Saturday, June 7, 2014

Grilled Ramps with Pecorino, Lemon and Sea Salt

Spring is my absolute favorite time of year.  Alex loves fall (which is comparable enough when you are looking at the temperature) but a large part of what I love about spring is the appearance of things like sugar snap peas, asparagus and rhubarb at the farmers' market.  The reappearance of the sun and warm temperatures are a bonus.  Ramps are one spring ingredient that has I have never really understood.  The dishes we made at home with ramps were all pretty good, but they never blew my mind (the best was this White Pizza with Ramps) and I can't remember ever ordering a dish at a restaurant with ramps that really stuck out in my mind.  I did have a lovely carrot pasta at Blanca a few weekends ago that had a ramp sauce and a single grilled ramp on top that was lovely, but I think it would have still been lovely without the ramps.  I'm sure I have ordered other dishes with ramps because that's what you're supposed to do at a farm-to-table type restaurant in the spring, but seeing as I can't remember a single one they couldn't have been that amazing.  And yet I keep trying new ramp dishes because I am stubborn like that.  I see them in the farmers' market and I just have to buy them.  And then I have to figure out what I want to do with them.  Again.

Anyway, I saw this recipe in Hugh Acheson's cookbook, A New Turn in the South:  Southern Flavors Reinvented for your Kitchen, not too long ago and I mentally bookmarked it for my next ramp experiment.  It looked different from the usual ramp recipes I come across (i.e. serving them with eggs, pasta or pickling them).  Our fallback is usually pickled ramps, but I wanted to try something new.  And I'm glad I did because this was probably the first ramp recipe where I started to understand why people enjoy ramps so much.  In this dish they have such a lovely garlicky flavor that is nicely tempered by the salty flavor of the cheese and the brightness of the lemon juice.  "Grilling" our ramps on the grill pan seems to have taken their almost oily and pungent flavor down a notch.  I know some people enjoy ramps and eggs together but I have had dishes where the ramps just seemed greasy and a little too in your face funky to me (like in these Fried Eggs with Ramps and Duck Bacon) or completely disappeared into the dish (like these Oeufs en Cocotte with Ramps).  We served these ramps with some seared salmon, but I could see serving them any number of other dishes.

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Update on Restaurants to Try for 2014

We are 6 months into 2014 and I decided it was time to update my list of restaurants to try for 2014.  We have done a pretty good job of checking restaurants off the list, but we have a ways left to go.  I would like at least a 50% success rate (plus at least one of the runners up) by the end of the summer, which I think is definitely do-able.  I'm thinking Betony and another trip to Brooklyn to try either Pok Pok NY or Roberta's, but we will have to play it by ear.  I have been very pleased with the meals we had at all of the restaurants on the list thus far; hopefully any other restaurants we visit will be similarly delicious.  If I were to add some new restaurants to the list (or the runners up) now, they would be The Gorbals (Ilan Hall was an early Top Chef winner and I love his show Knife Fight so I am excited to try his restaurant in Brooklyn once it opens this summer), Mu Ramen (their pop-up closed but I think they are also opening a restaurant this summer), Bassanova Ramen NYC (I know very little about this place but it made it on the NY Times list of Top 10 Ramen Destinations in New York and Serious Eat's Best Ramen Shops in NYC - plus their green curry ramen looks delicious), The Gander (we love Recette, so why not try Jesse Schenker’s new restaurant) and Decoy (the Peking duck restaurant by the Red Farm team).   
  1. Brooklyn Fare
  2. Parm and Carbone
  3. Empellon Cocina
  4. Pok Pok NY
  5. Roberta's and Blanca
  6. Fung Tu
  7. Alder
  8. Mission Cantina 
  9. Pearl & Ash
  10. Estela 
Runners Up:  M. Wells Dinette, Sripraphai, Perla, Charlie Bird, Toro, Betony, Sushi Nazakawa, The Cecil, Contra

Monday, May 26, 2014

Ramp Drop Biscuits

Sometimes I wish we lived in the South (or at least closer to the South).  Then again, if we lived closer to good barbeque and biscuit sandwiches, I would probably weigh a good 5-10 pounds more.  So maybe that's not such a good idea.  Every once in awhile I get a little anxious for a good BBQ and/or biscuit fix.  I tried to convince Alex a few weeks ago that we should go to Chapel Hill for a weekend in June so I could eat pulled pork at Allen & Sons and biscuit sandwiches from Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen and Bojangles.  Alex shot me down.  But I convinced him to make ramp drop biscuits today and we bought a Fast Pass for Big Apple BBQ in early June, so I will have to make do.  I am generalizing a bit here, but drop biscuits tend to be less flaky and layered and more tender, with a nice crust.  In my opinion, they make really good biscuit sandwiches.  Alex prefers flaky biscuits, but drop biscuits are nice because they are quick to make and aren't as messy - if you're feeling lazy you can totally make them in your food processor or your stand mixer in a matter of minutes.  You don't have to cut in the butter by hand and then roll them out on a cutting board before cutting them with a cookie/biscuit cutter (which inevitably results in a huge mess and lots of wasted dough scraps).  These biscuits came together so quickly and so easily that I was halfway tempted to declare that we should only make drop biscuits from now on.  But there are times when I want a really flaky biscuit so that plan isn't going to work.  Ramp biscuits aren't for everyone - they leave an interesting lingering (somewhat garlicky) aftertaste.  I think these biscuits would make an excellent breakfast biscuits - some scrambled eggs and ham or bacon would work really nicely with the flavor and texture of the biscuits.

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Red Farm

RedFarm was by far my favorite restaurant that opened on the UWS in 2013.  We have been 4-5 times now and every trip I find a new dish that intrigues me.  We have a few standards that we order every time (the soup dumplings, the pastrami egg rolls and the crispy duck and crab dumplings, all of which are pictured).  Those soup dumplings are some of the best soup dumplings I have ever had - the broth inside is more flavorfulThere are a few other dishes that we order ALMOST every visit (the shrimp-stuffed crispy chicken and the bacon-fried rice), but depending on how many people we are there with and what dishes they want to order, they might not make the final cut.   Not every dish is a winner, but I have never left with less than an excellent (and innovative) meal.  Where else can you go to a "Chinese" restaurant that serves pastrami egg rolls and dumplings that look like pac man, horseshoe crabs and/or other little ocean creatures that are actually delicious?  Also, the chef there has the perfect touch with the deep fryer.  I'm usually leery of fried food - too often it comes out a little soggy and very oily.  But all of the deep fried dumplings and other appetizers at RedFarm come out perfectly crispy and tasty.  Some of the entrees and rice/noodle dishes are exceptional (their rib steak is a little pricey, but one of the most tender and perfectly cooked steaks I have eaten in the city and the grilled pork chops can be pretty fantastic), but most of the dishes that I have been less blown away by have been either entrees or rice/noodle dishes.  If you are going to RedFarm for the first time (or any time thereafter), I highly recommend loading up your order with a few different types of dumplings, one or two appetizers/salads and then consider the entree and rice/noodle options. You won't be disappointed.

