Monday, December 23, 2013

NEW RECIPE: Greek Lamb Wellington

© Constantine William Spyrou

Holidays are the perfect time to get together with friends, have fun, and cook amazing special occasion dishes. These dishes are ones you want to really go all out on. Take it to the five-star level. Doing that wows guests, family, and sometimes, even yourself. Having a set of special occasion dishes in your cooking repertoire is something great to have, and something everyone should look into, especially for the holidays. 

That special, fine-dining level holiday kick is exactly what I was looking for in this recipe. I wanted to merge together my favorite things about Christmas: lamb, spanakopita, and avgolemono soup. These are all classic Greek holiday treats, and together form a great full course holiday meal. I decided to merge all of these together into one sublime, five-star level dish: stuffing the lamb and spinach inside of phyllo dough, wellington style, and serving it with an avgolemono sauce. This provides all of the great Greek flavors, served in a British style presentation. It'll be a definite and interesting treat for sure! 

Recipe will serve 4.

For the lamb: 

6 sheets phyllo dough
Olive oil to brush on the phyllo and sear the lamb.
1 1-pound lamb tenderloin
Salt and pepper to season
1/4 cup olive oil (for the marinade)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon fresh chopped mint
2 teaspoons dried oregano

For the spinach filling:

1/2 pound sauteed spinach (press all the water out of it! This is crucial.)
1/4 cup feta cheese
2 teaspoons grated nutmeg
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dill
Salt and pepper to season

For the avgolemono sauce: 

2 cups chicken stock
Juice of 2 lemons
2 eggs, whisked
Salt and pepper to season


1. Combine the marinade ingredients: Olive oil, mint, oregano, and lemon juice. Set aside.
2. Season the lamb with salt and pepper, and sear on all sides with olive oil on a high heat. When each side is colored, let the lamb rest (it should not be fully cooked!). Brush it with the marinade on all sides as soon as it comes out of the pan.
3. While the lamb cools, combine the pressed sauteed spinach, feta cheese, nutmeg, garlic, salt and pepper, and dill. Let sit for a few minutes, and make sure to press any excess water out of this mix.
4. Layer each sheet of phyllo dough down onto some plastic wrap. Brush each sheet with olive oil before adding on the next sheet. Repeat for all of the sheets.
5. Add a layer of spinach (no more than 1/2 inch thick) onto the phyllo dough. Place on the lamb, and roll up the phyllo dough so everything is encased inside. It should be sealed in the bottom layer of plastic wrap. Roll and tighten up the phyllo dough until everything is encased inside, almost like a sausage. Chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes to let firm.
6. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Take the lamb wellington out of the fridge, and let it come up to room temperature. Lightly brush the top with olive oil and a light sprinkle of water to keep the phyllo dough from completely separating.
7. Bake the lamb in the oven for about 30 minutes to achieve a medium rare.
8. While the lamb is in the oven, make the avgolemono sauce. Combined the chicken stock and lemon together in a sauce pan on medium heat. Whisk in the egg slowly (but whisk fast!), then add salt and pepper to taste. The egg will lightly thicken the sauce.
8. Let the lamb rest for about 15 minutes before serving. Cut into portions, and serve with the sauce drizzled over the top.

This has a great balance of flavors and textures, which is what any high-scale dish should achieve. It has citrus and tang from the lemon and feta in the wellington, richness and gameyness from the lamb, and crunch from the crisp phyllo dough. It really is a great take on Greek classics.

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! =) 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

New Recipe: Chicken Phosole

© Constantine William Spyrou

I come from a very interesting family. All of us have ended up pursuing different interests - my dad is a software designer, my mom has a MBA, my older sister is into criminology and education, I'm a foodie, and my little sister is the athlete. We also all have varying forms of some kind of genetic diseases and allergies, which can make dinner plans a little chaotic. My sister has a fish and gluten allergy, my dad has a nut and egg allergy, my little sister hates cheese, I'm the lucky one who has no food allergies as of now, and my mom has a severe fish allergy. She was recently diagnosed with it, and she's been sad because there's a lot of food she can't eat because she can't eat fish.

