Saturday, April 30, 2011

Kin Shop's Lamb and Goat Curry Burger

I know that this picture is woefully out of focus (sneaking in a quick picture on your iPhone will do this to you sometimes), but the burger was so good that I have to post it anyway.  As part of Eater's Burgerweek, a bunch of NYC restaurants that don't typically serve burgers have debuted special limited edition burgers available this week and next week only.  Today when I found myself in the West Village around lunchtime I started thinking about how wonderful Kin Shop sounded for lunch.  And then once I found myself there, I was powerless to resist their Lamb and Goat Curry Burger.  It was freaking fantastic.  Imagine this - a goat and lamb brisket burger patty seasoned with Panang curry paste topped with chili jam, yellow bean aioli, pickled onions and crumbled fried taro root served on a homemade sriracha bun.  The bun was griddled so that it was toasted and crispy on the interior.  Plus it was rather fabulously flavored with sriracha.  And the burger itself was insanely juicy.  It was nowhere near as gamey as I thought it would be.  If I hadn't already known that it was goat I'm not sure what meat I would have thought the burger consisted of, but I wouldn't have guessed goat.  And the fried taro root on top of the burger gave it a wonderful additional textural note.  I'm totally bummed that this burger isn't going to be on the menu after next week, but I'm pretty excited that I got to try it as I might try to rip off some of the components for a curry burger of my own!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Chocolate Glazed Chocolate Tart

Easter Sunday we had a few friends over for dinner.  They were bringing the ham and we were in charge of everything else.  So of course I went a little overboard and planned out a variety of different sides and appetizers.  And then I got to dessert and was a little stumped.  I knew that one of our guests loves flan, but Alex isn't a big fan of flan.  I also knew that she hates peanut butter and loves chocolate flourless cakes and molten chocolate cakes.  So I decided that chocolate was probably the safest option.  After consulting a few different cookbooks and a few different websites, this tart was what I chose.  It has several steps, but it's pretty easy overall and it looks impressive.  This is the type of dessert that you totally need in your repertoire for potlucks and dinner parties because you can make it entirely in advance (which is great when you're running around like a chicken with your head cut off trying to get the food on the table) plus it's really good.  My other favorite dinner party dessert is a Cranberry-Orange Cheesecake with Chocolate Crust (recipe below).  Like the tart, the cheesecake needs to be made entirely in advance.  I think the cheesecake is fabulous around the holidays, but I would make this tart year-round. 

The chocolate here is deep and very rich.  The texture of the filling is very luscious, balanced out with the crispy crust.  It all just seems very luxurious.  I might try adding a small pinch of espresso powder to the filling or perhaps a bit of orange liquor just to play with the flavors a little, but overall I'm not sure this tart can be improved.  I would definitely serve it with some fresh berries (we used raspberries, but strawberries would probably work too) and if you're feeling really ambitious you could also make some homemade whipped cream to go with it. 

Recipes after the jump!

Pan-Roasted Asparagus, Poached Egg & Miso Butter

This dish was one of the reasons I bought this cookbook.  Actually, we would have bought the cookbook either way because Alex and I both love the Momofuku restaurants, but when I saw this recipe in there I was really excited.  One of my first few meals at Momofuku Ssam was centered around this dish.  Of everything I ate that night, this was the dish that really stuck out in my mind.  Years later I still remembered how delicious it was.  And unlike most of the recipes in the Momofuku cookbook, the dish is actually fairly easy to put together.  It requires a few pans and utensils, but overall it's pretty simple!  And it's super delicious.  Alex is out of town for the evening so when I stumbled across fresh NJ asparagus at Whole Foods today, I knew exactly what I wanted to make for dinner.  It was every bit as delicious as I remembered, even if I had to modify the recipe to make regular poached eggs rather than the slow-poached eggs David Chang uses.  The miso-butter is warm and a little nutty.  It's totally savory and delicious.  Then when the runny egg yolk runs down into the butter, it forms this rich creamy sauce - almost like a hollandaise.  It's the perfect taste of spring.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Grandmother Walters's Biscuits and Homemade Honey Butter

If you couldn't tell by the number of different posts I have already on biscuits, I'm a little biscuit obsessed.  I have found some pretty amazing biscuits over the years.  My personal favorite (at the moment) is Buttermilk Biscuits with Green Onions, Black Pepper and Sea Salt.  But sometimes you want plain biscuits.  And I have yet to find a really good plain biscuit recipe.  All of the biscuit recipes that we have made and loved have involved cheese or scallions or something else to just give them that something extra.  But for Easter dinner we wanted a plain biscuit to serve with the ham our friends made.  So I pulled this recipe out of my file of recipes that I want to make.  I have been a little skeptical for some time about this recipe since it called for whole milk instead of buttermilk, but sometimes you just have to make a leap of faith.

These biscuits were really tender and buttery.  Rolling the dough over kind of like puff pastry also gave them lots of fluffy layers, although I felt like they were a little too tender to be as flaky as I would like.  They were a perfect blank canvas for whatever you wanted to pair them with.  I thought they were delicious with the honey butter (so delicious that after eating a few last night with dinner I had two of the leftover biscuits this morning with more butter).  As for the honey butter itself, I would serve it with biscuits (duh) or with cornbread.  It was pretty yummy.