More pictures after the jump!

Friday, May 23, 2014

(Belated Again) Chinese New Year Meal #7: Crispy Pan-Fried Noodle Cakes with Seafood

Guess what?  We finally finished our week of Chinese New Year meals!  It only took a couple months...  When I first started posting a week's worth of Chinese New Year meals on the blog I spent hours pouring over recipes trying to represent the different regions and cuisines of China.  I wanted seven meals made from different ingredients, some spicy, some meaty, some vegetarian, some noodles, some dumplings...  It was quite a process.  This year I didn't have a lot of time to plan.  And since I was so behind the ball in getting started I rushed into things a little.  Fuchsia Dunlop is always a good source for a few Chinese New Year meals.  I love all three of her cookbooks.  In the past year or two I have come to rely more and more on Serious Eats for new recipes.  I love that they make up their own recipes in addition testing out cookbooks.  I also love that their recipes run the gamut of different types of Chinese cuisine.  Four out of the seven Chinese New Years meals I made this year (including this one) were from Serious Eats.  There were a few other recipes I found elsewhere, but for one reason or another they didn't make the cut.  Some were a little too fusion-y, others involved ingredients that I couldn't find.  But what tended to happen was that I stumbled across a recipe that I wanted to make more.  This recipe for pan-fried noodles wasn't one that I originally planned on making.  I don't typically make more than one noodle dish, but I really love pan-fried noodles.  But other than the double-up on the noodles, I think we did a pretty good job of diversifying our meals.  We did one Sichuanese dish with beef and another with chicken, one Taiwanese dish with pork belly, one Xinjiang dish with lamb, one Cantonese dish with seafood...  

This dish was surprisingly successful.  I was pretty happy with it.  When we tried to make pan-fried noodles in the past we always ended up with burnt noodles that stuck to the wok, which resulted in burnt noodles and made it far more difficult to transfer the noodles from the wok in order to flip them over and cook the other side.  But these worked out pretty well!  There was some sticking on the first side after we added the water, but the second side worked perfectly.  And the process of parboiling the scallops and blanching the greens worked out really well because both ended up perfectly cooked.  The original recipe on Serious Eats calls for the addition of calamari and fish balls, but the grocery store was out of calamari and I don't really like fish balls so I decided to leave them out.  I really liked the combination of bay scallops and shrimp, but I might try the calamari next time if it was available.

Recipe after the jump!

Panko-Coated Chicken Schnitzel and Raw Asparagus Caesar Salad

Chicken schnitzel doesn't exactly sound sexy (if I had to pick a sexy-sounding schnitzel it would be duck schnitzel like the one they serve at The Marrow).  And it doesn't look sexy.  But I feel like I keep running across recipes for it lately and honestly, schnitzel can be really tasty (provided it's not dried out and flavorless, which can be a serious problem with chicken breasts and/or pork).  Alex and I have long been fans of breading and cooking chicken.  Generally we bread the chicken with some panko and/or cornflakes and throw it in the oven because it's easy and the breading tends to fall off on us when we try to cook it in a pan.  But this recipe worked out beautifully - the panko was beautifully golden brown and crispy and the chicken was cooked through without being dry.  And none of the breading fell off!  Plus when you added the piccata sauce it makes everything that much more delicious.  Who doesn't love browned butter with capers and lemon juice?   I think chicken schnitzel always needs a sauce because the breading often isn't seasoned and even though the chicken breasts here weren't all dried out and overcooked, it's still boneless, skinless chicken breast with breading.  By definition the combination is a little dry.  This piccata sauce works nicely, but a spicy sriracha mayo (or a simple squirt of lemon juice) works too. 

As for the asparagus salad, I love asparagus salads.  And this one worked nicely with the chicken schnitzel because it is crisp, bright and acidic.  It cuts through the slight richness of the chicken nicely.  This isn't my favorite raw asparagus salad that we have ever made, but it was really nice and fresh, but the dressing gives it a little creamyness and umami.  I would make it again.

Recipes after the jump!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

(Belated Again) Chinese New Years Meal #6: Sichuanese "Send-the-Rice-Down" Chopped Celery with Ground Beef (Jia Chang Rou Mo Qin Cai)

Some recipes are far more trouble than they are worth.  We have made more than our fair share of dishes that take hours and involve dirtying up every single pot and pan in the kitchen, but turn out to be just ok in the end.  Other recipes are so simple and come together so quickly that you can't imagine that they will be that good in the end.  And then they end up blowing you away. Those recipes are few and far between, but this dish happens to be one of them.  There are less than 7 ingredients total in the entire dish, but there is so much flavor.  The broad bean paste gives the dish heat, but what I really enjoyed is the combination of ground beef and Chinese celery.  The meaty, rich flavor of the ground beef is a really good counterpoint to the grassy, distinctly herbal flavor (and crisp texture) of the Chinese celery.  I don't know how substituting regular celery for the Chinese celery would affect the dish, but I would definitely be willing to give it a shot.  I think if you use regular celery the recipe says that you need to peel the little celery strings off, which seems a little finnicky and irritating, but such is life.  If the flavor of the final dish is a rough approximation of the flavor of the Chinese celery in this dish, I would make it again and again.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

(Belated Again) Chinese New Year Meal #5: Pork Belly Buns (Gua Bao)

I have to admit - it is more than a little ridiculous that I am still posting Chinese New Year meals.  It's almost June.  But I started posting them back in March and promised to post another week's worth of Chinese New Year meals so we are committed.  I'm sure I could stop doing it and no one would notice, but we're just going to keep slowly trucking along because that's what we do.  We finally had time to visit Chinatown this past weekend for another few meals' worth of Asian groceries, so we should be making a few other Asian recipes this week (the goal is to knock off 2 belated Chinese New Year meals this week and they we will only have ONE left to do).  Whoo-hoo!  I refuse to let this carry on into June if I can help it...  I want to make some seafood panfried noodles and another meat or tofu dish with Chinese celery (this Celery and Tofu recipe from the NY Times has been taunting me for years) and then I will call it a day for this year.  The noodles might need to wait until next weekend, but I'm thinking the other dish is definitely do-able next week without another trip to the grocery store.

