Saturday, October 10, 2009

Barbecue Chicken Stew with Puffy Tortillas

After a lengthy tussle with Verizon, I am finally hooked up with the power of the internets and ready to start blogging again (hold for applause).

In the last meal Thursday Club meal that I cooked, my barbecue chicken tacos were met to rave reviews. Recipe Time!

(4-5 servings)

You will need:

6 Large Chicken Drum Sticks (skin on, bone in)
1 Green Pepper - halved and rough chopped
1 Large Onion - halved and sliced thin
4 Cloves of Garlic - minced
2 Tsp. Tomato Paste
Barbecue Seasoning (mix of paprika, cumin, ground coriander, allspice, pepper flakes, etc.)
1/4 Cup Whisky (nothing too good, Johnny Red will do)
1/4 Apple Cider Vinegar
2/3 Cup Ketchup
1/3 Cup Dijon Mustard
Chicken Stock
Hot Sauce
Brown Sugar
Salt and Pepper

-Preheat large pot with light flavored oil (Veg or Canola)
-Season chicken with S & P and brown until skin is crisp on all sides. Remove and set aside.
-Drain most of the excess oil and fat leaving all the brown bits behind.
- Sweat onion, pepper, garlic until soft on low heat. About 10 minutes.
-Add tomato paste, barbecue seasoning. Coat veg and brown a few more minutes.
-Remove the pot from burner and deglaze pot with whisky-cider mixture. Make sure not to singe your kitchen/self in the process. Back to medium heat for a few minutes.
- Add ketchup, mustard, stock. Simmer and taste. Add hot sauce, brown sugar, S & P to your taste.
- Place chicken back in. Make sure the liquid almost covers the drumsticks.
- Cover allowing a little steam to escape and simmer for an hour, periodically moving the chicken around to make sure all of the little guys get attention from the sauce.
- After an hour, remove chicken again, shred meat off of the bone (it should be falling off).
- Place the bones back into the sauce, turn up the heat and reduce the sauce until thickened to your liking.
- Heat off, bones out (make sure they're devoid of all meat), and shredded chicken back in. Stir it up and taste again. Season accordingly.



Serve with toasted flour tortillas (puffed up in the over/toaster to create a nice crunchy shell), smoked cheddar, avocado slices, and sour cream......or whatever else you like.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tuck Shop (115 St. Mark's)

Is there anything nobler than a pie filled with meat, delicious meat? I've been spending a fair amount of time at the St. Mark's branch of Tuck Shop (the original is located at 68 1st St. Between 1st & 2nd Avenues).

I honestly was not sure what to expect as I'm so used the English meat pies & Cornish Pasties etc. There is a definite difference & I think that the Aussies have a wider variety of fillings. As soon as you walk into the joint, there's a waft of 'pie-goodness' & generally a tray or 2 of pies coming out of the oven.

I went straight for the Traditional, a ground beef pie which is still my favorite. I've tried the Steak & Guinness (thick & incredibly rich... just how I like my women!), Thai Chook (a spicy Thai Chicken concoction) & the Pork & Sage (nothing extra to say about that one).

Last weekend, was the St. Mark's Block Party to benefit the George Jackson Academy. Loads of restaurants on St. Mark's participated & Tuck Shop held the 1st Annual Pie Eating Competition.

11 'maniacs' lined up & tried to scoff as many pies in their entirety in 4 minutes. Needless to say, I was looking forward to this & was taking action on the number of pies that could be eaten.


The competitors lined up & off they went. There were 2 clear leaders after a few minutes (#2 &#3), but watching grown men (& 1 brave woman) dunking pies into glasses of water & shovel them into their gobs was great fun. Thank God for Charity!


Our Champion!

They also had a Mac & Cheese pie which I got to try for the first time. We all had great fun @ the competition & I'm sure a lot of money was raised for the Academy. Check Tuck Shop out if you want a quick snack or want to try something new.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Campanilismo at Dan’s

Something about Dan’s shower curtain bothered me.