A lot of foods have now become inaccessible to her because of the fact she can't eat fish. Anything with Worcestershire or fish sauce is off limits, so a lot of South Asian cuisine and British cuisine is off of her plate. My mom grew up in Hong Kong and loves Asian/South Asian food a ton, and now she can't really eat it because a lot of it uses fish sauce. One of the dishes she loved the most was Pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup. The Vietnamese use fish sauce in a lot of their cooking, and it is one of the central ingredients to Pho. Because of this, my mom can't eat it. I decided to try to make a recipe that slightly resembled Pho that would still be okay for my mom to eat. 

Fish sauce adds a deep, pungent, but lightly salted flavor to dishes, so the goal of my Pho was to achieve that without fish sauce. I decided to use a blend of Vietnamese and Mexican cuisines (which use a ton of similar ingredients already) to try to achieve this balance. To get the umami from the fish sauce replaced, I drew on garlic and lightly smoky chilies such as chipotle and dried Guajillos to get an umami level of flavor. This is very much a Pho that uses some Mexican ingredients, however, so it still has that distinct Vietnamese flair with a little Mexican kick. 

Recipe serves up to 12 people.

For the Pho Broth:

2 gallons chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/2 cup chopped and bruised lemongrass
2 large white onions, sliced
2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano
1 tablespoon Chinese Five Spice
1 cup chipotle chilis in adobo sauce
1/2 pound dried Guajillo chilies
12 cloves garlic, whole
1/4 cracked black peppercorns
2 bunches cilantro stems
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1/4 cup chopped fresh ginger
2 tablespoons star anise, whole
2 sticks cinnamon, broken
2 blocks rock sugar (if you can't get this, chopped sugarcane or brown sugar both work great)
Zest and juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons whole cloves

For the Pho Bowls:

4 pounds chicken breast, thinly sliced
1 large white onion, thinly sliced
4 packages dried rice noodles
2 pounds bean sprouts

Cilantro leaves
Sriracha hot sauce
Thinly sliced jalapeno
Thinly sliced radish
Whole basil and mint leaves
Chopped green onion


1. Soak your dried chilies in warm water for about 2 minutes to let them reconstitute. Remove the seeds and stems from the chilis, and puree them until smooth.
2. In a hot large pot on a high heat, add olive oil. Place in your onions, ginger, and garlic, and cook off until the onions turn translucent. Deglaze the pan with your regular soy sauce, and in the five spice, Mexican oregano, chipotles in adobo, and sesame oil. Cook out for a couple more minutes.
3. Pour in all of your chicken stock, and add in the rest of your broth ingredients. Bring to a boil, then cook at a simmer for about 45 minutes. Strain your broth once it's cooked, and bring back up to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, reduce the heat to low so the broth stays hot.
4. Soak your noodles in warm water according to package instructions.
5. In your bowls, place in the sliced raw white onion, bean sprouts, and raw, thinly sliced chicken meat. Add in the noodles, then ladle in the broth until the bowl is full. The amount of onion, bean sprouts, chicken, and noodle depends on the size of the bowl you plan on serving the pho in. Serve with all of the garnishes so people can pick and choose what they want.

The pho broth itself is complex and has a ton of ingredients, but once that's out of the way, making the rest of it and serving to people will be a cinch. It has tons of layers of flavor, as you can see from the multitude of ingredients in the broth. It's also customizable, making it a fun and enjoyable dish.

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! =) 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

NEW RECIPE: Holiday Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

© Constantine William Spyrou

The winter holiday break has to be one of my favorite times of the year. I can relax from the stress of finals, catch up with my friends from home, and really let the creative juices flow for making new dishes and recipe ideas in my kitchen at home. It's a time of joy, wonder, peace, love, and fun! One of the best things about the holidays, though, has to be the winter baking. From cookies to cakes and everything delicious and sugary between, the holidays just call for warming and comforting desserts that take you back to being a kid.

This is my take on those desserts - a double chocolate chip cookie with a holiday twist. First off, I'm using my own special recipe for cookie that I developed in high school. These cookies have a nice and crisp bottom, but are soft, light, and fluffy inside. My best friend Ashley has dubbed these "Scookies" because they're kind of like a mix between a scone and a cookie. The secret is changing up the basic cookie recipe by adding some milk to lighten up the batter as well as utilizing cake flour instead of all-purpose flour to make a much more fluffy inside. Spiked with spices like cinnamon and cardamom, these will be a pleasant treat for friends and guests on your table during the holiday season. 

Recipe makes about 4 dozen cookies.


