Sunday, June 30, 2013

NEW RECIPE: Overload Burger

© Constantine William Spyrou

The name of the burger might seem kind of insane, but that's because this burger is destined to be an amazing, gourmet burger that anyone would love to have as their signature burger. That was goal in the Masterchef overtime service challenge, in which teams of 2 came up with their own burgers to be tested. I decided to do this challenge because I wanted to put myself into a burger (and the Greek Lucy burger has already been done). This burger combines some of my favorite elements out there: Delicious, crisp, pancetta, Gruyere cheese, sun dried tomatoes, and brioche. With a special grind on the beef, this will be a delicious burger for you and your family to behold! 

Recipe will make 4 burgers.


1/2 pound beef boneless shortrib
1/2 pound beef chuck roast
4 slices of gruyere cheese
8 oz pancetta, sliced into 4 rounds
1 cup fresh arugula leaves
4 brioche buns
1 tablespoon butter
4 cups olive oil
1 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 minced cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon marjoram
Salt and pepper to season


1. Grind the beef and shortrib together to get an even mixture of both. Season with the garlic, oregano, basil, marjoram, and some salt and pepper. Mix the seasoning into the beef well, and form 4 4-oz patties from the mixture.
2. Preheat an oven to 300 degrees F. Place the sundried tomatoes, the olive oil, and some salt and pepper into a roasting pan (it needs to be deep!) Cook slowly for at least 30 minutes.
3. Add the butter to a pan on medium high heat. Cook the burgers for 2-3 minutes on each side, depending on the temperature you want the burgers to come out at. Melt the gruyere cheese over each of the patties with a little water into the pan. Set the patties aside to rest.
4. In the same pan that you cooked the burgers in, cook the pancetta on each side until it gets crisp, about 2 minutes on each side. Toast the brioche buns to a golden brown in the same pan.
5. Remove the confit sundried tomatoes from their olive oil bath, and quickly cook for about 30 seconds on each side to crisp up.
6. Assemble the burgers in the following order: Bottom bun, cheese-covered patty, pancetta, sundried tomato confit, arugula, top bun. Enjoy!

With the sun-dried tomato confit serving almost as an upscale version of ketchup, everything in this burger is taken to the next level, from grinding your meat at home to using great cheese and wild arugula to just elevate the burger's flavors and bring out the beefy flavor. 

I hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know what you think, and what you would change! If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =) 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

NEW RECIPE: Key Lime Cupcakes with Tahitian Vanilla Mascarpone Frosting

© Constantine William Spyrou

I've never been a pro genius when it comes to desserts, so when the Masterchef challenges involve dessert, I like having the opportunity to try making desserts and seeing if they can turn out any good. One of my all time favorite desserts is Key Lime Pie, which is kind of like a super-delicious lime cheesecake. For the Cupcake Elimination Challenge, I decided to try to turn this South Beach dessert classic into a delicious cupcake. Using the frosting to kind of emulate the cheesecake, this should be one of the most awesome cupcakes ever! 

Recipe makes 12 cupcakes.

For the Cupcakes: 

1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated white sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup lime zest
2 sticks unsalted butter, cubed
Seeds of 1 Tahitian Vanilla Bean
4 large eggs
1 cup milk

For the Frosting:

2 cups softened cream cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup mascarpone
Seeds of 1 Tahitian Vanilla Bean

For the Glaze/Garnish:

2 cups water
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup lime juice
1/4 cup lime zest


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Combine the flours, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Mix on low speed, then add in the cubed butter slowly until its coated with the flour.
3. Add the eggs 1 at a time until they are combined into the flour mixture. Add the milk and vanilla bean seeds in and mix on low speed until completely mixed.
4. Fill oiled/greased cupcake tins no more than two thirds of the way up. Bake the cupcakes for 20 minutes, and let them cool.
5. While the cupcakes bake, make the frosting. Beat together the cream cheese, sugar, mascarpone, and vanilla bean until soft and well combined.
6. In a pot, boil the water and sugar and lime juice until you are reduced by at least half. Let cool to form a glaze.
7. When the glaze is cooled, mix in the lime zest.
8. Spread the frosting over the cupcakes, the swirl the glaze over the top of the frosting.

The cupcakes very much resemble the flavors of key lime pie, and work very well together to create awesome cupcakes. Try them for your next party! 