Recipes after the jump!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Chinese Barbecued Pork (Char Siu Take 2)

This is the second time we have tried to make char siu at home.  The last recipe came from Into the Vietnamese Kitchen:  Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors by Andrea Nguyen.  It called for pork shoulder, but I was too lazy to deal with pork shoulder, so we used pork tenderloin instead.  The flavor was great, but the texture wasn't quite right because the pork tenderloin is so lean compared to the pork shoulder that you don't get the slightly fatty texture of real char siu.  So this time I decided to just bite the bullet and use actual pork shoulder for our char siu.  It would have been a whole lot easier if any of the grocery stores nearby sold boneless pork shoulder, but I was sadly out of luck.  The pork shoulder that Alex ended up coming home with had both bone and skin still on.  So Alex got to spend some quality hours with our Shun boning knife trying to get the skin off and the bone out without completely wrecking the tenderloin.  Did I mention the pork shoulder he bought was also 9 1/2 whopping pounds of meat?  So we have another 4+ pounds of pork shoulder now sitting in the freezer for some future use.

After having this char siu I will never make it any other way.  I literally think it was perfect.  There is nothing that I can think of to improve upon it.  And it was better than some of the char siu that I have had in Chinatown.  I'm totally not kidding about that either.  The last plate of char siu I had in Chinatown a few weeks ago was absolutely and utterly disappointing - overly fatty and dry.  This char siu was moist and really flavorful.  The glaze was perfectly sticky sweet, with a hint of star anise and five-spice.  And you didn't even have to add red food coloring for the glaze to develop that nice reddish color.  Don't skip the step of reducing the marinade down to drizzle it over the pork and rice.  That glaze is crazy good.  I was actually inclined to just skip that step because I was being lazy, but it was totally worth the extra effort because I think that extra glaze really made the dish.  You also have to just suck it up and go for marinating the pork as long as you can.  We marinated it overnight in the fridge and the flavors of the marinade really permeated the pork.  We served the pork with rice and some version 1 of the Smacked Cucumbers that we first made back in February.  I think that I slightly preferred version 2 of the cucumbers, but I don't know for sure since it has been some time since I made that version.  Alex's complaint about these cucumbers was that he didn't get enough sesame oil flavor.  I just preferred the homemade chili oil to the chopped salted chilis.  Even though I preferred the other version of the Smacked Cucumbers to the one we made with the char siu, it was still a fabulous meal.  I will definitely be adding the char siu to my permanent homemade dim sum rotation.

Recipes after the jump!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Food Gallery 32

This weekend instead of heading to Chinatown for lunch, we decided to go to Koreatown (aka K-town) and try out a new food court called Food Gallery 32.  A few of my friends have raved about Food Gallery 32 recently, so I was pretty excited to finally check it out.  We looked at a few reviews on different websites, including Serious Eats, Yelp, Eater and Midtown Lunch and there were a few common recommendations - LA kalbi and kimchi jiggae (kimchi stew) from Hanok, spicy pork teppanyaki from O-De-Ppang!,  and jjajangmyun (Korean blackbean noodles) from Jin Jja Roo.  For once Alex and I agreed on the order in which we ranked the dishes - the spicy pork teppanyaki was best, followed closely by the kalbi (pictured above), then the kimchi jiggae and the jjajangmyun were further behind.  I've never hard jjajangmyun before and I can't say that I was a particularly big fan of it.  The dish is also a bit ugly, which you can see in the picture below and the flavors just weren't all that spectacular.  It seemed rather heavy and a little boring to me.  But the spicy pork teppanyaki was a little sweet, a little spicy and overall very flavorful.  I also loved the simple green salad they served with it.  The ginger dressing was delicious.  The kalbi was a close second - sweet, a little fatty and perfectly charred.  It was really really good kalbi (frankly much better than I had expected from a food court).  The kimchi jiggae was good, but it just couldn't compete with the spicy pork and the kalbi.  I really wanted to try out the crepe place, but after eating all that food we were pretty stuffed.  We had already ordered so much food that we barely touched the jjajangmyun which we ended up bringing home with us.

More photos after the jump!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Aguachile de Camaron (Spicy Shrimp Ceviche)

So I'm not sure about everyone else, but for some reason I am always skeeved out by the idea of making raw or lightly cured seafood at home.  I've wanted to make ceviche for some time, but the thought of eating raw tilapia or other seafood at home threw me off.  But it never deterred me from ordering it in a restaurant.  And as Alex pointed out to me this evening, the likelihood that the suppliers for most hole in the wall ceviche restaurants provide higher quality seafood than I can find at Whole Foods is unlikely.  So I guess I was being silly.  