I had a sense of déjà vu as soon as I entered the bathroom. I remembered feeling the same last time I was here, some months ago. But I couldn’t quite put my finger on why, which was perplexing, because at first glance it’s a fun and completely inoffensive affair from Target: a world map of cartoon-like cartography, hand-written text and brighter primary colours than a traditional Rand McNally. So what was it? I conducted a quick global geographical survey.

It wasn’t because it represented the typically US-centric view of the world you get here, from the TV news (and some maps); it was a standard projection, centred on the Greenwich Meridian. No geo-political bloopers stood out. The myriad former Soviet republics appeared to be accounted for, although there could have been a nasty dispute over what the freehand drawing style meant for the India-Pakistan border.

I did notice a slapdash application of the colour scheme. As most cartographers know, the four colour theorem states that the regions of any map can be shaded using at most four colours, in such a way that bordering regions, other than those connected at a single point, do not share the same colour. Five colours give you wiggle room; six, chosen for a more aesthetically pleasing look, should be plain sailing. So my design-minded self was disappointed to see Italy and Austria were both orange, Russia and Belarus the same shade of blue.

But it wasn’t that either. It was something closer to home. I turned my gaze to the UK.

Sunderland! That was it! London and – inexplicably – Sunderland were the only two cities in the UK to be labeled. What about Edinburgh… Cardiff… Belfast? Manchester? Even Birmingham would have been better.

Target, nonspecifically, says the product is “Made in the USA or Imported”, which does nothing to rule out the possibility of a Chinglish-like cartographical error made by a graphic designer in a Guangdong province shower curtain factory. But I think it must have been designed by a native of Sunderland – a Mackem. I could think of no other reason the erstwhile self proclaimed Largest Shipbuilding Town in the World, whose biggest claim to fame these days is as the site of the UK’s biggest car factory, a rare dose of economic development injected into the depressed North East by the Thatcher government after the coal mines and ship yards closed, would be elevated to the status of world cities like Paris, Rome or Tokyo.

Sunderland bloody Sunderland. I grew up a few miles away, but in the catchment area – geographically and culturally – of the larger, neighbouring city of Newcastle. This makes me a Geordie. Geordies and Mackems enjoy a fierce local rivalry, these days mainly on the football pitch (but not this season – Newcastle were relegated while Sunderland stayed in the Premier League, a bitter pill for us Geordies to swallow), but previously in the shipyards, and even as far back as the English Civil War. Due to the irksome Sunderland-centrism displayed in Dan’s bathroom, this rivalry now extends, improbably, to world map shower curtain design.

Thankfully, and in keeping with the recognition of the Prime Meridian on the map projection, it was a belief in Euro-centrism, rather than Sunderland-centrism, that was suggested by Dan’s Italian menu. (I don’t know what the local specialty in Sunderland is – puppies, probably – but I wouldn’t recommend it.) But just like Geordies and Mackems, cats and dogs, rivalry – campanilismo – has always been an integral part of Italian regional identity, and by extension, Italian food. So by way of an appetizer from Venice and the Veneto, a fish course from the often disregarded coastline, and a Tuscan entrée, Dan took us on a short tour of Italian cuisine, with regional bragging rights at stake.

The antipasto (admittedly not unique to particular region) drew first blood with the grace of an Olympic fencer. A simple green leaf salad was deftly dressed with a delicate honey and sherry vinaigrette, and served with goat cheese, lightly fried in breadcrumbs. The wine pairing of Hess Chardonnay, with its bright fruit, complemented to the goat’s cheese well.















The Rollino Veneto con Tomato-Basilico – pizza roll with wonderful smoked mozzarella and sweet, caramelized onion, served on a bed of intensely fresh tomato, basil and garlic salad – was the kind of simple, rustic taste sensation that makes Italian cuisine so popular with cooks and diners alike. Although Dan expressed a little dissatisfaction at the density of the pizza dough, it wasn’t so heavy that I couldn’t finish what J Boogie left when he said “basta!” A pretty even fight so far, but that was all about to change.