I hope you enjoy this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change! If you make it, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =) 

NEW RECIPE: Crispy Pan-Roasted Black Cod with Miso-Ginger Broth and Crispy Rice Cakes

© Constantine William Spyrou

It's been a while since I've posted, so it's time to catch up with the Masterchef Recipes! First up is the Mystery Box challenge from two weeks ago, which consisted of Black Cod and several Asian inspired ingredients. I decided to go with a light and fresh broth. I was actually inspired to make this dish as a result of season 9 of Hell's Kitchen, in which Paul created an impressive dish of sea bass in a light and fragrant broth. Miso and ginger combined definitely makes a great broth, and the addition of other Asian inspired ingredients and seasonings lifts the whole flavor of the dish. 

Recipe makes one dish.

For the Cod:

1 6-oz filet of black cod, skin on (scaled)
2 tbsp of soy sauce
1/2 clove garlic
1/2 tsp chopped ginger (1 long slice)
Salt and pepper to season

For the Broth: 

2 cups water
2 tbsp white miso paste
2 tbsp sliced ginger
1 tbsp sliced garlic
Salt and pepper to season
2 tbsp chopped green onion

For the Rice Cake:

1/4 cup cooked rice (steamed in a pot with salt and pepper for 15 minutes)
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds (white and black)
1 tbsp green onion
2 tbsp Miso-Ginger Broth
2 tsp dark soy sauce
2 tsp cracked black pepper


1. Bring the water to a boil. Add the miso paste and stir in until fully dissolved.
2. Add in the sliced ginger and garlic. Turn to low heat and let the broth infuse for 30 minutes on a simmer.
3. Cook the rice, then add the sesame seeds, green onion, some of the broth, the soy sauce, and the black pepper to the rice. Form into a flat pancake-like shape, and set aside in the fridge to firm up for 10 minutes.
4. Rub the cod with the sliced ginger and garlic to give it the flavor without cooking the aromatics. Season the cod, then sear it on medium-high heat with canola oil, skin side down. When the skin is crispy and the cod is cooked (opagque colour) almost all the way through, flip the cod and cook it on the other side for 2 minutes. Check for doneness before taking the cod off the heat by flaking back the cod. If it can flake easily, the cod is done.
5. Griddle the rice cake with canola oil for 90 seconds on each side.
6. Ladle the broth into the bottom of a bowl. Place the cod on, skin side up. Lay the rice cake on top of the cod, and garnish with green onion.

This dish has a good balance of freshness and texture from the light miso broth and the bright green onions and the crispy, delicious rice cake that just brings the dish to a whole new level.

I hope you enjoyed this dish! Let me know what you think and what you would change. If you make it, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =) 

Friday, June 7, 2013

NEW RECIPE: Bananas Foster Cheesecake

© Constantine William Spyrou

The Masterchef competition has continued to get incredibly difficult and fierce. This past week, the losing team of the team challenge had to go through a pressure test in which they had 90 minutes to make a great and visually appealing cheesecake. They could use the pantry to provide whatever toppings they felt good for the cheesecake they wanted to make. The pantry had all kinds of fruits and chocolates and other such things. 

For me, dessert is a struggle, because I haven't gotten too much into baking. I can make cookies no problem, but baking things such as cheesecakes are challenging for me. However, I have had experience cooking cheesecake "cupcakes," so hopefully that experience helps me knock out a successful cheesecake for this! 

For my topping, I chose a classic Bananas Foster, which is caramelized bananas with a rum caramel sauce that is cooked with the bananas. The bananas will be sliced and ring around the edge of the cheesecake, with the caramel sauce swirling over the bananas and then to the center in a spiral shape. Instead of traditional vanilla ice cream that goes with Bananas Foster, I'll be using a vanilla bean cheesecake that is chilled. Hopefully it goes over well!

Recipe makes 1 cheesecake.

For the Crust:

15 graham crackers, crushed (around 1 1/2 cups)
4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
pinch of salt- fine ground
2 tablespoons banana liquer

For the Cheesecake Filling:

1 pound softened cream cheese
3 eggs
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 pint mascarpone cheese, softened
Seeds of 1 vanilla bean OR 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Topping:

2-3 bananas sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
1/4 cup butter (about 1 1/2 sticks)
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
1 tablespoon banana liquer
1 tsp cinnamon
Seeds of 1 vanilla bean OR 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


1. In a hot pan, flambe the banana liquer for the crust. It will be done when the flames dissipate. Add this to the graham crackers, salt, turbinado sugar, and melted butter, and combine to form a crust. Make this no more than an eighth of an inch thick at the bottom of a greased 8 or 9 inch cakepan.
2. Beat the cream cheese in a mixer until smooth. Add in the Mascarpone, and beat until smooth once again. Add in the eggs while mixing slowly one at a time. Gradually add the sugar and vanilla bean/extract on slow mixing speed until smooth and thoroughly combined.
3. Add the filling to the cake tin. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. When done, chill in a fridge for around 20 minutes.
4. In a hot pan, melt the topping portion of butter. Add in the brown sugar and flambe off the dark rum and banana liquer. Add in the cinnamon and vanilla, and cook until the brown sugar melts into a caramel sauce with the butter. Quickly toss the bananas in with the sauce for about 20 seconds, then take off the heat and let cool.
5. When the cheesecake is chilled, bring it out and ring the outer edge with just the bananas. Swirl the caramel carefully around the middle part of the cheesecake to create a nice spiral.

