Saturday, March 31, 2007

Thursday Club 03/29/07

Time flies when you're eating well! Adam hooked up an excellent meal for this week's dinner...

- Sweet potato skins stuffed with Pancetta, White Cheddar & Country Gravy.
- Rock Lobster & Creamed Leek Gratin.
- Bison Chili with Jalapeño Cornbread & Maple Butter.

I could just imagine sitting in a sawdust covered bar in Texas munching away at these badboys while watching some pigskin with friends. The salt of the Pancetta & rich Country Gravy went perfectly with the sweetness of the potatoes. They had been hollowed out & yet this dish was surprisingly filling!

We took a bit of a break in between courses to let the 'skins' settle. Adam & Teddy de-shelled the rock lobsters which were sautéed & added to the leek & cream. topped with parmesan breadcrumbs & baked. The end result was a delicious gratin & the lobster was perfectly cooked & melted like butter!

Now, I love chili more than anyone I know & I've never eaten bison - so I was pleased as punch that the next course was on the menu. I cannot describe how complex the flavours were for this dish. I'm guessing that Adam's hands were flying along his spice/sauce racks as there were so many great flavours in the dish. I've never tasted chili quite like that & I loved it. The Jalapeño Cornbread was lovingly coated with mounds of Maple Butter & was an awesome side dish!

Nice work Adam!

The Rock Shrimp get what's coming to them...

... a light sauté!

A slow simmer.

Perfect Jalapeño Cornbread & Maple Butter.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Building Up To The Sky

Although no theme was mentioned for Teddy's turn this past Thursday, I immediately noticed a common trend with the courses.....stacking. Not the Burger King monstrosities that act as a dual hangover cure and instantanious cholesterol hightener, but layers and layers of ingredients and flavors. This method in cooking seems to be the most successful way to build a knock-out dish. Whether adding item after item to a mouth-stretching sandwich, or adding a dollop of sour cream, chives and bacon (see below) to a steaming baked potato, creating numerous layers makes the dish look and taste better with each addition.

To kick things off, Negronis were mixed for a pre-meal cocktail. Gin (2 parts) was blended with Campari (1 part) and Sweet Red Vermouth (1 part) to create a perfect citrusy, but not overpowering drink. Quite the accomplishment considering all three ingredients contain alcohol.

The Provencal Fish Soup was a nice veggie and pureed fish mixture with alot of fresh herb flavors. By it's lonesome, I'm sure it would have started the meal nicely.....but that wasn't in the blueprint. A crusty, buttery crouton was plopped in the middle of the bowl, then surrounded by little neck clams and sauteed shrimp. That was only the beginning. Everything was then topped with a creamy garlic aoli and a fennel-based relish. You might think that all these flavors would have trouble melding in a solitary bowl, but they got along just fine.

The main course showcased most meats you would usually see in a full English breakfast. On a bed of bacon and parsley mash, mild Cumberland sausages and sauteed mushrooms were piled high and surrounded by a moat of pea puree, known to some English folk as 'liquor' (so I was told.....sometimes I think i'm being screwed with). A rich slab of black pudding was nestled in the pea mixture too. With the exception of a hidden snout or ear I might have missed, I think Teddy covered most of pig in this course. A bright yellow smear of tangy Coleman's Mustard capped the tower perfectly.

Dessert was low on the altitude scale, but excellent nonetheless. Little (not actually little, but in comparison to the other courses) individual blackberry cobblers finished off this awesome meal. The berries were fresh and tart and worked nicely with the sweet whipped cream.

Another triumphant meal for the Brit. This time, taking a page out of the NYC book......stop building outwards and build UPWARDS.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Recipe: Asian Style Short Ribs with Sushi Rice

5 pounds beef short ribs, cut into 4-ounce portions
1 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 (5-inch) stalk lemongrass, halved and smashed
1 tablespoon peeled and minced ginger
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 quart water
1/2 cup sliced green onion bottoms, white part only
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Sushi Rice, for serving
2 teaspoons finely grated orange rind, for serving
Sliced green onion tops, optional for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a wide stockpot or Dutch oven, combine the short ribs, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, brown sugar, water, green onion bottoms, crushed red pepper, and 2 tablespoons of the orange juice. Make sure that the stockpot is deep enough so that the short ribs are submerged in the liquid.