Anyway, these pork belly buns are one of my favorite pork belly dishes we have ever made.  When we tried to make the Pork Belly Ssam with Mustard Seed Sauce from the Momofuku cookbook our pork belly was way salty and verging on burnt.  Previously our most successful pork belly dish was this Red-Braised Pork Belly (Hong Shao Rou), which was lovely and very flavorful.  But it was a little heavy and very rich.  Even though the flavor was really good, you felt like you were eating a heart attack on a plate.  This pork belly was super flavorful - savory and a little sweet with just a hint of lingering heat from the Thai chili (I highly recommend you include it).  The cilantro gives the dish some freshness and crisp texture, the peanut powder is nicely sweet and crunchy and the pickled mustard greens are vinegary and tangy.  It is the perfect balance of the fatty pork, tender steamed buns and a variety of flavors and textures.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Charred Asparagus Tacos with Creamy Adobo and Pickled Red Onions

There are a lot of things that I love about this recipe.  The first is the asparagus itself.  Fresh asparagus is one of the things I love most about spring.  Charred in a pan with evoo, s&p, the asparagus was sweet but grassy.  The second is how wonderful the creamy adobo sauce is.  This is a sauce that I want to slather on all sorts of dishes - it is spicy, sweet and tangy.  Actually, I think this sauce would work really nicely with skirt steak tacos.  I told Alex that if we ever have people over for a Mexican fiesta I want to simply grill up some skirt steak for tacos and make these asparagus tacos.  You can use all of the same fixings for both sets of tacos, whip up some homemade guacamole and some elote and it will be an amazing meal.  Somehow you taste all of the various flavors here - the adobo sauce adds a ton of flavor without obscuring the flavor of the asparagus or the sweetness of the pickled onions.  My two biggest complaints about the Smoky Chicken Tinga Tacos we made were that the flavor of the chipotles obscured everything else and the tacos didn't have any texture.  All you tasted was heat and everything was soft.  This dish had varying textures and serious depth of flavor.  It was sweet, spicy, crunchy, creamy and tangy.  In a nutshell, these tacos were delicious.  And I will be adding them to my regular taco rotation.  They were great with fresh asparagus, but with all of the other flavors and textures going on, normal supermarket asparagus would work too.

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Asparagus and Avocado Salad

Hurray for fresh asparagus!  Before I go on I should disclose that I bought about 3 lbs of fresh asparagus at the farmers' market this week (along with a LOT of other fresh produce, some of which we already used) and as of today we have only used about half of it.  So you can expect a few more asparagus recipes shortly.  We already made a much lazier version of this Spring Salad of Asparagus, Ramps, Snap Peas, and Peas, with Poached Egg and Lemon Vinaigrette and we are planning on making some asparagus tacos tomorrow.  We will have to wait and see how much asparagus we have left after that, but I'm thinking it will be enough for at least one more dish.  

I guess I should turn to this salad.  I bought My Pizza by Jim Lahey roughly two years ago but we haven't had the opportunity to use it much.  There are a ton of delicious looking pizzas in there (one of which I am considering for our remaining asparagus), but there are also some nice salads and other appetizers.  For us it has become one of those cookbooks I always mean to use, but somehow never do.  I need to fix that because this salad was one of the easiest and tastiest things we have made at home recently.  The combination of asparagus, avocado, lime and mint isn't an intuitive one for me but it works really nicely.  I was worried this salad would be a little too simple, but it works - it's really simple, but the avocado makes it creamy and a little indulgent and the fresh farmers' market asparagus has a lovely grassy sweetness.  Our lime was a little stingy on the juice so I would recommend tasting and adding more lime juice to taste (or a little lime zest if your limes are similarly stingy).  This is a dish I can definitely see us making in the future - it's perfect on days where you just don't want to turn on the stove and/or oven, but a mixed green salad doesn't work.  It makes a really good side dish that could work with a number of entrees, but I can see myself serving it for brunch with a simple frittata or omelet and some fresh fruit.  I don't think I would pair it with pasta, but it could also work nicely with some homemade pizza.  I would probably do a simple pizza without too much cheese and meat - maybe a margherita or stracciatella pizza or a pizza with prosciutto and arugula.  My Pizza also has a spinach pizza called a Popeye Pie that I would pair this with. 

Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Smoky Chicken Tinga Tacos

In mid-April I started thinking tacos and Cinco de Mayo.  Mexican food screams warm weather to me and I have been dreaming about warm weather since about December...  If only I had visited the farmers' market on Monday I would have made these charred asparagus tacos for Cinco de Mayo but I didn't have time to visit the farmers' market before today.  Before today I hadn't been to the farmers market in 2 weeks so I was pretty excited when I went today and saw all of the fresh spring veggies.  Thank goodness for spring!  I was so sick of winter and so very excited for fresh asparagus.  When sugar snaps finally make it to the farmers' market I will do a giant happy dance.  Moving on.  My other Cinco de Mayo alternative was to make carnitas (Smitten Kitchen posted a slight variation on Homesick Texan's carnitas recipe and it looks super simple and tasty and Bon Appetit has a Beer-Braised Carnitas recipe that I find intriguing), but because Cinco de Mayo fell on a Monday this year it wasn't going to happen.  I don't know about you, but I am barely prepared enough on Monday to throw something together - roasting or braising pork shoulder for 2-4 hours (or cooking it all day a slow cooker) just isn't going to happen. 

So I guess you can fairly say that this recipe was my backup.  Alex occasionally orders chicken tacos but I don't think I ever do.  Then again, I do like chicken enchiladas so I guess it's not all that different.  But chicken generally seems like such a cop out to me.  I decided to try out this recipe anyway because what did I have to lose?  It sounded good and the pictures looked good.  And to be honest, I didn't have anything else planned.  I was looking for a little more depth of flavor - instead I mostly tasted the chipotles and adobo sauce.  And once I topped the chicken with tomatillo salsa I mostly tasted heat.  The tomatillo salsa added brightness and acidity, but I wish we had made an equally bright and spicy pineapple salsa or maybe a mango salsa instead.  I think a little sweetness would have been a good counterpoint to the chicken tinga tacos and some textural contrast would have been a really welcome addition.  With the salsa and the braised chicken you ended up with a mouthful of fairly wet and somewhat mushy taco.  Pineapple would provide some texture, but adding jicama to any salsa would work too.  If you do make these tacos, make sure to drain the chicken fairly well before putting it on the tortilla.  Same goes for the salsa.  Otherwise you end up with a pool of liquid in your taco, which leads to a rapidly disintegrating corn tortilla...

Recipe after the jump!

Peruvian Roast Chicken with Green Sauce

This is totally embarassing.  Alex and I made this roast chicken back in February or March.  And then I forgot to post it.  I really thought it was up on the blog.  And then I was looking today today at other recipes that I had bookmarked to try and came across the draft of this post.  The recipe was on there, the picture was too (even though it's not a very good picture), but I never got around to adding any text.  Fail.  