It’s rather surprising that, despite its 5,700 mile coastline, pesce plays a relatively minor role in Italian cuisine when compared to meats, cheeses and pastas. While not technically a region, the Coppette di Pesce alla San Pietro represented the coastal areas. The ceviche, served in a martini glass in the style of California’s Trattoria Grappolo, featured halibut, salmon, melon, cucumber, lemon, coriander, champagne and, with a little tropical license, mango and papaya. It was, Teddy said, simply the best he’d ever had. Bravo. With this course we drank an Italian white, appropriately enough from the seaside of Campania. The Sibilla Falanghina’s mineral acidity was a perfect match for the fish.










It wasn’t over yet, however. The fat lady hadn’t sung. A fantastic aroma announced the challenge of Tuscany. Pollo al Diavolo – Devil’s Chicken – was mustard and black pepper rubbed roast chicken, basted in jalapeno pimento oil served with fried goat’s cheese. And very tasty it was too. More by coincidence than design I’d brought a Tuscan red – San Polo Rubio – which worked well as an accompaniment. The devil usually has all the best tunes, but when the fat lady did sing, she was still singing the praises of the ceviche. Nice try, Tuscany, but the coast was still out in front.










It was hard to believe Dan didn’t have an ice cream maker when he produced the gelato, a peppermint and custard-based Mint Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream alla San Daniele. But maybe he’s just some kind of ice cream saint. It was a revelation, but ruled out of the competition on a technicality: like the antipasto, gelato is omnipresent in Italy.









After finishing the meal, and with the Coppette di Pesce alla San Pietro, representing the coast, the campanilismo victor, I revisited the bathroom. The two Italian cities on the world map shower curtain, Rome and Naples, are both on the coast. (Well, Rome is 20 miles inland, but as I said at the top, the map is kind of freestyle.) Was that a coincidence? Why not Milan, Italy’s second city, and almost 100 miles from the sea? Maybe there was more to this map than I first thought. Maybe it wasn’t drawn by a Mackem. Maybe this Chinese graphic designer knows more about regional rivalries than I gave him credit for. After all, unlike Newcastle and the Geordies, Sunderland and the Mackems are still in the Premier League.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Bond Night

Last Friday, the gang all met up in Teddy's aptly named 'Man Cave' for a James Bond themed 8 course meal (w/pairing) & some poker. Some dressed up as Bond himself or popular villains while Teddy & Pete cooked & a Bond-themed ipod mixed blared in the background.

In true Teddy (& Bond) form, we started with a cocktail.

'GOLDFINGER' COCKTAIL
Latvian vodka, Kina Lillet, Goldschlager

I'm not much of a cocktail drinker, so you can imagine my delight/horror when I took a sip of this concoction. My mouth was on fire & all I could really think of was the fact that this stuff could take paint off of walls. It was a fitting beginning to the night though & gave me a nice buzz.

CANAPE: SCRAMBLED EGGS JB
Fingerling potatoes, scrambled eggs, creme fraiche, Oscetra caviar
Brut Rose Champagne


I was really intrigued by this particular dish. Most of us were still upstairs milling around the kitchen & finishing our cocktails while Teddy & Pete were putting this together. Eggo Waffle Minis were the base of this dish, then topped with scrambled eggs, creme fraiche & caviar.

I watched as Pete put a dozen eggs into a non-stick pan on the lowest temperature setting & for roughly 15 minutes stirred them with a spatula. The result was the lightest scrambled eggs I've ever had in my life! Once assembled, this was a great little snack to start the meal. The caviar added delicious little bursts of salt when you took a bite. I don't get to eat caviar much, so I loved this dish!

DR KANANGA'S ALLIGATOR SOUP
Florida 'gator' cream soup with chili oil
Chilled Sake


I've eaten gator before, deep fried in Miami, but I was somewhat worried about how the texture of the braised meat in the soup would be like. The soup was amazing. Teddy had thickened it with rice, which added an entirely new dimension & mouth-feel for me. The hot oil drizzle on top was great once you mixed the soup together. I liked the taste of the alligator, but I don't think I'll be making it myself any time soon.