Bake the short ribs, covered, for about 3 hours, or until the meat is tender and falling off the bones. Remove the short ribs from the braising liquid and cover to keep warm. Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees F.

Drain the fat off of the cooking liquid and discard. Place the remaining braising juices in a medium saucepan with 1/4 cup of the hoisin sauce and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the liquid until only about 1 1/4 cups remain. Strain through a fine-meshed strainer, discarding the solids. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of orange juice and the lemon juice.

Return the short ribs and the reduced sauce to the stockpot or Dutch oven, coating the short ribs well with the sauce. Bake for 10 minutes, until the short ribs are heated through and slightly glazed. Serve hot over sushi rice. Season each portion with the orange zest and garnish with the green onions if desired.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Korean Night

When our very own J. Boogie announced his plans to host the Thu Club on Sat (I know, confusing,) we quickly realised this was an opportunity to get highly pissed (which is most unlike us) and not have to worry about getting to work uninjured on the inevitable Friday morning. Not that that's much of an issue for Boogie, who rarely gets up before midday and only has to stagger a few metres to his 'desk'. But maybe that's why he suggested it - so Adams and I can experience the delicious hangover without the threat of work swinging over our heads.

So, thinking about food, we agreed to meet up in Samba Le, a bar about 2 blocks from Essex Market where we would woo ourselves and drool over artisanal cheese, meats and achingly fresh fish. Samba Le has been reviewed before, but I had never been there and I was not impressed on first entering the place. We couldn't find a member of staff. Then we spotted a chap lurking around in the shadows at the back of the restaurant, chatting with customers and balancing what seeme like a dinner service on one arm. That's our boy. He signalled that he would be over to us in just a few. He came about 1o mins later, the guy was clearly under pressure as he was the only member of staff. Without further ado, he poured a gang of caipirinhas, and as I happened to mention that I like cachaca, I got an extra shot as well. While I was drinking this, Johnny (the barman and all round super-hero) was drinking his shot also, twirling knives and slicing limes and chatting to patrons simultaneously. More of these rounds appeared at regular intervals, there was talk of football (the Brazilian & English kind) sun-dried steak (a famous dish in Brazil) and cocktails and we were joined by a pair of lovely ladies who were supposed to be in Philly, but they had postponed their trip so they could drink shots at the bar with Johnny. Before I knew it, we had missed the market and we were drunk. Only one thing for it then, grab some beers and head back to Jason's for the Korean feast.

His menu took in some classic Korean dishes, like kimchi, cucumber salad and Sunchang sauce, but the braised ribs (see earlier post) were inspired. French classic with Asian twist.
  • Cucumber Salad
  • Korean Wraps (Chicken & Beef) served with Sun chang sauce & Kimchi
  • Asian-Style braised short ribs w/sushi rice
Boogie had grated the cucumber real fine, added scallion and red pepper, some dressing and hey presto - a delicious and refreshing salad. I must admit, my tastebuds had taken a hammering that afternoon what with all those shots and about 900 Marlboro Lights, and I had to go large with the dressing, What was in it anyway, J. Boogie?

The wraps were up next, damn fine they were too. We were invited to pull out giant lettuce leaves, load them with grilled chicken, spicy beef and then sppon over some delicious Sunchang sauce, which is kind of hot and sour. Pretty good these wraps were too, with cool lettuce on the outside and a spicy umami taste inside. The ribs, though, were the best thing about the meal. Braised for hours in soy, ginger, garlic, and some other stuff. (Again, Boogie, we might need the recipe.) He let the braising liquid cool and then removed the fat and reduced the surplus before coating the ribs with it and serving. Wow! What a mouthful it was too. Rich, meaty and aromatic. Real Winter food. The kimchi he made added a fifth dimension to it.

The evening ended with some 'traditional' Sake bombs in Satsko over the road, and a couple of beers somewhere else, I really don't remember. Oh that's right, Joe's pub on 5th Street b/w A and, another one of Jason's local haunts. Are there any publicans who don't know Jason on the Lower East Side?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bond St. Sushi

Bond St. Sushi is now serving up seared tuna! Joke... My once-favorite downtown sushi spot, which during it's heyday was home to legendary bartenders Josh, Wax & Erock is closed for 3 weeks due to a fire resulting from an electrical malfunction.