Depending on how spicy your serrano chilis are, you might want to reduce the amount of chilis in your dressing.  Alex used the full three, plus ours are pretty spicy, so the ceviche packed a serious punch.  According to the Google search I did, aguachile is essentially a very spicy ceviche with a lime and green chili dressing.  Sounds delicious, doesn't it?  Given that my mom was the one who gave me this recipe, I assume she intended for it to be pretty spicy.  I have no idea where she got the recipe from - I know that she has a Peruvian friend named Charo who brings over ceviche mixto from time to time, but I don't think the recipe came from Charo because it's not a traditional recipe.  Charo's ceviche is dressed simply with lime and full of red onions, and is accompanied by potatoes or yucca.  And it's never spicy.  Knowing my mom, she probably found this recipe in a magazine awhile ago and modified it a bit and then passed it on to me.  And then I modified it a little more.  All I know is that this ceviche was pretty freaking good.  It has a lot more fruit in it than most ceviches that I have tried, but I thought it was pretty delicious.  The adjectives that come to mind to describe the dish are spicy, sweet, bright and fresh.  I would definitely make it again!

Recipe after the jump!

Mache and Avocado Salad with Tortilla Strips

I made this salad on a whim.  I bought some a mache and herb salad mix at Fairway yesterday and I wanted to put a salad together to go with the shrimp ceviche that I was planning to serve tonight.  I searched for mache recipes on Epicurious and this was one of the first that popped up.  And it was perfect - exactly what I was looking for.

I thought about adding some crumbled queso fresca or other Mexican cheese to the salad, but it really didn't need any.  The avocado gives the salad the perfect amount of fat and creaminess.  Then you add in the crispy tortilla strips, which provide a wonderful texture and a hit of salt.  It's definitely worth the time and effort to make the tortilla strips, rather than buying pre-made tortilla chips or tortilla strips at the store.  It really only takes a few minutes to make the tortilla strips and they add a ton to the salad.  And the lime juice, honey, and shallot dressing is wonderful.  It's fresh, bright and delicious.  While this salad has only a few ingredients, all of them work together perfectly.

Recipe after the jump!

Matzo Toffee with Almonds

Living in NYC I find myself surrounded by matzo during certain times of the year.  After years of seeing matzo, I picked up my very first package of whole wheat matzo after seeing this recipe on Serious Eats a few days ago.  As one of my coworkers told me when I brought these into work this morning, "chocolate covered matzo is so dangerous!!!!!!"  Seeing as I ate 2 of these bad boys this morning for breakfast and another few last night, I can only agree with her.  These things are deadly.  They are also totally delicious.  I love the combination of toffee and chocolate.  It reminds me of being a kid and scarfing down Skor bars at summer camp.  But the addition of the sea salt and the toasted almonds make the matzo taste totally grown up.  I really love chocolate with sea salt - that sweet and salty kick does it for me everytime.    Also these chocolate and toffee covered matzo are super easy to make (and aside from the matzo the ingredients are all ones that we have in the kitchen at all times), so anytime I need a salty sweet pick me up in the future I can go ahead and whip up a batch!

Recipe after the jump!

Matzo Toffee with Almonds

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Goan-Style Chicken with Roasted Coconut and Gujerati-Style Green Beans

I have been waiting to make this recipe for Goan-Style Chicken with Roasted Coconut for a long time.  The biggest deterrent to our making the dish was that I was never organized enough to have 2 cups of grated fresh coconut.  And then we saw bags of frozen grated fresh coconut at the Thai grocery store so I picked one up with this recipe in mind.  But it stayed in the freezer until I remembered it earlier this week and unearthed it.  These green beans were another recipe that I have been meaning to try.  A long time ago when I lived down the block from Kalustyans, we picked up Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking on the recommendation of one of the ladies manning the registers.  Our first meal that we made from the cookbook was Green Beans with Ginger and Cilantro and Lemony Chicken with Cilantro.  The chicken was good, but those green beans were a revelation.  Green beans are not a vegetable that I typically associate with Indian cooking.  When I think Indian I think lentils, chickpeas, eggplant, cauliflower and spinach.

Once again, Madhur Jaffrey's green beans were a revelation.  They were really delicious and easy to make.  I loved how the green beans remained crisp-tender, and soaked up the flavors of the garlic and red chili.  They were just so good.  And they went really nicely with the chicken.  I actually slightly preferred the green beans to the chicken (and I went back for seconds on the beans rather than the chicken), but Alex said that he enjoyed them both equally.  We used a mix of boneless skinless chicken breasts and thighs for the Goan-Style Chicken and while I preferred the flavor of the breasts (I know, that doesn't make any sense because thighs are more flavorful) they were a little dry.  Meanwhile the chicken thighs just seemed greasy.  I'm weird like that.  The chicken smelled amazing while it cooked and the flavors lived up to the aroma.  It was also a really interesting and delicious combination of flavors - coconut, ginger, chili, coriander, cloves, cumin, etc.  I think the other thing that threw me about the chicken is that you spend all this time toasting the coconut to get it crispy and golden brown.  And then you throw it in a pan with a cup of water to essentially braise/steam the chicken and the coconut gets all soggy.  I think in the future I would reserve a little of the toasted coconut and spice mixture to use as a garnish.  The other thing that threw me was that the fully cooked mixture is a study in beige.  You can see it in the picture and it doesn't exactly look all that appetizing.  But appearances can be deceiving, because it is quite tasty.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Grilled Lime-Curry-Rubbed Hanger Steak with Fresh Melon-Cucumber Chutney

Since we just had Korean Bulgogi Tacos (Alex had them for dinner on Saturday and I had the leftovers today for lunch), it seemed a little weird to make steak tacos, which is what I usually do with hanger steak.  My other initial thought was to make a traditional French hanger steak with a shallot sauce (aka onglet aux echalottes).  But I decided that sounded boring.  Then I saw this recipe from Gourmet, which sounded really interesting and not at all boring.  So we went for this one.