Roast chicken is one of my favorite things if it is well done.  And Peruvian roast chicken seems to be, on average, a lot better than your average roast chicken.  I don't know how they season it traditionally but their rotisserie chicken is magical - even the white meat is juicy and flavorful.  I also love that spicy green sauce you get at Peruvian restaurants to go with their roast chicken.  It's pretty much the best thing in the world.  So it's a little shocking that it took me this long to make it at home.  In my defense - it turns out that there is a whole lot of mayo and sour cream in the sauce.  I don't know why the addition of mayonnaise and sour cream to a sauce that I know will be spicy and delicious bothers me when I make it at home, but it throws me for a loop.  However, I am going to have to get over it because this stuff was pretty delicious.  It's creamier than what I usually get at the Peruvian restaurants that I go to, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.  It also doesn't taste quite the same, but for a homemade version (that we adapted from Serious Eats), this was close enough for government work.  Ours had some pretty good kick so if you want your green sauce a little milder, leave out some of the jalapeno seeds.

Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Pork Loin with Pomegranate Sauce and Roast Broccoli with Jalapenos

Like most of the pictures we take of our food for the blog, this picture doesn't look very appetizing.  Actually, this picture is worse than most because the sauce looks like a pool of blood so it makes the whole experience a little... gorier than usual.  But notwithstanding how the sauce looks, it is damn good.  It is the perfect balance of sweetness and tartness, but nice and rich.  Adding the butter to the sauce at the very end made it glossy and rich.  Reducing the pomegranate juice in the porky cast iron pan made the whole dish that much porkier and more flavorful.  It also pairs really nicely with the spice rub on the outside of the pork, which isn't spicy but it does have a lot of flavor.  I would love to make this dish for a more casual dinner party - it is easy to make but it is pretty distinctive and delicious.  I think with bread, a nice salad and some veggies (roast brussels sprouts would be lovely) it would make a really nice meal that is elegant and flavorful, but not fussy.  Tonight we served the pork with broccoli we roasted with jalapeno, shallots and garlic.  Roasting broccoli is easily my favorite way to prepare it -it gets all nutty and crispy around the edges, but tender on the inside.  Sauteed broccoli tends to be a little mushier and the flavors aren't as concentrated.  The thinly sliced shallots were crispy and reminded me of onion straws or fried shallots - we usually mince or chop up our onions or shallots rather than tossing in thinly sliced rings but I will totally do the ring thing more often.  I thought they added a really nice flavor and texture to the dish.  It never would have occurred to me to add sliced jalapenos to the broccoli (that was all Alex), but they worked really nicely.  The broccoli picked up a surprising amount of flavor and heat from the jalapenos, without being too spicy.

Recipes after the jump!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

(Belated Again) Chinese New Year Meal #4: Spicy Warm Silken Tofu with Celery and Cilantro Salad

I love traveling but sometimes, when I get back, all I want is salad.  I was in Miami for work last week and when I got back yesterday all I wanted was a salad.  So we made some brook trout with this Make-Ahead Radish Fattoush Salad.  And then I also had a salad for lunch.  Tonight for dinner I wanted something relatively light, but flavorful.  I also wanted something that didn't remind me of all of the buffet meals (some of them were pretty decent, but most were pretty blah) I had all last week.  This dish was basically the antithesis of the random meats, pastas, sandwiches and salads I had last week.  The best part of each meal was the desserts so I had more than my share.  Strangely enough, one of the best meals I had last week was the shrimp po' boy that I had at the Fort Lauderdale airport.  How random is that?  Granted, it had coconut shrimp in it - and who doesn't love coconut shrimp?  Given the number of desserts I ate and the shrimp po' boy, it's no wonder I feel like I gained 5 lbs while in Florida.

This post has been weeks in coming.  I keep planning to make more Chinese meals for my very very belated Chinese New Year meals.  I'm 3 months late at this point, so I guess another few weeks won't make much of a difference.  I really am going to try to finish all of the posts up by the end of May.  I actually had another tofu recipe picked out for Chinese New Year but I decided in the end to make this dish because it looked easier (and healthier).  Everything in the dish worked together in a really interesting way.  I loved how soaking the celery, cilantro and scallions in an ice bath made them crisp and refreshing.  The sauce was really savory - nutty, spicy and funky.  It wasn't my favorite sauce, but it was one of the more interesting Chinese sauces we have made recently.  One thing I might recommend is another cooking/heating method for the tofu itself.  Microwaving it made it release tofu water which diluted the sauce.  So I would either microwave it in another bowl and then transfer it (minus the water) into the serving bowl.  Or I would try steaming it.  Steamed soft tofu ends up with a better silkier and more custard-like texture to it.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Rigatoni with Spicy Sicilian Pesto

Pesto usually leaves me feeling a little... blah.  I like it on a sandwich or as the sauce on a pizza, but there has to be more stuff going on.  A plain pasta tossed in pesto has always struck me as being a little boring.  This pesto is far from boring.  The combination of basil, mint and fennel seeds (who puts fennel seeds in pesto?) makes things a lot more interesting.  And I really like the addition of serrano chilis and dried chili flakes - they give the pesto great kick.  You don't want to make this pesto if you are afraid of a little heat.  The post on Serious Eats suggests that the sauce has "gorgeous hints of subtle spice" but this isn't a gentle hint of background heat.  It should also be said that this pasta doesn't have the level of spice you would expect from a Sichuan dish either.  All things considered, this was a pretty interesting take on a simple pasta tossed in pesto that is relatively easy to throw together.  There are other pasta dishes that would make my easy mid-week pasta repertoire before this one (including this Pasta with Caramelized Cabbage, Anchovies and Bread Crumbs, this Pasta with Sun Gold Tomatoes or this Spaghetti with Garlic and Oil).  But I could see myself making this variation of pesto again.  And this pesto might make me reconsider pesto as a delivery method for any number of different seasonings and ingredients.  Overall I consider that a win.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

(Belated, Again) Chinese New Year Meal #3: Laghman (Ban Mian)

There are a few cookbooks out there that I have been thinking about buying for years.  Some of them are by cookbook authors whose cookbooks we already own.  One cookbook that I have been thinking about buying for years is Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.  But everytime I convince myself that I don't need yet another cookbook.  We easily have 30-40 cookbooks in the apartment, some of which we have never used.  I tried to make a deal with myself a few years ago that I wouldn't buy another cookbook until I made at least one recipe from each cookbook.  Clearly that never happened.  Earlier today I was trying to find a recipe for Uyghur laghman noodles and after finding out that Beyond the Great Wall had a recipe for laghman I went ahead and ordered it on Amazon.  My compromise was to buy the cookbook in Kindle format so it doesn't clutter up the apartment.  I thought it made a lot of sense (although it does make it more difficult sometimes to find and use the recipes).