"Regretfully we announce that BondSt caught fire early this morning, March 13th, due to an electrical malfunction. The good news is that nothing happened to any employees or the tenants above the restaurant. The damage, as it was concentrated in the front of the restaurant, looks much worse than it actually is. On behalf of the entire staff of BondSt, we are looking forward to seeing you again when we re-open in approximately three weeks. We will be able to start taking reservations once again toward the second week of April."

Monday, March 12, 2007

Le Braise

There's something so satisfying and ceremonial about braising stuff. Almost anything. It just makes my tiny kitchen smell like a bistro.

I have been into the braise technique ever since my mate Stella impregnated our shared house with the rich stink of Coq Au Vin, and I had been hit by an atmosphere of meaty warmth when I returned home on a frosty night from the pub. Just the thing. It was winter in Stoke Newington, N16 and as I entered my house, the smell of Stella's cooking and the braising pan had me heading directly downstairs to the kitchen where some friends of hers were huddled around the pan, ready to tuck in. The occasion, dear friends, was just too much. Half-cut and without invitation I grabbed a redundant chair and squeezed myself between 2 of the real guests. There were two pans at the table, one filled with buttery mashed potato and the other with a chicken-studded crimson sauce that poured steam high into the air. Stella gave it a deft swirl and started to dish up. She is a great cook and my my, that sauce was good. Redolent with red wine and bacon fat, chunks of mushroom and succulent chicken. The mash was the best sponge ever, soaking up the juices. I cared little for manners and had to wipe a grimy thumb around the plate rim when I'd finished, there was no way I was going to waste any of that fabulous sauce. I don't think I said a single word to anybody while I ate.

I have recreated the dish countless times since, and I always think about that night when I stumbled upon one of my most memorable meals. So, friends, seeing as this might possibly be the last week of the NY winter (judging by today's temperatures and the upcoming forecast), I thought I'd share my recipe for classic CAV. Perhaps you can do something with it next winter?

4 rashers of smoked bacon
handful of button mushrooms
A slug of good olive oil
4 skinless thighs of organic chicken (I used D'Artagnan, watery Perdue just won't do the job)
a resealable bag containing seasoned flour
1 large white onion, 1 big stick celery, 1 large carrot, all chopped finely
about 3 fat cloves garlic, chopped
1 bottle of red wine (I used a Castle Rock 2004 cab sauvignon)
2 cups of good chicken stock (I really like that "Better than Bouillon" stuff in a jar)

Your own mashed spud recipe**

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Chop the bacon into nice bits. Halve all of your mushrooms. Set the pan (Dutch oven) over a medium heat, and add a splash of olive oil. Add bacon and render the fat right down. You should have crunchy burgundy-coloured bits before you go anywhere else. About 8 mins. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Add the mushrooms. Swirl around and coat the mushrooms with the fat, cook for about 10 mins until they wilt and lose some of their moisture. Put chicken thighs into the bag and shake furiously to coat the fowl with the flour. Remove mushrooms and stick in with the bacon. Brown the chicken on both sides, not too brown, just slightly golden. Remove and add to baco-mushroom mixture.
Add the holy trinity of celery, carrot, onion and sweat for 6 mins over medium heat. Add garlic. Cook for a further 4 mins. Deglaze with a splash of red wine. Try to scrape up the tasty brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add two cups of the chicken stock and then chuck in the rest of the bottle. Reintroduce the mushrooms, bacon and chicken to the pan, and bring to a boil. Stick it in the oven for about an hour or so.
The meat should be super tender when prodded with a blunt item. Remove the chicken and set aside to rest. Hoist the pan up onto the flat top and set the burner on high. Reduce like crazy. The sauce should coat the back of a spoon before serving.
I like to smear a plate with shiny mashed potato and put the chicken and sauce over the top, sometimes with a nice peppery watercress salad on the side. **My mashed potato recipe (and I know you all have your own) is made by whizzing boiled spuds with a knob of butter, touch of salt, dash of milk, and I can't resist chucking in a couple of cheeky nuggets of garlic. I also go much too far with the electric devices and I don't stop the processing until the potato forms a highly adhesive amorphous sludge. This is what gives it the shine. I drank some more of the Castle Rock with it, and it was good, especially as our boys Park Slope Wine Shop had it at $9 a bottle. Ooh, they are kind.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Roasted Corn Soup with Barbeque Short Ribs

This particular recipe is actually two separate courses rolled into one.