The tie-in for this dish is the vanilla bean. Having it in each of the components really helps bring all parts of the cheesecake together and lets it harmonize. 

I hope you enjoy this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change! If you make it, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =) 

Monday, June 3, 2013

NEW RECIPE: Spicy Langoustine Cioppino with Fisherman's Rice

© Constantine William Spyrou

This is the third part of the MasterChef challenges from this season that I will be doing on my blog, and this brings me up to date with the current season's challenges until the new episode comes out this week! This challenge was an elimination challenge, in which the winner of the Mystery Box challenge (who was Natascha with her lemon chocolate tart) got to pick the challenging ingredient that the remaining contestants had to work with. Out of first-cut veal chops, langoustines, and Stilton Blue Cheese, she ended up choosing the langoustines, trying to trip up all of the contestants.

Langoustines look like giant shrimp, but their flavor is much more similar to lobster, and just like lobster, they prefer to be poached and shocked to reach cooked perfection. Langoustines can be extremely expensive and virtually impossible for me to get, so this is a real challenge for me. The fact that langoustines are cooked very similar to lobster makes it easier though, so I think this cioppino would be just the thing for the Langoustines. Tomato and shellfish go very well as illustrated by San Francisco in their classic seafood dish, and adding a spicy kick and making my own rice under the 60-minute time limit should take the langoustine to a whole new level!

Recipe makes one serving of cioppino.

For the Langoustine Stock:

Langoustine heads and shells
3 cups water
1 chopped onion
1/4 cup celery, chopped
1/4 cup carrots, chopped
1/4 fennel, chopped
2 tablespoons cracked black peppercorns
Salt to season

For the Cioppino Sauce:

2 langoustine tails (raw)
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
1 clove of fresh garlic
1/2 teaspoon capers
1/2 teaspoon chili flake
1/4 cup Langoustine stock
2 tbsp fresh chopped basil
2 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper to season

For the Fisherman's Rice: 

1/2 cup basmati rice, washed
1 cup langoustine stock
1/4 cup vermicilli noodles, diced
2 tsp butter
Salt and pepper to season


1. Make the stock first. In a pot, add the water, langoustine heads/shells, and the aromatics for the stock. Bring to a boil and cook for about 30-45 minutes, straining regularly.
2. Next, make the fisherman's rice. Start by sauteeing the vermicilli noodles in the butter until they are brown-colored. Add the washed rice, salt and pepper, and the langoustine stock. Bring up to a boil, and steam for 10-15 minutes until the rice is fork tender. Fluff the rice, and set aside.
3. Boil the langoustines in salted water for 3 minutes, then immediately shock in an ice bath to stop the cooking process. When cooled, chop up and set aside.
4. In a hot pan, add some olive oil and the garlic cloves. Add the tomatoes, oregano, chili flake, and langoustine stock, and cook together for 3-4 minutes. Add in the chopped basil, salt and pepper to taste, fresh chopped basil, and langoustine tails in literally 20 seconds before you are ready to take the cioppino off the heat. Serve with the Fisherman's Rice.

The chili flake adds a nice kick to the dish but doesn't overpower at all. Neither do the capers, allowing the flavor of the langoustine to shine through. 

I hope you enjoy this dish! Let me know what you think and what you would change! If you make it, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =) 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

NEW RECIPE: Bacon-Tomato Napoleon with Fresh Hollandaise

© Constantine William Spyrou

Continuing my run at the Masterchef challenges, this one has to do with the very first "Mystery Box" Challenge. In this challenge, the contestants had 60 minutes to create a dish using a very limited pantry of eggs, lemon, herbs and spices, flour, sugar, butter, and other such ingredients. In addition, chefs could only use the 4 ingredients in their Mystery Box. This time around, it was a few slices of bacon, a tomato, a potato, and a bar of chocolate. 

I decided to throw the chocolate out (which can be done in the actual competition) and focus on the bacon, tomato, and potato. I got inspired from a dish I saw on Food Network. A famous steakhouse in New York called Peter Luger's has the special dish of sizzling bacon that is served with tomatoes and onions. Even though onion is not available in the MasterChef pantry, I decided to replace it with potatoes to add a level of savory, and garnish it with a hollandaise sauce to help lift the flavor and make it really rich. With the acidity of the tomato coming through, this dish should be a keeper. 