This dish is one of the dishes that I remember fondly from China, but haven't eaten since I left.  You don't get a lot of Uyghur food in the United States.  And when I showed Alex the recipe, he was a little shocked by how un-Chinese it all was.  This dish screams Italy more than China - it's like a pasta with a tomato and meat sauce.  It's a relatively homey and simple flavor combination - no spices (although we added cumin), no heat, just lamb, bell peppers and tomatoes.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

(Belated, Again) Chinese New Year Meal #2: Big Wontons

Alex and I love dumplings and wontons enough that we use the word "dumple" as a verb.  It usually means that we are going out to eat dumplings, but every once in awhile we get ambitious and decide to make dumplings at home.  These big wontons were our last attempt at "dumple-ing".  I have been waiting for a little while to make these Big Wontons and the Little Wontons (both available on Serious Eats).  I was originally planning on making the little wontons, but I wasn't sure how thin our dumpling wrappers were so I didn't want to take the chance that they would be too thick.  But I'm pretty sure that they were plenty thin enough so we will go for the little wontons and make some wonton noodle soup next time.  Yum.  What I liked best about these wontons was the addition of the bok choy (or cabbage) and chives in the filling - I like nice meaty dumplings but sometimes it's nice to have a little more veg mixed in.  I took a quick look at my Andrea Nguyen Asian Dumplings cookbook and tried a few different folding methods.  The one that I had the most luck with this time was "nurses caps" (my "flower buds" were a little wonky).  Actually, both Alex and I commented on the fact that my dumplings were unusually well-formed this time.  None of them broke apart while cooking, nor was there any filling ooz-age out the sides.  I was pretty impressed with myself.  We made 50 dumplings and only ate 20 or so (and froze the rest).  I can't want to make some wonton noodle soup with some of the leftover Asian chicken stock we made for our Khao Tom Thai Rice Soup!  Even more yum.  I am also tempted to try pan-frying them, although the skins are thin enough that I am a little nervous to pan-fry.  But let's be honest, when has that ever stopped me in the past?  Wish me luck.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Khao Tom Thai Rice Soup

Given how much I always thought I hated congee, I find it pretty shocking how much I now enjoy it.  I haven't tried it in many restaurants because I'm still a little weirded out by ordering rice gruel with a potential surprise inside, but I love making it at home.  We don't do it very often, but that's because I tend to forget all about it until hit with an intense congee craving.  Usually that happens when it is cold out and I am feeling under the weather.  I swear this stuff is almost better than chicken noodle soup.

This congee is in some ways not that different from the Rice Soup, Khmer Style we made a year ago (both use ground pork and Southeast Asian ingredients like fish sauce and lemongrass), except that this congee added tofu and was even more flavorful, which I expected given we used a homemade broth that was very flavorful in and of itself.  I also liked the texture of this congee better because it wasn't quite as thick.  You could totally play with this recipe to adjust the seasonings and ingredients if you felt like playing around in the kitchen (or if your kitchen is simply missing one or more ingredients).  If you're not a fan of pork you could use ground chicken or turkey and if you wanted to be a little more Chinese (and less Southeast Asian) you could use ginger instead of lemongrass, peanuts instead of fried shallots and a combination of soy sauce and salt instead of fish sauce.  You could also omit the Thai chili if you're not a fan of spicy food.  Personally, I thought the dusting of Thai chili gave it the perfect kick, which was muted by the congee, but gave it a little extra zing.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Banana Oatmeal Cookies with Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chips

Last weekend after Alex and I returned from Whistler we went on something of a baking bonanza because we returned to an entire bunch of overripe bananas.  I was originally planning on making banana bread but we always make banana bread so I decided to be a little more creative.  Let's just say that Alex wasn't thrilled with the whole idea but I was pretty pumped to be in the kitchen.  It has been so long since I had time to bake/cook that I got a little excited and overambitious (we had stock going and dinner to prep while I was baking).  These cookies were the perfect breakfast cookie - they weren't too sweet and who doesn't love oatmeal and bananas for breakfast?  I have no shame in admitting that I ate one or two cookies most mornings before work.  I also had a few after work, but that's beside the point.  Unfortunately I didn't do a very good job of mixing the dough (it is a pretty thick dough and I got a little lazy) so the distribution of chocolate chips and peanut butter chips wasn't very even, but I thought the cookies were still pretty delicious.

Recipe after the jump!

(Belated, Again) Chinese New Year Meal #1: Strange-Flavor Chicken (Gua Wei Ji Si)

Oops.  I totally missed Chinese New Year again.  That's ok.  We all knew it was going to happen.  And I swear that I will post a week's worth of Chinese meals eventually.  It might take me a month or so to get through it all, but I do have a lot of recipes picked out and/or ideas on tap.  I want to make some noodles (I'm thinking Uyghur laghman with lamb), some dumplings, some seafood...  The plan is to make another Chinese recipe tonight (provided that we can find everything we need at the grocery).  Sadly, we made this meal last weekend (it was one of the first things we cooked upon our return from Whistler) but I just haven't had the time to post about it.  Fingers crossed I will be able to post about tonight's meal a little more promptly. 

There are a number of different simple Sichuan chicken dishes in Land of Plenty: Authentic Sichuan Recipes Personally Gathered in the Chinese Province of Sichuan that I love to make because they are easy and tasty.  You can easily poach a few chicken breasts (or a whole chicken if you want to make some stock, which is what we were doing) and then shred the meat and toss them in one of several different dressings that vary from this sauce, which is very sesame-y or others which are full of Sichuan peppercorns.  It's all a matter of what you have in the kitchen and/or what you are craving.  The last time we made one of these recipes we made the "Hot and Numbing Chicken Slices (Ma La Ji Pian)", but we the shredded chicken on top of a bed of broccoli and just made a little extra dressing to coat the broccoli as well as the chicken.  It was delicious and easy.  I actually might prefer the hot and numbing sauce, which is lighter and spicier than this heavier, more sesame-y sauce.  Either way, I find these dishes to be perfect for summer when you really want something light, but flavorful that doesn't involve an extended period of time in the kitchen.  It's a nice alternative to yet another salad.

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Things I love about Vancouver (and Whistler)