Starting with the short ribs:

- Season ribs with salt and pepper (8 small ribs total will do, approx. 2+ lbs.)
- Add ribs to hot pan with olive oil, searing on all sides until dark, but not burned
- Remove ribs from pan, drain excess oil and add one small, diced onion
- Sweat onion until translucent, about 4-5 minutes
- Add the following ingredients to the onion (I just eye-balled the amounts, so depending on your tastes, do what you want)

1 c. Ketchup
1/4 c. White Wine Vinegar
1/4 c. Worchestershire Sauce
Brown Sugar
Hot Sauce
Minced Garlic

- Once these ingredients are mixed thoroughly, add the ribs into the mixture and cover
- Simmer on low heat for at least 90 minutes, flipping ribs every half hour or so. The longer you cook them, the more tender (tenderer?) they'll be
- Remove ribs from the sauce and let cool. Using two forks, pull the meat from the ribs and set aside

If you let the sauce cool for an extended period of time as I did , skim the excess oil and fat from the top once it solidifies. Then reduce the sauce until thick. Make sure to taste it periodically to check on the seasoning and balance of flavors.

Now for the corn soup bit:

- Soak 8 ears of corn in cold water while you preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Dry off the corn and place on the oven rack
- Roast for about 15-20 minutes or until the kernels start to gain some color
- Let corn cool, then cut the kernels off making sure to get all the 'milk' from the ear

- In a soup pot, add olive oil and sweat down celery, onion, jalapeno and garlic
- Cook for about 8-10 minutes on medium heat
- Add one large roasted red pepper (I roasted it myself, but feel free to use store bought)
- Add all the corn, then 4-5 cups of stock (Chicken or Vegetable will do)
- Bring to a boil, add heavy cream then reduce the heat to low and cover pot
- Simmer for 90 minutes, but as with the ribs, longer is better

Remove from heat, check the seasoning (just salt and pepper will do, but i snuck some ground coriander in as well) and either using a blender or hand blender, blend until smooth. You'll most likely have to strain it further because the corn kernels can get on the grainy side.

Once strained, add the shredded short ribs and garnish with the reduced barbeque sauce and some cilantro.

Based on the recipe, you can see it is a pretty time consuming process. I broke it down into 2 nights, which gave both the soup and ribs time to develop their flavors.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Lord of the Pies

Ahhh, the Great British pork pie.

I have such fond memories of cracking that sweet crumbly golden crust and biting down for those rich nuggets of perfumed pork. For me, it's one thing that represents the best of old English cooking and it was just that the pork pie was the glorious subject of this post. Mum used to buy them in both individual (for taking to school in a Tupperware lunchbox) and family sizes, perfect for slicing thickly at home to pair up with beans and mustard, or wrapping in brown paper and taking along to the lake for a picnic. They formed a major part of my childhood diet, because I was hand-reared in the North West of England, home to some of the World's finest pork pies.

I now live in New York, a land blessed with some fine pies but they are of the fruit variety. My pangs for meat pies have gone unabated. Another Limey told me about Myers of Keswick, a fine fine Manhattan-based purveyor of all things British and the lad makes his own pies and pasties on the premises. But it's a bit out of the way for this Brooklyn resident, and I decided it was time to get the apron on, get my shit together and knock one up at home. I must admit, I had taken some inspiration from Blogjam's fine attempt who span up a fine example.

I didn't expect the bloody ingredients to cost $40, it may have been cheaper to take a taxi to Myers and buy a month's supply, but that wasn't the point. I wanted to test myself and see what I could manage. I followed this recipe and look at the results....

As you can see from the trail the jelly left, I had some pastry issues. I think it got a bit warm. I was difficult to roll out and line the pan, and removing the bugger from the pie pan caused great cracks to appear and I lost some of the juice, but not all. After a niht in the fridge, the pie 'healed itself' and I was able to slice him open and admire the meaty interior before taking a big bite. It was OK. Not like the pies I used to know, but this was a first run and I shall make some minor improvements to the recipe, the pastry and I'll line the pie pan with paper so I dont' have to tear it apart to remove it. It did form the basis of my diet for about a week. After that, I just couldn't eat any more of it. I was pied out. I put the last quarter on he pavement outside my house and within seconds it had been snaffled.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Thursday Club 03/01/07

After quite a long hiatus from cooking (although Teddy & I have been eating like kings in Asia, see below), Adam threw down yesterday. It was really nice to be back together with the Thursday Crew & I was hungry as hell when I arrived at Adam's digs & the smell of short ribs wafted down the stairs as soon as I hit the front door.