EMILIO LARGO'S SHARK 'PALMERAS'
Pan roasted shark, lobster mashed potatoes, Caribbean-spiced shellfish veloute
Don David Torrontes


Unfortunately, Teddy had to substitute the shark with Halibut, but I didn't mind one bit. The veloute was spicy & rich & once mixed with the silky mash, it was a marriage made in heaven. The dense halibut was lovely with an amazing crust.

SORBET ‘SOLITAIRE’
‘English Rose’ sorbet

Named after Jame Seymour, this couldn't have come at a better time. This refreshing sorbet gave us a chance to compose ourselves, drink more booze & prepare for the final push! (Sorry about the photography!)

HUGO DRAX'S 'PHEASANT D'ETAT'
Pheasant 'En Salmis', game sausage, chestnuts, Brussels, redcurrant, game jus
Nuits Saint-Georges Pinot Noir


The presentation alone on this dish was simply breathtaking. I almost didn't want to disturb the dish, but I knew there would be a mad dash for my plate if I didn't dig in. This was just pure bliss. The pheasant was moist & tender. The game sausages had a hint of fennel, the chestnut puree was amazing with the foie gras. Teddy hit this one out of the ballpark!

LAMB 'SCARAMANGA'
Nick Nack's Thai lamb, lemongrass, galangal-coconut milk, green papaya
Fetzer Gewurtztraminer 2006


Teddy had marinated the lamb overnight in curry paste which gave the meat a spicy twang, offset by the sweetness of the papaya & coconut milk, this one was a real winner. Nick Nack's Mum would be proud!

PUSSY GALORE
Simply: Bananas, whipped cream, walnut and chocolate

By this point of the meal I was pretty much reaching my breaking point & was eager to play some poker. When the dish arrived, however, I devoured the entire thing. The chocolate sauce was very thick & sweet (yet not overpowering) & the airy whipped cream was a perfect compliment. Teddy, being the clever fuck he is had shaped the banana into the dish's namesake, which was also a nice touch!

After a few more drinks, we began to play poker. Unfortunately, I had to leave early so I don't know who won. This was a night totally worthy of 007!

Delicious Links

1) The Economist introduces the world to the Big Mac Index.
2) The Highline Challenge from Immaculate Infatuation.
3) Meat-Loving Brooklynites will soon get another Playground.
4) Maine Lobster finally coming to the East Village.

Have a good link? Post a comment & maybe it'll make it to the next installment!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Home Smoking

For the past month, there have been 6 guys working incredibly hard on remodeling bits of our new house.  Well, 5 guys working really hard and one guy who always reeks of booze and unashamedly keeps beers in our fridge for his mid-morning treat.  Well, four guys working really hard, one alcoholic and one guy that actively goes out of his way to avoid work and has been caulking the same moulding for over a week.  Well, one guy working really hard, one alcoholic, one lazy bastard and two guys who turn up every other day.  Even the remaining hard working guy rarely turns up on time.


Let me start again.


I bought a smoker recently and wanted to test run it but we haven’t got any mates yet in Santa Barbara so we class the people who we are paying to work on our house as our closest friends.  As such, I fed them yesterday with a gourmet, all-American spread of ribs, slaw, mashed potatoes and beans.  I have very little to say about the sides as the ribs were the main attraction.


First, a few choices to make.


  1. Wet or Dry?  Personally I’m a dry rib kinda guy meaning that the ribs at Rendezvous in Memphis are the Holy Grail that I’d be shooting for.
  2. The cut of meat.  I went for Back Loin Pork Ribs as they are meatier and come with an extra blanket of meat across the top that results in the inability to eat more than three or four of these bad boys in one sitting.
  3. The wood.  I went with hickory because...well, because I had a big bag of it in the shed.
  4. The rub.  As we have just moved in, my pantry isn’t very well stocked so rather than go out an buy the dozen or so spices that make up most rub recipes, I went for a pre-mixed rub and beefed it up with a wad of smoked paprika and chili flakes.


Given that this was going to be lunch, my alarm went off at 6:30am to get the fire going.  We haven’t been here long but we can’t have made a good impression with the neighbours as most days the guys are drilling and hammering from 7:30am but today they had the added bonus of being on the receiving end of 5 hours of smoke that bellowed from our Brinkman.  Ah well, neighbours are only ever a bunch of leeching sods anyway so who needs ‘em?