I wasn't sure how I felt about the individual components when I first tasted them.  The lime-curry rub is quite intense.  Delicious, but I wasn't sure that I could eat an entire steak rubbed in it.  And the chutney was good, but on its own it felt like it was missing something.  I thought about adding more jalapeno and more spices, but I wanted to wait and see how the steak tasted before doing so.  I'm glad I did wait because when you put them together the sweetness and freshness of the chutney really complements the intense curry and lime flavor of the hanger steak.  And the rice soaks up the juices from the steak, combined with the juices of the chutney.  It's a really fresh, flavorful and savory dish.  I actually started thinking about what other types of dishes the chutney would work with.  And the success of this dish made me even more interested in a recipe for Jamaican Jerk Salmon and Mango Pineapple Salsa that I recently saw in the April issue of SELF.  I think both recipes share a similar combination of a sweet fruit salsa/chutney with an intensely flavorful protein.  Hopefully that recipe turns out as well as this one did.

Recipe after the jump!

Kogi-Inspired Bulgogi Tacos with Spicy Slaw

When I went out of town last weekend I instructed Alex to eat leftovers and use up some ground beef we had defrosted.  I thought he was going to make some tacos (as in the type that comes in the Old El Paso kit with the taco sauce, taco seasoning, and hard taco shells).  Alex likes those box kit tacos, but it's usually a fairly hard sell to get me to indulge because I would rather have shrimp tacos or fish tacos.  Or if I have to have beef tacos, how about skirt steak tacos?  Since this was his one opportunity to have ghetto box tacos without having to sell me on it first, I was pretty surprised when Alex told me that instead of box tacos, he was making bulgogi tacos from a recipe he found online.  Then again, Alex loves Korean food so I guess I shouldn't have been all that surprised.

So I brought in some of the leftovers for lunch today and was actually pretty impressed.  Go Alex!  The tacos are pretty delicious.  Now, I say all that with one caveat.  You absolutely have to make the slaw and you have to serve your tacos with a decent serving of slaw on top.  The slaw is really what makes the tacos so good.  The beef is good - slightly sweet, with just a hint of sesame oil.  But if you have it by itself it's kind of dry and boring.  And you wouldn't immediately realize that the tacos are supposed to be Asian-influenced.  But when you add in the slaw, you get much needed moisture, all kinds of flavor, a little bit of spice and a nice crunchy texture.  I really liked the addition of the ginger in the slaw because it really brightens the dish up.  For some reason I wasn't digging the flour tortillas, which I don't think really go with the tacos.  But I'm not sure what alternatives exist.  I think corn tortillas (and hard taco shells) wouldn't work at all.  Maybe just some lettuce to make ssams?  Flour tortillas are probably the best option, but maybe I will try eating more of the leftover meat as a ssam and see how that goes.  Alex's take on the tacos was that they were tasty and relatively easy to make.  He said (and I agree) that they reminded him of the burritos from the Korilla BBQ truck.  Actually, another option with the ground beef and slaw is to make it into a burrito with some rice, etc.  Apparently I should leave Alex at home alone for the weekend more often because when I do yummy leftover lunches await.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Egg-Topped Soba Noodles with Asparagus and Prosciutto

Hey guys.  Sorry for my brief hiatus from the blog.  I was out of town at a bridal shower and we had grand plans for cooking upon my return home last night, but after a 5 1/2 hour long bus ride (which usually takes about 4 hours), motivation was lacking.  So we ordered Indian.  But now that I am back I promise that I will come up with some new posts pronto - starting right now.  Get excited because we have some fun dishes planned for later in the week (Indian, Latin, etc.).  Well, I think they are fun but some of you might disagree.  I also have a guest post/recipe from Alex!  But more on that later in the week...

Anyway, I know that this sounds like a very random assortment of ingredients - eggs, asparagus, prosciutto, Parmesan cheese and soba noodles.  But somehow it works.  And it's not nearly as random as the Fatty Cue Brussels Sprouts I made a week ago.  I don't know why this recipe works.  I really can't think of what makes it work.  I guess it's not rocket science and it would probably work just as well with spaghetti rather than soba noodles, but I enjoyed the slightly nutty flavor and chewier texture of the soba noodles.  The recipe does call for a lot of pots and pans, but it comes together very quickly and is a perfect easy weeknight meal.  There is very little prep work and the entire dish goes from fridge to table in about 20 minutes.  So that is a huge argument in its favor.  It's not the most amazing pasta or soba dish, but it is solid.  As a side note, I prefer a regularly and gently cooked sunny-side up egg to the way this recipe calls for cooking the egg.  I felt like the whites cooked perfectly this way, but the yolk was just a hair past being property runny (where the yolks are sticky and gooey, rather than runny and saucy).