For the past 5 plus years I have been dying to visit the Pacific Northwest.  I hear such amazing things (including lots of great things about the restaurant scenes) about Portland, Seattle and Vancouver.  Luckily my mom decided we were going to go skiing in Whistler this year, which meant that we could spend a few days in Vancouver before or after the trip.  Our only real goals for Vancouver were to wander around the city and eat some really good food.  Alex's cousins Rachel and Jacob recommended a restaurant called Salt Tasting Room for meats, cheese and wine (pictured above) so I made reservations there for our first meal in the city.  After that I wanted Asian food and seafood.  I knew that the Asian food in Vancouver was supposed to be some of the best Asian food outside of Asia, but I had no idea just how true that was until we got there.  We had three Asian meals while in Vancouver - two upscale Chinese meals and one more low key Vietnamese meal at a restaurant across the street from our hotel.  We also tried one night to eat at a Cambodian/Vietnamese restaurant called Phnom Penh, but we gave up once we arrived and saw the line of people waiting for a table.  I'm a little bummed that we didn't get to try Phnom Penh because all of the reviews sounded pretty fantastic, but our meals at Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie and Dinesty Dumpling House were also pretty fantastic so I can't complain too much. Our random Vietnamese meal at Ha Long Bay in Downtown Vancouver was also surprisingly good.  New York has surprisingly mediocre Vietnamese food (or maybe I am just spoiled after growing up in Maryland where good pho is relatively common and really good Vietnamese food is just over the border in northern Virginia).  All things considered I would totally recommend all of the restaurants we ate at.  The meats, cheeses and wine at Salt were delicious.  For the four of us (me, Alex and my parents), we ordered three tasting plates of meats and cheese, two salads (a kale caesar that I loved and a spinach, roasted beet and goat cheese salad), two goat cheese cheesecakes in adorable little mason jars and a bunch of wine.  I loved the option to pick a flight of their wines available by the glass - I wish more restaurants allowed you to do wine flights.  Then at Bao Bei we had some of the best upscale Chinese fusion (it's not really fusion but I don't really know what else to call it) I have ever had.  This is what I wish PF Changs was - great flavors, great food, but innovative takes on more traditional Chinese dishes.  All four of us loved the steamed ling cod with mushrooms in a really delicious broth and the "kickass house fried rice" with duck breast.  I also thought the dessert of Chinese donuts (that are called youtiao and are typically served at dim sum with congee or soy milk to dip them in) with a white chocolate ganache and sesame dipping sauce was really good.  Then we went to Dinesty, which was far more traditional.  They had really good pork and crab soup dumplings, camphor-smoked duck (with serious smoky flavor and crisp skin served with steamed buns that they decorated to look like adorable little clam shells) and a fantastic Hakka stir-fry with pork, tofu and squid (all pictured below).  I was a little worried when we walked into Dinesty because it was this fairly fancy Chinese restaurant in a huge mall, but by 5:15 pm the restaurant was jam packed with Chinese friends, couples and families out for dinner so I figured we had to be in good hands.  At one point we looked around the large dining room and Alex and my dad were the only white people there, which is usually a good sign when you are looking for legit Asian food.

More (including more pictures) after the jump!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Honey-Glazed Roast Duck and Bourbon-Pickled Jalapenos

This weekend seems to be the weekend for posting about hunks of roasted meats.  On Saturday I posted a roasted pork shoulder.  I finally got around today to posting about the honey-glazed roast duck that we made from Ed Lee's cookbook back on New Years Day.  Pathetic, huh?  I have no real excuse for being so delinquent in my posting, except that work is busy and we have been traveling a bit.  It is particularly sad given how incredibly excited I was by this meal (both before and while eating).  My laziness has nothing to do with how much I liked this duck.  I LOVE duck in general and I thought this roast duck had really good flavor.  It's no replacement for Peking duck, but it was a nice take on roast duck.  My biggest compliant about the duck was that the skin needed to render more.  It was still fatty and not at all crispy.  It was more... sticky (and a little rubbery).  I dunno if our duck was just fattier than the duck that Ed Lee uses - he might use some sort of free range duck with more flavor and less fat.  But it was still really good.  I loved the bourbon-pickled jalapenos that we served with it - they were the perfect boozy, sweet and spicy accompaniment for the richness of the duck and the sweet flavor of the glaze.  Definitely serve the duck with some herbs and thinly sliced cucumbers because that freshness also works to cut through the fattiness of the duck.

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Ultra-Crispy Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder (with Mojo Sauce)

I made a pork shoulder back in January (that I finally posted here on February 2nd because work was busy and I got lazy) and as soon as I took it out of the oven I started thinking about this recipe.  That recipe called for cooking a pork shoulder at 425 for 2 1/2 hours.  I was a little skeptical about the cooking method but thought it was worth a shot if it meant that I didn't have to spend ALL DAY slow roasting a pork shoulder.  Unfortunately, it just didn't work quite as well.  For the Super Bowl we decided to suck it up and revert to our usual low and slow cooking method.  I always find that low and slow works best for us on weekends when we don't have any other real plans so we can just hang out around the apartment all day and enjoy the smells of slow roasting meat.

We ended up using the pork shoulder in a number of different ways - tacos (with pickled red onions, cotija cheese, cilantro), fried rice, topping for arepas (with black beans (we actually used a can of black bean soup that we heated up and added the jalapenos to it), avocado, and pineapple salsa).  It is such a basic recipe that you can mix it up and use different sauces with the meat (or no sauce at all if you are a purist) and then use the meat for a million different meals.  We served our pork with a mojo sauce (also from Serious Eats) because I was feeling citrus-y and Latin American rather than BBQ/Southern. I loved the crispy skin and the overall tenderness and succulence of the pork.  We crushed up some of the skin and mixed it in with both the tacos and the arepas and it made for such a really nice textural contrast).  I know there are a million different ways to make pork shoulder, but this might be our new go-to.  It is just so versatile.    

P.S.  Alex and I thought that we had taken pictures of the tacos but it looks like the only pictures we took were of the giant hunk of meat itself.  Oops.  But at least you can see in the picture how crispy and blistered the skin got.  It was wonderfully "ultra crispy".

Recipes  after the jump!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Pulled Pork Shoulder in Black BBQ Sauce

I bought Ed Lee's cookbook back in December and was instantly enamored.  There were so many dishes that I wanted to make.  And then I read the recipes themselves.  The recipes all look delicious but the ingredient lists tend towards and long and complicated.  And that's not necessarily a bad thing, but it requires a lot more time and effort, not to mention preparation.  This recipe was one that I had looked at a few times but Alex decided one night when we were having friends over for dinner that we should go ahead and make it.  If we had left it up to me I would have sat on the recipe a little longer because the black BBQ sauce alone had like 25+ ingredients.  But we went with it.  We also made a simple coleslaw recipe with just a touch of mayonnaise that I really enjoyed (and can't manage to find).  I'll keep looking on the theory that I will find it eventually and because I really liked it.  It seemed to me like the perfect coleslaw to pair with BBQ - fresh and crunchy, with just enough mayonnaise to make it a little bit creamy and bind it together.

