Thursday, August 30, 2007

Kick it up a notch...for next to nowt.

What does one do when one has an appetite for something expensive, but on inspecting one's wallet it contains nothing but some dog-eared and pissy singles?

If you're like me, your palate needs regular therapy in the form of lobster, fine wines, caviar, antique brandies and general frippery. If you're like me, you've recently been sitting around in the garden drinking martinis and reading the mouthwatering "Ma Gastronomie" by Fernand Point. If you're like me, after reading something as seductive as that, you'll be fired up and desperate to dash out, spend $3K on finery and lock yourself in the kitchen for a week. If you're like me, that's going to be an issue. Monsieur Point recommends spending everything you have on the best ingredients you can find. Well I wish I could. Perhaps he didn't have to worry about rent, credit cards, bills. Alas I do, but I still wanted to do something that my gob would approve of.

A wander around D'Vine Taste on 7th Ave in Park Slope yielded some good Manchego (I'm having a phase with that stuff) a tiny sliver of an astonishingly rich foie gras terrine, and a small pot of truffle butter. I also found some delicious Bell Evans Cornish hens in my local butcher, and I was set to go. With FP's 'le grand cuisine' in mind and an oversized glass of chilled Bandol in my hand I set about creating something that would knock my knickers off.

I removed the legs and breasts from the 2 birds first, these would be my main meats, and I thought I'd make some good stock with what was left. I threw the meat in the fridge, got the big boy out and hacked all the bones and wings into smaller pieces. These were rolled in a bit of oil and chucked into a hot oven with carrot, celery and onion until they took on some nice colour. All this was transferred to a large pan, covered in cold water and I added some peppercorns and a bay leaf. It simmered gently for about an hour, I skimmed regularly, and then strained it through a fine sieve and some muslin. The stock had a great colour.

With my house smelling sufficiently nice now, I got stuck into the fun bit. I poached the legs gently in the stock for about 20 minutes. (That stock you still have is GOLD, get it in the fridge quick.) I skinned the legs and blitzed the meat in the Cuisinart, not until it was a paste, I wanted some texture. I mixed the meat with the room temp foie gras terrine, a good knob of the truffle butter and I didn't hold back with the stuff. I could have eaten the mixture by the large spoonful. I dressed some frisee and salad leaves with cream, S&P and red wine vinegar and arranged them in the middle of a large plate. I had some canola oil in a non-stick over a high heat, seasoned the breast meat and got some nice colour on both sides, before letting the meat rest for a bit. I dolloped a large quantity of the meat/foie/truffle butter mixture onto the leaves and draped over the breasts.

I don't even know if it was a salad, or an appetizer type course. I do know it was delicious and worth every bit of effort I put in messing around with stock and poaching legs etc. I could have just stuffed the bird with foie gras, roast the little bugger and dribbled the butter on top. All the flavours married well, and yet I was able to discern their individual contributions to the party in my mouth.

You should give it a go. Be as generous as you like with the posh tackle. I reckon a portion for one costs about $8. Not bad for a dish containing truffles and foie gras eh?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Thursday Club 08/23/07

So we've finally gotten back into the swing of things & this week it was the man like Adam's turn to fill our bellies with some Mediterranean fare.

- Grilled Fennel and Tomato Soup.
- Cannellini Bean Cake on Salad Greens w/Red Pepper Puree .
- Veal “I Don’t Know What to Call It” (veal cutlet topped with sausage meat, spinach, bocconcini, tomatoes, etc. then broiled) w/Romano Cheese and Herb Polenta with Balsamic Cream Sauce.
- Chocolate Biscotti w/ Coffee.

The meal began with the soup, which was extremely good. I loved the fennel which added real depth. The 3 of us eagerly dunked bread into our bowls.

Then it was onto the Cannellini Bean Cake which I was very excited about as I've never thought to make a cake out of veggies. Set atop a mound of greens & drizzled with a tasty red pepper puree it was pure delight. I'll have to try to make these myself!

The 'Veal Whatchamacallit', Adam's nameless yet delicious meat concoction. We all know that Adam likes meat, so veal topped with pork is pretty much par for the course for our man Adam. The cheese & veggie topping went well & helped to soften the meat overload. I especially liked the Polenta, something that I don't cook enough. Adding the Romano was an excellent idea.

Coffee & Biscotti were up next. An excellent end to the night. Well done sir, well done!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Awash (338 E. 6th St.)

It was a buddy's birthday, so a large group of us gathered at Awash Downtown (( They have another location uptown on Amsterdam Ave.) for some Ethiopian food. I've never had Ethiopian, so I was really looking forward to this meal. Nestled on what I like to call 'Indian Alley', you'd miss the place if you weren't looking for it.

The decor is sparse (hey, we're here for the food!), but colorful, you could imagine the average restaurant in Africa would look just like this. We sat down & our resident expert & birthday boy, DJ, did all of the ordering.
We got beef, lamb & chicken tibbs (basically cubed meat, lightly sauteed & served with a sauce containing onions, peppers & African spices). The food came on large platters & was accompanied by various sauces & vegetables (the lentils were my favorite). Everyone ate 'family-style' there were 2 platters on the table & we all shared.
Forks & knives - no way. The 'utensil' of choice is an Ethiopian flat bread known as Injera, or Teff. Pancake-sized & lighter than I thought humanly possible, you would just break a piece off & dig into the meat & sauces. The food was amazing! I really enjoyed myself there. Tasty food, excellent service & good friends. I'll be revisiting Awash & I suggest that you check it out.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Rai Rai Ken

So I'm hungry today & I have noodles on the brain. I call my boy Jacob, who's always up for some food. We planned on going to Minca (see previous blogs), then decided to try somewhere new. Having got our avenues mixed up, we were walking by Rai Rai Ken (214 East 10th St. btwn. 1st & 2nd Avenues) & decided to eat there. Best Avenue mistake EVER!