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Barbuto - Home of the Best Roast Chicken in the World

It sounds a little bombastic to deem something the "Best Roast Chicken in the World."  My picture doesn't do it justice.  It was dark outside and since Barbuto is essentially a large room with huge garage doors that open it to the sidewalks of NYC on 2 sides, lighting at around 8:30 pm wasn't so good.  But my god, this chicken is fantastic.  If you have ever heard of Barbuto (or its chef-owner Jonathan Waxman), then you have probably heard people talking about their version of roast chicken.  It is listed as Pollo al Forno on the menu and simply described as "roasted JW chicken with salsa verde."  The description doesn't do the chicken justice anymore than my photo does.  The chicken is juicy and flavorful, plus the skin is perfectly crispy.  Absolutely perfectly cooked.  And the salsa verde is awesome.  Did I mention that the portion is absolutely gigantic?  The other food at Barbuto is delicious, but the chicken alone is reason enough to visit.  We also tried a pasta dish of linguettine with Ligurian walnut pesto, chilis and breadcrumbs, roast cauliflower with pickled red onions, and a fantastic bruschetta with fresh ricotta, pea shoots and fresh peas.  The bruschetta was the very best of spring on a plate.  Oh and I can't forget the olive oil-almond torta with sweet ricotta and apricots.  I'm not a huge fan of apricots, but this cake actually made me re-think that.  It was such a satisfying meal on a warm spring evening.

Did I mention that as we were finishing up dinner we noticed that Nate Appleman was there eating dinner as well?  I'm not going to lie.  It was pretty cool to see him two tables over. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Pasta with Lentils and Kale

I know this meal sounds totally lame.  Pasta with Lentils and Kale?  I mean really?  But I promise it's good.  Yes, I did pick it because I wanted a simple vegetarian meal and the recipe was both vegetarian and only included 9 ingredients (10 if you include the water).  And most of the ingredients, with the exception of the kale, are ingredients we always keep in our pantry or fridge.  We always have dried pasta of various shapes, Parmigiano-Reggiano, evoo, whole-grain bread to make into homemade bread crumbs...  Anyway, yes I know the dish sounds lame and too healthy for its own good.  But the pasta is actually really good.  I loved the caramelized onions - they are deliciously tender and savory-sweet.  And I actually quite enjoyed the lentils because they added a different texture and some earthiness.  I also think that without the lentils the pasta wouldn't have been quite as satisfying.  The homemade toasted bread crumbs are key for some buttery flavor and some texture.  They are really easy to make, and they really do make a world of difference in a dish as simple as this one.  I think that the Parm-Reg added less, although if you have it on hand I would recommend freshly grating a little onto the dish for another level of flavor. 

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Easy North Carolina-Style Half Picnic Shoulder and Spinach with Collards Seasoning

I will give you two guesses as to who picked this recipe.  I handed Alex the cookbook last week and told him to pick a recipe for us to try.  Both of the recipes he picked were for pork shoulder - Oven BBQed Picnic Shoulder and Easy North Carolina-Style Half Picnic Shoulder.  I picked the less complicated one of the two.  So I guess that means we both picked the recipe, but as with most pork recipes, Alex was the driving force behind it.  So this is our second attempt at North Carolina-style pulled pork and our third attempt at cooking a pork shoulder this year.  First we made Slow Cooker Pulled Pork (although it took us a little while to post about it).  Then we made Jalapeno-Roast Pork.  After we make this pork shoulder I might need to take a slight break from making any more pork shoulder for at least a little while.  Then again, summer is perfect pulled pork/BBQ weather, so we might have one more pork shoulder in us (perhaps the Oven BBQed Picnic Shoulder) before we call it quits.  I was going to serve this pork with some coleslaw, because I love pulled pork and coleslaw, but I decided that since we had Asian Winter Slaw for lunch yesterday, that was coleslaw overkill.  So instead I elected to make faux-collards from another Lee Bros recipe.  That sounds like a good Southern meal, right?  

