouring at this Reserve Tasting Event are there on an "invitaion only" basis, so I am betting it will be the creme de la creme. Food will also be prepared by Atlanta's hottest chefs to match the wine being served.

    Saturday the 16th is the Grand Festival Tasting. With over 600 wines being offered, I am sure there will be something for everyone. At events this large it is best to go with an agenda, like maybe just tasting reds, or only whites or even narrowing it down to only trying certain varietals. Making a dent in the huge selection will be a Herculean task...even if you spit.

    Wrapping up the festival on Sunday the 17th, will be the Trade Only Tasting, where the members of the wine trade get to taste new wine vintages and portfolios of the top boutique distributors and importers in the state of Georgia plus schmooze with industry insiders.

    This is not an event to be missed. Even if you are not a die-hard wine drinker or just someone who wants to learn more about wine (remember you learn by tasting!) Wine South 2006 will be a great event to attend.

    More information & tickets available here.

    Weekly Fresh Seafood

    Leslie Kelly posted last week about Cynthia's Gulf Coast Express taking orders & then making a run to the Gulf Coast for fresh seafood. Last week I missed out on passing the word along to loyal readers of S*S*T*H but fear not, this is going to be a weekly thing according to Leslie Kelly's blog.

    Here is the original post.

    Contact Cynthia's Gulf Coast Express at 901-218-5399

    Oh...& just a note, the crabs in the photo were Dungeness Crab purchased at the Viet Hoa Market on Cleveland in Midtown Memphis. They were outstanding, by the way.

    Attn: Memphis Bloggers

    There is a 2-part, Memphis Blogger Bash hosted by Serrabee at the Young Avenue Deli. It will be on Thursday the 10th & Sunday the 13th. Evidently there has been some tension at these gatherings between the political bloggers, who seem to make up the bulk of the Memphis Bloggers, hence the name 'Rise Above Blogger Bash'. If you are a Memphis Blogger you should check it out. If it turns into a political least the Deli has fried pickles & a full bar.


    Tasting Notes: 1998 Peachy Canyon Benito Dusi Ranch

    This bottle of Peachy Canyon was a hidden gem I found in a corner of the wine shop I barely visit & when I have, I only breezed by. Breezing by any shelf in a wine shop is not like me. I shop for wine like an old lady shops at a Christmas bazzar. I go slow & make sure I see everything...twice. This annoys La & usually the staff, if I am not at a store where I am a regular. We are big fans of Peachy Canyon, so the decision was made as soon as I dusted off the label.

    At first I was a little apprehensive about spending $25 on an 8 year old bottle of Zinfandel, because many people say that Zin should be enjoyed in the first four years. In fact this is true for most wines, as less than 5% of wine gets better with age & even then, it has to be stored under strict climatic guidelines & I have never been in a wine shop that was 55ºf with a 55-70% humidity.

    There is a lot of history behind the Benito Dusi Ranch with most of the vines being 60-80 years old There is an interesting article on the Benito Dusi Ranch over at Appelation America that can be found here.

    It seems Peachy Canyon no longer sources fruit from Benito Dusi Ranch & according to the article, only Ridge & Dover Canyon purchase fruit from Benito Dusi Ranch. After tasting the wine, I know have to seek out a bottle of each.

    We uncorked this bottle on a Friday night, with no plans other than vegging out on the couch, eating a little dinner & watching "That 70's Show". This has become our ritual for kicking off the weekend.

    Upon the first sniff, which was me cramming the bottle under my schnoz, I knew it was a winner. I think I let out an "Ungh" as I exhaled. I poured us two glasses & after the first sip, we both knew it was definitely a winner.

    The nose was a full bouquet of mixed berries & spice. The berry aroma was not as vibrant as a young Zin, but it possessed a complexity most young Zins don't have. There was also gobs of cocoa & sweetness with an underlying maple that lingered in the background.

    In the mouth it was soft, smooth & velvety. The flavors of berry compote, bitter-sweet cocoa & a little earth danced across my tongue leaving a gentle tannic grip that lingered & slowly faded away. This wine was very balanced with a slight acidity. The finish was long & wonderful, leaving you a lot to contemplate.

    This wine easily stood up to 8 years in the bottle proving that there is nothing definite in wine.

    For a good article on aging Zinfandels, written by Zin guru Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards, check it out here.


    Things To Come...

    We are going to start a monthly video webcast/podcast. The first one will be up in a couple of weeks & will be on home coffee roasting with an air-pop popcorn popper. This will be a regular feature on all things you can see, sip, taste or hear. I have a lot plans for the webcast, so stay tuned.
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