3 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 pinches of salt
1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
1/2 cup skim milk
3 eggs
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 16-oz package semisweet chocolate chips

For the Topping:
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon


1. Cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar with a mixer for about 10 minutes or until the mixture rises in size and lightens up significantly in color. You should start on a lower speed then increase the speed as the butter and sugar combine.
2. Add in your milk, eggs, cocoa powder, and spices to the butter and sugar and combine well.
3. Sift together your flour, baking powder, and salt so there's no lumps left and the three are evenly mixed. With your mixer on a low speed, add the mixture in about a third at a time so it can evenly mix well. Repeat until all of the flour is fully incorporated into your cookie dough.
4. Let the cookie dough chill in your fridge for at least 2-3 hours if you plan on making them the same day. You can make this dough the night before and freeze it, then take it out about 30 minutes before baking to let it thaw out.
5. Once the dough is chilled, out of the fridge/freezer, and ready to go, preheat your oven to 395 degrees F. Scoop out your cookies onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper (or cooking spray). The mound should be no more than half an inch wide and a quarter inch high. Take a sheet of parchment paper and press your cookies down lightly to help them achieve a wider shape.
6. Bake your cookies for 1 minute at 395 degrees, then immediately lower the temperature to 375 degrees F for 10 minutes. Raise the temperature to 385 for another two minutes, then take the cookies out. Make sure to switch pans around in the oven if using multiple pans. Changing up the cooking times like this allows the cookies to spread slightly as well as crisp up on the bottom, cook, and then get a more brown color over the top over the final two minutes.
7. As your cookies bake, combine together the cinnamon and sugar in a bowl or cup of some sort. Once the cookies come out of the oven, sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture. They will melt into the cookie, but also add texture.
8. Let your cookies cool, then serve!

Changing up temperatures is a great way to achieve more texture and go for the exact kind of cookie you like. You can change up this recipe however you like to make the cookies your desirable texture. If you like wide cookies with a lot of crunch, use baking soda and take out the milk, for example. These will be delicious no matter what way you cook them! 

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! =) 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

NEW RECIPE: Spicy Asian Pasta Vodka

© Constantine William Spyrou

One of the keys for me to create a new recipe is to be inspired by something interesting, fun, or just completely strange. This recipe was definitely inspired by something strange.

Yesterday, my friend Jake showed me an article that talked about a company making Sriracha infused vodka. Don't punch yourself or pinch yourself, you are awake and just read the above correctly. It's crazy, but it's an interesting idea to combine the chili garlic flavor that we love in Sriracha with the bold and strong vodka. I decided to take it even a step further and put an Asian spin on the traditional Italian vodka sauce that is commonly used in pasta dishes. 

Now, it might sound strange to blend Asian flavors into an Italian dish, but the Italians did really get the pasta idea from Asia (Marco Polo can be thanked for that.) So an Asian spaghetti isn't really an out of hand idea. This uses an Asian style pasta- Chinese rice noodles - that really absorb the sauce well and stir fry beautifully. You might recognize them for the use in chow fun. These should go brilliantly with the spicy and savory flavors of this vodka sauce. 

Recipe will serve up to 4 people.


1 package dried rice noodles
3 cups water and a water heater
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 cloves minced garlic
2 cups canned chopped tomatoes
3 oz (2 shots) Sriracha vodka
1 cup water chestnuts, diced
1/4 chopped green onion
1/4 cup shallots, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
White pepper to season


1. Boil your water in the water heater, and soak the rice noodles in the boiling water in a bowl for 10 minutes. Make the sauce while the pasta soaks so it can drain and go instantly into the sauce.
2. Add olive oil to a hot pan. Just when it starts to smoke, add in your garlic and shallots. Season with half of the soy sauce, the ginger, and white pepper to taste.
3. Saute off, then deglaze the pan with the Sriracha vodka. Add in your chopped tomatoes and sesame oil, and stir. Bring to a boil and cook down for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Add in your drained rice noodles, the water chestnuts, and the rest of the soy sauce to help color the noodles. Mix for about a minute, and transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with the green onion.

This is a simple dish that has loads of flavor and complexity from all the things that are going on! You get richness from the tomato, a spice and alcohol kick from the vodka, crunch from the water chestnuts that goes perfectly with the soft and delicate rice noodles, and vibrance from the green onion to bring it back together. This is perfectly by itself, but can accompany Asian-style meats like Korean shortrib, Teriyaki chicken, or Asian Barbequed Pork brilliantly.

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! =)