There was one problem with this recipe.  The flavor was good.  The black BBQ sauce was different.  But the pork was kind of tough.  We cooked it for over 30 minutes beyond what the recipe required, but the meat was nowhere near as tender as we had hoped.  Part of that is our fault since Alex got impatient (and hungry) and took the pork out of the oven when it was fairly tender on one side and not at all tender on the other.  By the time I realized it, it was too late to throw the pork back in the oven.  Generally speaking, we have had more luck with the low and slow cooking approach for pork shoulder, but we wanted to try this recipe as written, which involved blasting the pork shoulder at a higher temperature for a shorter period of time.  In the future, I would revert to the low and slow method.  We actually have a pork shoulder in the oven right now that we cooked at 250 degrees F for 7+ hours thus far.  I will keep you posted on how this one turns out because it's another recipe that we haven't tried before.  But you learn something new everyday.  This time I learned a really nice new rub for pork shoulder.  And if I could find the cole slaw recipe we tried, I would have learned more than one new thing.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Roast Salmon and Broccoli with Chili-Caper Vinaigrette

I always have my eyes peeled for new salmon and chicken recipes.  I have my favorite recipes, but I can't help thinking that there might be something better (or just different, but still worth trying) out there.  When I have a really nice thick wild salmon fillet I want to sear it and eat it medium-rare, but when the salmon doesn't seem quite as fresh or it's not quite as thick, I like to roast it. This time the salmon was a little too skinny for searing so I decided to roast it.  And then I poked around online for a bit.  The thing that really drives me nuts about salmon is how many people seem to love it lacquered or glazed with some sort of random and quasi-Asian sauce.  I feel like every third recipe I found either called for teriyaki sauce or sugar/maple syrup/honey in the marinade or glaze.  I have been suckered into one or two of those recipes and regretted it every time.  I don't want my salmon to be sticky sweet - sweet fish just doesn't do it for me.  I also don't want dairy with my fish (unless it's lox and cream cheese on a bagel).  I will make an exception for creme fraiche (on rare occasion) and butter is always fine, but I can't understand the combination of mayonnaise and salmon.  It just weirds me out.  

This recipe, which I had considered making a few times in the past, looked both easy and intriguing, which is a really nice combination for a meal mid-week.  More importantly, it didn't trigger any of my instinctive aversions (i.e. there was no mayonnaise, teriyaki or sugar required).  When we were making dinner and I saw the chili-caper vinaigrette I was a little worried that the elements of the dish wouldn't really work together.  The combination of jalapenos, rice wine vinegar, capers and evoo just seemed (and looked)... strange.  But once you put it all together the flavors worked surprisingly well together.  One commenter on Epicurious called the combination of flavors "surprisingly delicious" and that's exactly how I felt.  I thought it would be interesting at the very least, but I didn't have high expectations.  I used the vinaigrette pretty sparingly because I didn't want it to overpower the flavor of the salmon and I thought that the bright, briny and slightly spicy flavor worked really nicely with the richness of the salmon and the slightly nutty flavor of the roasted broccoli.  This recipe won't replace my favorite Salt and Pepper Salmon, but I can definitely see us making it again - it's easy and tasty.

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Rodrigo-Style Fish Tacos

I wanted something healthy and easy for dinner tonight after feasting on black and white cookies and other baked goods today and immediately thought of seafood.  So I sent Alex off to pick up some chicken for tomorrow night's dinner and headed to the seafood counter.  Fairway had some wild striped bass fillets that looked really nice and decided that we should make fish tacos.  I love tacos.  And I love seafood.  So it is natural that I try to combine the two fairly regularly.  I found the recipe for Rodrigo-Style Fish on Serious Eats several months ago, but we never got around to making it.  I looked at it while at the grocery store and decided that we could make some variation on it and turn it into tacos.  I didn't read far enough to see that the author already suggested serving the fish with corn tortillas, but clearly we were on the same wavelength.  Since the striped bass I picked out looked so nice I adapted the cooking method to basically season it with salt and pepper and sear it using another recipe/cooking method that I found online for perfect seared fish.  I highly recommend trying the cooking method for the fish.  Our striped bass was beautifully cooked, with a wonderfully crispy skin and a moist, flaky flesh.  It was perfect.  This fish would have worked with a just a squeeze of lemon, but I thought the sauce was a really nice touch - full of citrus and herbs.  I never would have thought to use Maggi sauce because when I think of Maggi sauce I think soy sauce and Asian food, but it added a nice saltiness to the fish.  I'm a huge fan of this recipe.  I would definitely try both the fish and the tacos again separately and together, and also with other types of fish depending on what is fresh.

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Spicy "Fried" Chicken Spinach Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

We have made a bunch of variations on this salad before with our Spicy "Fried" Chicken Cutlets.  We tend to vary the type of greens, the dressing and the veggies that go in the salad, but this might be my favorite combination yet.  I thought the buttermilk dressing was really nicely fresh and tangy and it worked really well with the spicy "fried" chicken.  I have always been hesitant to use mayonnaise in salad dressing, but it worked beautifully here.  Now that I have learned my lesson I won't be such a chicken in the future when it comes to using mayonnaise in my salad dressings and/or sauces.  You can include any number of veggies (we had cucumbers and radishes in the fridge) and any salad green (baby spinach this time) so consider those ingredients as mere suggestions, but I highly recommend the combination of the dressing and the chicken!

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Restaurants to Try for 2014 and My Favorite Restaurants of 2013

My restaurants that I am dying to try in 2013 (in no particular order, except that restaurants that have been on the list since last year are at the top) are:
  1. Brooklyn Fare (still dying to go - maybe one day) 
  2. Parm and Carbone (we made it to Torrisi Italian Specialties and it was amazing) 
  3. Empellon Cocina
  4. Pok Pok NY (we really enjoyed Pok Pok Phat Thai
  5. Roberta's and Blanca
  6. Fung Tu (I love Nom Wah so why wouldn't I love this upscale version?)
  7. Alder (I have made and canceled reservations at Alder 3-4 times now but I am determined to go by the end of February) 
  8. Mission Cantina (Alex went but I didn't get to go) 
  9. Pearl & Ash
  10. Estela 
Runners Up:  M. Wells Dinette, Sripraphai, Perla, Charlie Bird, Toro, Betony, Sushi Nazakawa, The Cecil, Contra

More after the jump!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Lablabi (Tunisian Chickpea Soup)

Sometimes I pick out a recipe and I don't expect much from it.  Take this recipe for instance.  I thought it would be good, but mostly I wanted another easy vegetarian recipe and I got suckered in by the poached egg in the photo.  I'm such a sucker for poached eggs.  Runny egg yolk is my jam.  And yes, I know I sort of mis-used that term.  So I sent Alex the recipe and said "hey, we should make this sometime."  And then we both proceeded to not do anything about it until New Years Eve rolled around and I wanted a simple dish to make for lunch that didn't require too many ingredients from the grocery.  Luckily, we had everything we needed in the fridge.  In the spirit of full disclosure, if we had been short on eggs I would have made a special trip to the grocery store just to get eggs.  There was no way that I was going to make this soup without poached eggs.  It was one of the "optional enhancements" listed in the original recipe but I think it is totally crucial.  Even if I weren't obsessed with poached eggs I would think it was crucial for the recipe as a whole.  Without the egg the soup lacks body and richness.  As the egg yolk melts into the soup it makes the broth a little creamier.  And while we're on the topic, I think the harissa is another necessary element.  If you don't like heat, just add a little, but I think that without harissa you will be missing out.  The same goes for the fresh herbs - the parsley and mint gave the soup some brightness and freshness.  But if you absolutely had to pick one thing to leave out, I would leave out the herbs.  Or the drizzle of evoo.  You could leave that out too. But if you make the soup and add the egg and harissa you will be pleasantly surprised by just how tasty the soup is.  Don't get scared when you taste the chickpeas by themselves prior to adding the garnishes.  They taste a little bland, but the broth is delicious.  And the soup as a whole with the addition of the garnishes is warm and comforting, not to mention really tasty.