Like I say, I haven’t cooked with a smoker before (beyond curing the grill a few days ago) so I was a bit nervous about maintaining the temperature between the recommended 200 and 220 degrees fahrenheit but it turned out to be a fairly low maintenance affair.  In simple terms, when it’s getting low, shove on some more damp wood or charcoal and if it’s getting too hot, cut off the air.  Not exactly rocket science which explains why even those from the Deep South can excel at it.


Despite being tempted to open the lid about a thousand times during the 4 1/2 hours of cooking, I was a good boy and opened it just once to flip them over but it was clear at the turn that things were going well as they were already beginning to develop a crust that would have made Mr Maillard himself weak at the knees.  Still, they could still officially be a failure if they weren’t as tender as a nun’s quim and I’d have another two hours to wait until that question was answered.  Allah has blessed me with good looks, a schlong that could knock out an elephant and the wit of a stand-up comedian (not to mention humility) but patience does not appear on my resume so the countdown to midday felt like a lifetime but I heard that all good things come to those who wait so I waited.  And waited.  And put together some furniture.  And waited.


Finally, with just over 30 minutes left to lunch, I pulled the ribs, wrapped them in foil and let them redistribute their juices for half an hour.  At approximately 11:53 (specific pacific time) came the real test - cutting the slabs into individual ribs.  To my vast relief, the ribs nearly cut themselves although they did still have some structure and required just the slightest amount of tension to separate the meat from the bone.  The inside was juicy and tender whilst the outside was charred and crusty.  Dare I say they were perfect?  Maybe one step down from perfect as next time I would have them further away from the firebox as the smaller, edge ribs were a littler closer to cremated than charred.


The good news about using three mighty racks of the back loin pork ribs is that, after feeding seven people, there were loads left so I took some to work that night.  If you ever want to make instant friends in a new job, take in some home smoked ribs.  I was the kitchen bitch equivalent of a rock star for the evening.


Next time I want to smoke a 30lb pork butt for 10 hours and see if I can’t make me some decent pulled pork.  The downside is that I’ll need to replace the roof on my house in order to have enough people to feed.


Friday, August 07, 2009

Boudin w/Mash Potatoes & Caramelized Apple


Fooling bored & lucky enough to have Boudin (1 Blanc, 1 Noir) in the fridge, I decided to make dinner. I'm not too sure where my Dad got the sausages from, but I couldn't be more grateful when I remembered that I had them in the fridge.

I diced an onion, 2 apples & 2 cloves of garlic & sauteed them with butter, spicing with dried thyme, oregano, salt & pepper as they browned. Meanwhile I cut up 3 small potatoes & put them in a pot to boil with 2 cloves of garlic & the Boudin Blanc. The Boudin Noir went into a baking dish under the broiler with a bit of olive oil.

To the apples were added calvados which I brought to the boil, then added apple sauce & a little chicken stock.

Once the potatoes were done, I removed the Boudin Blanc & mashed them with cream & butter. I strained the apple sauce in a small sieve with the back of a wooden spoon & voila, instant dinner that took about 30 minutes & tasted great!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mr C's (102 Avenue C)

I finally had a chance to visit Alphabet City's newest Italian Trattoria, Mr C's, located at 7th Street & Ave. C. I braved the rain with my Mom around 8pm last night & we found the place pretty empty. After standing around the door for a bit, we decided to seat ourselves. It didn't take that long for our waiter to bring over our menus & explain that they were BYOB. I had already known that & gave some thought to going to Alphabet City Wine Co. next door & picking up a red, but I wasn't in the mood for drinking.

The service continued downhill from there, we sat around twiddling our thumbs till our water came by, so we ordered an appetizer while deciding that to get for our mains. After a further wait, we ordered our main dishes & asked to ensure if our appetizer had been fired (it had). We started with the fried calamari which were cooked very well, the marinara sauce that accompanied it was somewhat bland. Not a bad start to the meal at all though.