Recipe makes one serving.


3 slices bacon
2 Tablespoons fresh cracked black pepper
1 Roma tomato, sliced into 1/4inch rounds
1 potato
2 cloves garlic
2 sprigs rosemary
1 sprig fresh thyme
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon fresh chopped tarragon
2 Tablespoons melted butter
2 tbsp kosher salt


1. Turn the oven light on. Place the sliced tomatoes on a baking pan in the oven and let them dry for 30-45 minutes.
2. Rub the cracked black pepper into the bacon. Cook it until is crisp on each side.
3. Parboil the potato in salted water for about 3-4 minutes. Slice into rounds, season, and saute in butter with crushed garlic, rosemary, and thyme.
4. Create a double boiler by placing two stainless steel bowls over a pot of boiling water. Add the egg yolks and whole butter, and whisk until smooth. Stir in fresh tarragon and salt and pepper, and take off the heat.
5. Form the napoleon in this way: Layer potatoes at the bottom, followed by bacon, then tomato slices, then bacon, and potato to finish off. Garnish with hollandaise sauce.

This dish is rich and quick, but easy to make and delicious at the same time.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change! Enjoy! =) 

NEW RECIPE: Lamb Kofta with Zatt'ar Bread and Cucumber Yogurt Salad

© Constantine William Spyrou

I love watching television, especially cooking shows. One of my favorite shows to watch is MasterChef, where home cooks compete to see which one of them is the best home cook out of the thousands that apply for the competition. I hope to one day apply for the competition (maybe during a gap year of school) and hopefully make it to the elite 18 competitors that get to enter the kitchen. While that's a distant dream from now, one thing I do want to do is try out each of the challenges the current home cooks get that requires them to make their own recipes- Mystery Box Challenges, Recipe challenges, and Elimination Challenges. I'll post what I would have done as a recipe each time a challenge comes up on this blog!

The first challenge the home cooks had was to make the most awesome dish ever with lamb under an hour. For me, lamb is a strong point and my favorite meat to cook. I do prefer roasting lamb, however, which takes hours. I can do other lamb dishes too, fortunately. One of my favorites is the Middle Eastern classic- lamb kofta. These meatballs are extremely flavor-packed and delicious. Growing up in a Middle Eastern environment has helped me learn many of the flavors and what goes great with lamb. As a result, I added a bright and flavorful cucumber salad to help balance out the dish and add color, and added zatt'ar bread (with the zatt'ar spice made from scratch!) to add a slight sour but savory note to the dish. Hopefully, it's a dish that the judges would've approved of! 

Recipe makes 2 servings.

For the Zatt'ar spice:

1/4 cup sumac
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon toasted white sesame seeds
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground caraway seed
2 tbsp dried oregano
2 tbsp dried marjoram

For the Zatt'ar bread:

2 pieces of pita bread
Around 2/3rds of the zatt'ar spice
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

For the Cucumber Salad:

1/4 cup sliced cucumber (I like it shaved into ribbons for this, use your vegetable peeler to make these long thin ribbons).
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp chopped mint
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp zatt'ar spice
Salt and pepper to season

For the Kofta:

12 ounces ground lamb
2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp sumac
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp cumin
2 tsp zatt'ar spice
1 tbsp fresh chopped mint
1 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to season


1. Combine the zatt'ar spice, lemon juice, and olive oil for the zatt'ar bread and mix to form a paste. Spread about 1-2 tablespoons of this on top of the pita bread, and toast in an oven at 350 degrees F for about 3 minutes, or until the pita is even toasted on bottom and the zatt'ar paste has started to harden on top. Set aside to cool.

2. Combine all of the ingredients for the cucumber salad into a bowl and mix well. Set aside to chill for about 10-20 minutes to let the flavors combine.

3. Combine all of the kofta spices together with the ground lamb and mix well. Form into about 6 2-oz elongated patties (almost like a flattened football). Cook in a hot pan with olive oil for about 2 minutes on each side.

4. Place 3 cooked meatballs in a stack, plating the cucumber salad and zatt'ar bread next to it.

The binding ingredients for this recipe are the zatt'ar and lemon. Being present in each part of the dish allows all of the elements to combine together well and impart a great overall flavor that will last. Having the sour notes of each also cuts through the rich lamb flavor. 

I hope you enjoy this dish! Let me know what you think and what you would change! If you make it, tell me how it turns out! Enjoy! =)