This dish is crazy rich.  And I mean CRAZY rich.  I think if we had made sandwiches and served the pork with a coleslaw and a vinegar-based bbq sauce, that would have done a lot to cut the richness.  The sauce that you serve the pork with is sweet rather than sour, which doesn't do a lot to cut through the fatty pork.  I will probably serve the pork again, but I will come up with another sauce (most likely a traditional eastern North Carolina-style barbecue sauce).  So that is how we're going to eat the leftovers (more on the leftovers later).  This cooking method kept the pork very moist, which I appreciated.  Alex loved the nuggets if crispy skin that were sprinkled throughout the pork.  I thought that they tasted fine, but they got stuck in my teeth.  And that was just a tad too much fat for me.  I thought there would be more vinegar flavor to cut through the richness of the pork, considering the pork was marinated in 2 cups of white vinegar and then basted with the vinegar-based marinade for 3 hours.  And let me tell you, every time you opened up the oven to baste the pork, you got hit with a blast of vinegar.  But I really didn't taste the vinegar at all until the pork had sat on the counter for an hour or so and dried out.  Actually, the pork that we pulled and set aside for leftovers was arguably far more flavorful - both in terms of spice and vinegar level, than the pork that we initially served ourselves for dinner.  Granted, that pork was a lot drier than the pork we ate for dinner, but I thought that given the difference in flavor I would take the drier, more flavorful meat.  So I guess the lesson I learned from that is to let the meat rest longer after you pull it out of the oven (we let it sit for 10 minutes, but maybe we should have let it sit a little longer) and then pull it and let it rest a few more minutes before serving.  As for the spinach, it was very Southern and it really did remind me of collards.  Alex said that he liked the pork better than the spinach and I agree with that.  But if we are really being honest here, since when can spinach compete with pulled pork? 

Recipes after the jump!

Creamy Cheddar Grits

When I am feeling sick, there are a few basic dishes that I generally want - Vietnamese chicken noodle soup and pho usually top the list.  But I'm dealing with a sore throat right now and all I could think of was how great grits would be.  I guess grits are kind of like congee and cream of wheat, both of which I consider to be serious sick day food, so maybe my craving makes more sense than I first thought.  Anyway, I had been saving this Creamy Cheddar Grits recipe for the day when I finally have people over for brunch (which I have been talking about for years and we have never gotten around to doing) or when I finally make shrimp and grits at home (another thing I have been talking about forever but haven't gotten around to).  But grits sounded too good to pass up today, so I went ahead and made them.  And they were delicious.  Even Alex, who isn't generally a huge fan of grits, really enjoyed these.  Between the two of us we plowed our way through a heaping bowl of grits.  They are creamy and cheesy, with the bright oniony flavor of the scallions making the dish a little lighter than it would be otherwise.  Alex said that the scallions were the thing that really made the dish.  It has never occurred to me to add scallions to grits before, but it was really delicious.  The dish is still a bit of a gutbuster, but in the best way possible.  It's wonderfully homey and comforting.  And it was exactly what I wanted to help me get over feeling under the weather.

Recipe after the jump!

Fatty 'Cue Brussels Sprouts

This is among the weirder recipes that I have ever made.  Just look at the list of ingredients - Thai bird chilis, coriander seeds, brussels sprouts, bacon and maple syrup.   Who comes up with these things?  I'm certainly not that creative with my flavor combination (although I guess most people would call that list of ingredients insane rather than creative).  But I love Fatty Crab, and since this recipe came from their sister barbecue restaurant Fatty Cue, I figured it had to be good.  Perhaps a little strange, but good.  And having eaten the dish, I am sticking with that assessment.  I really liked the addition of crushed coriander seeds and maple syrup.  The coriander seeds gave the dish some slightly floral peppery kick.  And maple syrup provided a hint of sweetness in the background that rounds out the dish nicely and balanced out the heat of the Thai chilis.  And then there's the bacon for some porky goodness.  Make sure to crisp it up in the pan in the beginning, because there is nothing sadder than flaccid bacon.  And the bacon just gets thrown back in at the very end, so it's certainly not going to crisp up then.

Word of warning - if you don't like things spicy, skip the second Thai chili (or remove the seeds from both).  Because this dish has some kick.

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Asian Winter Slaw

Our Japanese-Style Hamburgers demanded a vegetable side, with some crispy/crunchy texture to contrast with the tenderness of the hamburgers.  I have been considering making this recipe for Asian Winter Slaw ever since I happened across a bag of broccoli slaw at Trader Joe's.  Have I mentioned recently how much I love that place?  Anyway, the slaw seemed like the perfect accompaniment to the burgers so we went ahead and threw it together today.  It's light and crunchy, and the flavor of the white miso in the dressing is really nice.  It has never occurred to me to make an Asian-inspired slaw using miso paste, nor did it ever cross my mind that you could make a broccoli slaw.  That is partially due to the fact that I don't typically like coleslaw all that much, although I do make an exception for good Asian versions of coleslaw.  I thought that the very crunchy texture of the broccoli slaw was perfect with the burgers.  A more traditional cabbage slaw just wouldn't have provided enough textural contrast.

Recipe after the jump!

Japanese-Style Hamburgers (Wafu Hamburgers)

I know, yet another "burger" for the blog.  Only this one isn't really a burger.  It's a Japanese burger without a bun.  According to the cookbook (and to Wikipedia), it's most similar to a Japanese version of a Salisbury steak.  I have neither seen nor tasted a Salisbury steak, so I don't know whether that is a valid comparison or not, but I trust Wikipedia so I am going to go with it.  This version of Japanese burgers includes tofu, which from what I understand is not traditional.  Instead it was the attempt of some home cook to lighten up the burger (and perhaps to make it a little more economical as well).