The space is small, but cozy, the food is amazing. I love Minca, but often find the broth to be far too rich - requiring a visit to my toilet shortly after leaving. Jacob & I both got the Shoyu noodles. Packed with beef, half an egg, a light tasty broth & assorted veggies. A HUGE bowl of deliciousness for $7! & (stop the press), $4 beer! Fuck yeah! Another cool thing is that they have a card that they stamp every time you get a ramen. Eat 10 & your next one is free!

Go to Rai Rai Ken... No RUN!

Friday, August 17, 2007

A return to cooking....

Gosh. I was nattering with Grant the other day and he made me aware that the blog hasn't been updated for nearly a month. Shame on us. No, really. I have been out of the loop for a few weeks though, I found a nice girl and got married, went on a honeymoon and pretended to be James Bond for a week. I know that J-Boogie's Etch-A-Sketch blew up and it's at the menders, so he wasn't able to blog. But Adam really has no excuse - Or do you, Adam?

Unable to persuade any of the chaps to blog the last meal (even bribing them with champagne cocktails didn't work) I have taken it upon myself to do the job, so I'll try and be as objective as possible.

Honestly, it was fucking excellent.

I've been hooked into the fish thing recently and I lovingly prepared:
  • Vichyssoise with scallop and caviar
  • Tuna tartare toasts with egg snow
  • Lobster and 'Crawdaddy' risotto
  • Fillet of cod with potatoes and chive buerre blanc
  • Homemade green pea ice cream with mint syrup
  • Manchego cheese, marmalade and crackers
As I said, it was brilliant.

The soup to kick off was your bog-standard leek and potato soup, (inspired by Angela Hartnett, that Welsh minx)but I deliberately underseasoned it so I could go heavy with the caviar and that would act as the salt for the course. Quite possibly, the greatest soup I've ever eaten.

Tuna tartare was an idea I had at the fishmongers - I was standing around while he fished a decent lobster out of the tank, when I spied some sexy-looking tuna loin. "I'll have an arf-pound of that too, Son." I carved tiny cubes of tuna from this crimson monolith, mixed them with a touch of olive oil, some capers, finely diced tomato, and some parsley, salt and white pepper. I hard-boiled 2 organic eggs, removed the yolks and pushed them through a fine sieve to create the snow. I toasted some ciabatta (some thought it was too toasted) and piled up the tuna on top, giving it a dusting of yolk to finish. Not wanting to waste the whites, I chopped one half, added tomato, S&P, mayo and some hot sauce and spooned this into the 3 remaining halves to keep the tuna toast company, a take of sorts on devilled eggs. Delicious. I wanted more...

Lobster and craw risotto was easy.

Buy the crustacea. Boil or steam, remove meat and any juicy bits, crush shells (apart from those you want for presentation) and green stuff, mix with mirepoix, bay, peppercorns etc to make a good fish stock. Make yer risotto in the normal way using this stock, and at the end, mix the chopped craws and lobster with the rice, add a dribble of white vermouth, lots of butter, check for seasoning, and drape a nice claw or flash-fried tail section on the top for a finishing touch. Fucking unbelievable.

For the next course, I hard seared some nice bits of cod, sliced some new potatoes up, and lubed everything up with a really nice chive buerre blanc. For me, there's no better sauce for fish. I won't go into the recipe, you could easily find your own and when you've made it a few times, you'll know which recipe works best for you, innit. I'm patting myself on the back again.

My mates Alex and Steph bought me a brand-spanking new ice-cream machine for a wedding present, and I've been itching to make some daft ice-cream, like everybody else seems to be doing these days. I read something last time in the UK about pea creams, and it was this thought that formed the recipe in my mind. You can get sweet peas can't you? Well, let's make 'em sweeter and freeze the little fuckers. Oh, what goes with peas. Mint? Mmm. So that was it. Cream, milk, sugar, peas, freeze, infuse some syrup with mint from the garden. Bob's yer uncle. Best damn ice-cream I've ever eaten. No shit.

The cheese course was cobbled together from some old gubbins in the fridge. The classic combo is Manchego and quince jelly, but short of spending $40 on a jar, who the fuck has that? Not me mate. A spoonful of Frank Cooper's orange marmalade did the trick, the Americans never noticed the difference.

I can't believe a meal of this magnitude came out of a small Park Slope kitchen. I really can't. Incredible flavours, insane textures, executed with breathtaking accuracy and precision. Meals like this belong in restaurants. Anybody know of any going spare, like?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Jack's Luxury Oyster Bar

Luxury eh? I was somewhat skeptical & actually scoffed at the name of the place, but I was pleasantly surprised with the meal. It was my birthday & I was hankering for some raw seafood, so we (Myself, Alesha, Mom & Jacob) headed to Jack's @ 101 2nd Avenue (which used to be Jewel Bako Makimono).

The space is well designed, minimalistic yet swanky. The service was excellent; I was late for my birthday party @ Von, so we stressed that we were in a rush - the food came out lickety-split.

While not as good as Balthazar, the raw selection was excellent & more moderately priced. I recommend Jack's - 2 thumbs up!
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