Recipe after the jump!

Spanish Roast Chicken with Romesco and Grilled Onions

I'm not sure how or why I ended up deciding that roast chicken or roast duck would be the perfect meal for New Years Eve, but I got it in my head that I wanted to roast a whole bird of some sort and I went to Fairway to buy both.  And then I looked at the recipes I wanted to make and decided that we would make the chicken for New Years Eve and make the duck on January 1.  We had to re-evaluate the duck and push it back until the weekend because the bourbon-pickled jalapenos need to pickle for 3 days so I'll report back sometime this weekend on how the duck worked out.  I'm pretty excited.  

Anyway, it has been a long time since we last roasted a whole chicken.  For the most part we roast bone-in chicken breasts because it is far less time and labor-intensive than roasting a whole chicken.  It also seems a little wasteful to roast a whole chicken when I'm really only interested in the breasts.  But every once in awhile we give it a shot.  And this recipe has me totally inspired to go out and roast more whole chickens.  It was delicious - the smoked paprika rub gave the chicken a really wonderful smoky, earthy flavor.  We were both a little worried when we pulled the chicken from the oven that it would be totally overdone (just look at how brown the skin is) but it wasn't at all.  The chicken was moist and juicy.  And when you ate it with the romesco (which was wonderfully smoky, bright and acidic and ever so slightly spicy) it was delicious.  I also loved the grilled scallions on the side.  We had some king oyster mushrooms in the fridge that I wanted to use so we threw them on the grill too while we were grilling up the scallions.  They kind of look like sunchokes in the picture, but they were mushrooms.  I can't wait to bust this recipe out at some future date.  There is more than enough romesco for 2 whole chickens.  I think if I were to have 4-6 people over I would cook two chickens, double the number of scallions, grill up some more mushrooms and serve it all with a salad and some nice bread.  Done.  Maybe I would start off the meal with some cheese and some Marcona almonds, but it would be a totally wonderful and relatively simple meal.  Now that I am back into the whole roast chicken game, there is an Ina Garten roast chicken recipe that I have been meaning to try for awhile that might just be my next attempt...

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Chocolate-Bourbon Tart

This year Alex and I were responsible for bringing dessert for dinner on Christmas Eve with his cousins.  Given Alex's love of all things bourbon and my love of all things chocolate, this dessert seemed like the natural choice.  Note to self - next time I decide on a "simple" dessert recipe based purely on the number of ingredients, I should also take a gander at the steps.  Because this recipe wasn't hard, but it took a LONG time to put together.  First you make the pastry for the tart shell, then you chill, then you blind bake, then you cool, then you bake some more, then you chill again...  It goes on more like that for awhile.  But, this tart has one of the best tart shells that I have ever tried.  It has a lot of steps, but it is totally worth it.  It has great rich, chocolatey flavor and just the perfect amount of sweetness/saltiness.  It also had a really lovely texture - flaky, without being dry.  I know that I'm not doing it justice, but I honestly can't think of the right words to use to describe it.  Pastry just isn't my forte.  I am definitely going to save it for future tart-making experiments.  I was a little nervous that the filling would be too bourbon-y, but it wasn't at all.  The filling was darkly chocolate-y and the bourbon added a nice smoky flavor and depth.  If I didn't know that the bourbon was in there I'm not sure I would have recognized it, but I would have known that it was definitely not a straight-up chocolate filling.  The filling isn't too sweet and it has nice smooth texture.  Some tart fillings are too ganache-y, while others are too custard-y.  This filling was almost like a textural cross between a custard and a brownie.  It was interesting.  I didn't like the filling quite as much as I liked the crust, but it was quite pleasant and I would make it again.  It would be a really good addition to any potluck or holiday dinner with multiple desserts.  I might try it with other flavors and/or liquors - some orange zest or Grand Marnier would be an interesting twist.  And stout could work with a few minor modifications.  We served the tart with vanilla ice cream, which provided some additional creaminess and sweetness.  I thought it was a really nice and festive combination.

Recipe after the jump!

Happy New Year! And resolutions for 2014...


It has been a really long year.  We have traveled a decent amount - we started off the year with skiing in Vermont and then a month later we were skiing in Tahoe, which we followed up with a trip to Austin the following weekend.  And then we had a few low key months before we headed to France and Belgium in May.  Then there were trips to visit the family in Cincinnati, Maryland and Philly.  Last but not least, my mother and I went on a girls' trip to Hawaii.  By December I had almost nothing left in the tank and I knew I would probably have to work so we hunkered down in NYC for the holidays.  We already have a number of trips planned for early 2014 (starting with a trip to Arkansas in less than 2 weeks and then skiing in Whistler in early March)  And work was crazy again, but I guess I should just accept that work will always be crazy (at least during the last quarter of the year).  I worked until 3am on Sunday night, which basically meant that when Alex asked me last week what I wanted to do for  New Years Eve I told him that literally all I wanted to do was sit on the couch with him and Brady and a bottle of champagne.  I was way too pooped to even think about making plans for NYE.  And I wanted to cook dinner because I haven't been able to really plan and execute a meal in forever.  Those were my only requests.  What little cooking we have done in the past few months has been last minute and scavenger-esque.  It involves a lot of opening the fridge and realizing there is absolutely nothing in there and then throwing together what we can. And the very few meals that we planned in advance ended up being ok, but nothing special.  So I was a little discouraged and a little over it.  And given how much I was working and how little time I had to play around on the blog, it seemed like a total waste of time to blog about those paltry few and merely passable meals.  It got to the point where I told Alex that I was thinking about shutting down the blog entirely.  But the dishes that we cooked on New Years Eve (both the soup we made for lunch and the roast chicken we made) were really good.  And I got a few new cookbooks that I have high hopes for (including Smoke & Pickles by Edward Lee)So my goal for 2014 is to cook when I can, post recipes when I can (and when I think the dish was worth it) and leave it at that.  I'm hoping that 2014 will be a little slower at work so I will have more time to plan meals in advance and make recipes that interest me.  I'm also hoping to have more time to try new restaurants (although we did a pretty good job of that this year) and return to some oldies but goodies.  Anyway, this was all a slightly meandering and long-winded way of saying I'm sorry that I haven't been around and that I will try to do better next year.  Here's to 2014!