- Tequila and Sangrita Shooters with Tortilla Strips and Jalapeno Relish.

- Roasted Corn Soup with Shredded Barbeque Short Ribs.

- Chili Shrimp and Foie Gras Taquitos with Foie Gras Mole.

To wet the appetite, Teddy hooked up an insane Sangria variation which defied words. After two of these, I was feeling slightly tipsy.

Just my luck, Tequila with the first course, my old nemesis! Adam served up some Corazon shooters together & a virgin Bloody Mary cleverly served in a hallowed out Cucumber. We had Tortilla chips & a spicy relish/salsa.

The next course was simply amazing. Adam drizzled the reduced braising juices from the short ribs over the top of the corn soup & it was simply delicious. You could have put that stuff in a martini glass & I would have been happy to drink it, pinky out! I really cannot tell you how great this soup was. It hit the spot on a cold night & together with the Coronas we were drinking - magic!

For the main course, Adam sauteed some rock shrimp with aromatics while Teddy spread Foie Gras (Yeah, that's right, I said Foie Gras! That's how we roll!) on tortillas. The cooked shrimp were piled on top & the 'little bundles of joy' were wrapped & fried.

The mole was simmering away nicely. Chocolate & more Foie Gras was added & the delightful concoction was drizzled onto the Taquitos; Awesome!

As usual, another excellent meal. I left for home full & satisfied. Till next week!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Tasting @ Against The Grain.

I've blogged Against The Grain (620 6th Street - right next to Grape & Grain btwn. Ave. B & C) ever so briefly before, but I had the pleasure of going to a cheese & beer tasting there yesterday. Yeah, you heard me right, beer & cheese tasting, NOT wine!!!

The formidable beers came care of Against the Grain which has an insane lineup of beers that you won't find on the beaten track & the cheeses were provided by Saxelby Cheesemongers who make their home in the culinary bastion of Essex Market (again, previously blogged).

There were 5 courses in said tasting & here is my take on the events...

Course #1
Nettle Meadow Kunik Cheese with Grapes in a Lavender Honey & Victory Pilsner.

I founds the cheese (from NY state) to be a delightful mix of Brie & Goat Cheeses. The grapes were tart & accompanied the dish perfectly. The beer was a classic Pilsner.

I gave this course a 9/10.

Course #2
Brovetto Dairy Harpersfield soaked in Ommegang Beer (NY State) w/spicy walnuts & Bear Republic Racer 5.

The cheese was good (vague, I know). I'm not sure if the texture was the cheese itself or the fact that it was soaked in beer, but I loved it. The beer was a 'hoppy' pale ale which I enjoyed. However, I found that if you ate the cheese & nuts together, the spiciness of the nuts totally overpowered the cheese. I gave this course a 5/10.

Course #3
Meadow Creek Dairy Grayson with Spiced Figs & Saison Dupont.

I really like this cheese from Virginia. It had a soft texture of a Brie or Asiago, it also has a smoky aftertaste which I enjoyed. The beer was a white ale which screamed of summer. I'd match it to a Hoegaarden. The spiciness of the figs didn't bother me as much as the walnuts in the previous course since the figs were tart. I gave this course 8/10.

Course #4
Cobb Hill Farm Ascuntey Mountain w/Black Cabbage Bread & Sixpoint Oatmeal Stout.

The cheese from Vermont was very strong, with 'Gouda-like' qualities. I liked it. The beer was a stout, which I'm not a huge fan of, but it put Guinness to shame. I scored this course an 8/10.

Course #5
Jasper hill Farm Bayley Hazen Blue with prune jam & Smuttynose Robust Porter.

The cheese from this course was also from Vermont. Teddy has had me hooked on blue cheeses ever since he served up an amazing Potted Stilton, so I was excited about this course. I found the cheese to be creamy, yet very salty when eaten by itself. The jam 'cut' the edge off the saltiness though.

The porter was very strong & being a lager man, I found it to be very overpowering. I would have given this course a 10 if it wasn't for the beer. I gave this course a 9/10.

All in all, it was an excellent night. I like cheese, I like beer; the night was ill. Check out Against The Grain on 6th St. for beers you won't find anywhere else.

Head to Essex Market & Saxelby Cheesemongers for fine cheeses in the LES.
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