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!