If I hadn't made the burgers myself, I wouldn't have known that the ratio of tofu to beef is roughly 2:1.  Actually, I wouldn't have known or guessed that there was tofu in here at all.  The burger patty basically tastes like ground beef, although it does taste a little lighter than your typical all beef burger patty.  I would say that the biggest difference between these burgers and an all beef burger is the texture.  The burgers are noticeably softer and more crumbly.  Since they are so soft and crumbly, they are a bit delicate so you need to be careful when handling them and flipping them over in the pan.  Alex said that if he were to make the burgers again he would increase the heat on the pan a little so sear the burgers a little better on each side.  Since the burgers are very tender and soft, they would benefit from searing to form a crust.  I might actually garnish the burgers with some additional minced scallions for color and flavor, but I don't really think that it's necessary - I just really like scallions.

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Country French Omelet

What do you do when you have a dozen incredibly fresh extra large eggs from Knoll Crest Farms and D'Artagnan Uncured Applewood Smoked Bacon?  I was originally planning on making plain old bacon and eggs, or a homemade bacon, egg and cheese biscuit, but when I saw this recipe for a Country French Omelet in my Barefoot Contessa cookbook I decided to make that instead.  Making homemade biscuits the night after making homemade flatbread just seemed overly ambitious.  I also had some really nice spring greens from the farmer's market, so I figured an omelet and a salad would be a great weeknight meal.  Alex was shocked when I said that the potatoes in the omelet were perfectly cooked and kind of yummy.  I think that might have been the first time I have ever complimented a potato.  But they were nice and tender without being mushy or mealy.  They also gave the omelet some heft and substance without making the dish feel super heavy.  Cooking the potatoes in the bacon fat gave them an extra layer of flavor that I appreciated.  This is one of the more labor intensive omelets that I have ever made, but I think it was worth it.  And I really appreciated it that I didn't have to attempt to flip the omelet (because I tear my omelets 50% of the time) and could just throw it in the oven like a frittata and let it rip.  I might actually adopt this method for all future omelets because it really is that much easier.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tikka Kebabs with Homemade Flatbread and Cucumber Raita

I'm not sure what drew me to this assortment of recipes, but I have been thinking about making these Tikka Kebabs with some homemade flatbreads or naan for some time now.  I originally wanted to make the Home-Style Tandoor Naan from Mangoes & Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent so that the entire meal would come from the same cookbook, but I didn't have the patience (or the time) to begin preparing the dough for the naan about 4 1/2 to 10 hours before I wanted to eat the naan.  So I went with a recipe for homemade flatbread that I cobbled together from a bunch of recipes I found online.  There are hundreds of recipes for homemade naan or flatbread online so I had a lot of resources to work with.  If you don't want to make homemade flatbread or naan, the kind you pick up at the grocery store will work just fine.  Alternatively, you can serve the tikka kebabs with basmati rice and a nice salad, instead of serving it with flatbread.

I was very happy with this meal.  The lamb was tasty and very tender.  The flavors were very simple, but delicious.  If I were to make the tikka kebabs again I would probably add some more cayenne pepper to the marinade to give the dish a little more kick.  The yogurt in the marinade, plus the yogurt in the raita cooled down all hint of spice and I wouldn't mind if just a little more heat had come through (although I didn't really miss the heat, Alex did bring up that criticism/comment so I thought I would pass it along).  I also might add a little more garlic or something to the marinade - perhaps a little ground cumin?  I don't know.  It smelled delicious while it cooked and it was really nice, but it could be improved.  Our homemade flatbread turned out better than our last experiment with Instant Flatbread.  I might play with the recipe in the future and try to use different toppings with the flatbread.  Or brush it with melted butter once it's done to make it taste more like naan.  I thought that the Cucumber Raita was a very nice accompaniment, particularly if you are planning on serving the tikka kebabs with flatbread.  If you are serving the kebabs with basmati rice I think that the raita would be unnecessary and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice would be more than sufficient.  We added some scallions for color and flavor to the kebabs, but again if you were serving them with basmati rice I'm not sure that they would be necessary.

Recipes after the jump!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Roasted Asparagus with Capers and Eggs

For some reason I was at the gym at a spinning class today and it occurred to me that I should make this recipe.  I knew that in at least one of my many cookbooks there was a recipe for roast asparagus with capers and finely chopped hard boiled eggs.  There is also a recipe in my Momofuku cookbook for Pan-Roasted Asparagus with Poached Egg and Miso Butter, but somehow the miso butter just didn't sound appetizing tonight.  Since we were building our dinner around the cornbread I wanted to make the miso butter really didn't fit in with the flavor profile I was going for.  But I think I will definitely serve that as my next asparagus and egg experiment.  I liked this asparagus a lot.  Then again, I always like asparagus.  Roasting the asparagus made it nice and nutty.  I liked the red wine vinegar flavor of the vinaigrette, balanced out by the richness of the chopped egg whites and yolks and the brine of the capers.  It's not the most amazing asparagus ever, but I think that it was nice and fresh.  And is a welcome addition to my asparagus repertoire now that asparagus season is about to hit.

Recipe after the jump!

Crispy Corn Bread

There are a few lasting results of my time at UNC - I love good North Carolina BBQ, I wish I could find good shrimp and grits in NYC, I periodically suffer from serious cravings for real buttermilk breakfast biscuits, and I can't resist good hush puppies and cornbread.  Since I can't find a lot of these things in NYC as easily I would like, I have taken to making them at home whenever the craving hits.  I started thinking about cornbread earlier this week and finally got around to making it today.  I actually based tonight's dinner around my craving for cornbread.  I had originally intended to make baked eggs or a frittata, but somehow cornbread didn't sound like it went with the eggs.  But our Spicy "Fried" Chicken Cutlets with Honey-Tabasco Sauce and cornbread sounded like a perfect pairing.  So that's what we made.

The cornbread had a very interesting texture to it, probably due to the coarse grind of the stone-ground cornmeal we used combined with the nice crust on the bottom from being baked in the cast iron skillet.  It was moist, but not particularly fluffy.  Actually, it was a little crumbly and dense.  It had just the right amount of sweetness for me when served with some honey butter.  I took 1 tbsp of softened room temperature butter, stirred it together with some honey and freshly ground black pepper and then served the cornbread smeared with the butter.  It was delicious.  I think that this corn bread recipe would make excellent corn bread croutons.  There is a recipe in The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook for the Best Family Farm Corn-Bread Salad using this cornbread recipe.  The salad sounds delicious.  Once summer arrives and brings with it some truly ripe tomatoes, I will definitely be making another batch of this cornbread in order to make the salad.  I think it would also make a great accompaniment to a big bowl of spicy chili, but I might have to wait until next winter to make some chili and try that combination out.
Recipe after the jump!

Water Spinach with Shrimp Paste and Chilis (Kangkung Belacan)

WARNING - this vegetable dish is legitimately and strangely funky.  You have to be a fairly adventurous eater, and enjoy spicy, somewhat fishy tasting thing to like this dish.  The first time I tried this dish at Fatty Crab I didn't really like it.  It is one of two dishes that I have tried there and not been totally into.  Part of the reason I disliked it was because the water spinach felt gritty in my mouth, like it hadn't been thoroughly washed.  And that could have been the case, or it could just be that the shrimp paste they used had a grittier consistency to it.  I honestly don't know.  But when I saw the recipe for kangkung belacan in The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook, I figured I had to give it another shot if I happened across some water spinach.  And having purchased some water spinach in Chinatown last week (and having purchased the shrimp paste at Bangkok Center Grocery the week before that), I decided it was time to go ahead and roll the dice and see if I liked this dish any better when it's homemade.

And the answer was yes, I did.  Our water spinach wasn't nearly as gritty (although I did get one or two mouthfuls with a hint of grittiness to them), which was probably the main reason that I liked our version better.  This version is no less funky or spicy than the one that they serve at Fatty Crab.  In fact, if I were to make this dish again at home, I would probably up the amount of water spinach while leaving the amount of spice paste the same, to de-funk the dish just a tad more.  There's nothing wrong with a little funk, but with the funky level as it is I can only eat so much of this dish before I suffer from palate burnout.  The dried shrimp paste has such an aggressively shrimpy flavor, and once you add in more dried shrimp, shallots, garlic and chilis, it is an incredibly pungent and aggressive spice paste.  Cooking it mellows it a little bit, but not a ton, so the end result remains very assertive.  Oh and if you have an exhaust fan in your kitchen you are going to want to get it going full blast before you fry the paste.  The chilis in the paste will make you cough and the smell of the paste really lingers.  Unfortunately, we don't have one in our apartment here in NYC and our apartment smelled like this dish for days.  Oops. 

Recipe after the jump!

Soy Cured Salmon, Asian Pear, and Cilantro Creme Fraiche

Every once in awhile I get sick of the dishes we always make and want to find something completely new and different.  That is how I found this salmon recipe.  Generally when we have a really nice piece of salmon we follow Tyler Florence's recipe for Salt and Pepper Salmon (or a variation of that recipe like Crispy-Skin Salmon with Buttermilk Mint Sauce).  We have also tried a few Asian-inspired salmon recipes, like this Miso-Marinated Salmon with Cucumber Daikon Relish.  So we have roasted salmon (either in a pan or in the oven) about a thousand times, but we have never tried curing salmon before.  That alone seemed like reason enough to try this recipe.  Plus the recipe was one of the easier Jean-Georges recipes from his Asian Flavors of Jean-Georges cookbook, and I am always talking about trying more recipes from that cookbook, so why not?

When I first tasted the dish, the first adjective that came to mind was elegant.  It is a very elegant dish - which I think comes from the cilantro creme fraiche.  The flavors are very subtle and delicate, which also contributes to the elegance of the overall dish.  The texture of the fish reminds me of gravlax or lox, but the taste is very different.  Don't leave out the diced Asian pear because it gives the dish some much needed textural contrast and sweetness.  We also threw some chopped scallion greens on top of the salmon for some color, but I'm not sure that they were necessary.
Recipe after the jump!