I ended up getting the rigatoni with tomato sauce & prosciutto. It was really light & tasty particularly with the flavor of the cured meat. My only real gripe with this dish is that whoever had prepped the prosciutto had been lazy. He had obviously stacked several slices to be cut into lengths, but they were just dropped into the dish/sauce as a whole & not separated, so eating the prosciutto was like biting into a big chunk of meat, I had to separate the individual pieces myself.

My Mom ordered the lasagna which was absolutely massive! I think everyone has their own view on how lasagna should be served; mine would be a small square with layers of meat, tomato sauce, cheese & pasta stacked vertically. Mr C's dish was nothing like this, it was a served on it's side, with thick layers of pasta (3-4 deep, all stuck together), meat & cheese, the tomato sauce seemed almost an afterthought & was spooned on top of the dish. Needless to say it did not look very appealing & the cheese overpowered the entire dish.

The food was passable (particularly considering the price; $8-9 for pasta), the BYOB policy was a plus, but the service was pretty atrocious. Our waiter was more interested in sitting down & talking to his friends that were dining there than attending to his customers. We had to scream to get salt & pepper and there was a lengthy wait for him to pick up my credit card after we had asked for our check.

Not sure if these are teething issues as this is a fairly new place, but I doubt I'll be going back there any time soon.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Highland Pacific (3934 W 32nd Avenue Denver, Co)

Highland Pacific is one of my favorite Denver restaurants & quite possibly my favorite seafood restaurant (which still amazes me as Colorado is landlocked). Every time I'm in town (particularly after Man Camp), I make sure to stop by for great seafood & even better service & atmosphere. My sister & I (& whoever we drag along) make sure we get a seat at the bar, which I think is the best seat in the house.

Luckily her husband doesn't eat oysters, so we were able to share a dozen oysters this year. We got Island Creek from MA & Hammersby Oysters from WA, both excellent. (a small note, Island Creeks are now available in 100 count bags, via FedEx next day! Click Here). We really enjoyed the oysters, but these were merely some small nibbles to keep us busy till the next course.

We got a pound of Dungeness crab legs next. Not quite my favorite, but we enjoyed them. In early 2008 I had come to Denver with NY friends & had eaten at Highland Pacific 2 nights in a row. They had Opilio crabs on those nights (made famous by the Deadliest Catch TV show) & honestly we must have gone through about 10lbs!

I ordered 2 appetizers, fried calamari (which Audrey helped herself to) & the Mac & Cheese which was really good. Audrey had the Ahi Poke (Big Eye Tuna with seaweed salad & avocado) & the Besos Calientes (Grilled shrimp over jalapenos with pancetta & pepper jack cheese). Josh opted for the Crawfish Po-Boy.



We ended the night with an insanely delicious dessert, the Foster a la mode. This humongous beast is basically bread pudding with bananas foster & ice ream on top! This (and all the Stella we had drank) put us well over the top. A great meal...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

No exam nerves for Adam's final

With his move to glorious Boston getting ever closer, Adam said this last boozy Thursday Club was to be his very best. We were to witness his coming of age, to gaze on as he demonstrated the glittering zenith of his culinary talents. The Buffalo Kid makes some delicious American-inspired food and on this occasion as before, he did not disappoint.

The party began with a very amusing anecdote from one of the chaps, who had, the night before, made Thai food with a wheelbarrow full of Scotch Bonnet chillies, scarfed it down and then performed an act of oral love on the lady he was with. With watery eyes and considerable embarrassment, the young lady announced that she had "the fire of Hades" between her legs, and politely asked for ice cubes and lots of cold yogurt. Of course, our friend obliged. He might have caused the lady less pain had he casually inserted a pair of fresh Red Savinas into her vagina. I had my own anecdote about marinating some chicken for a party Pistol Pete and I catered a couple of days before. I made a jerk marinade which contained two punnets of Habaneros and thought nothing of turning the meat in it, sans gloves. What a prize knobscotch I'd been! My hands fizzed for about 6 hours. I doubt Wilbur Scoville would have made a similar mistake.

Balancing flavours and taming heat (whether it be that of the cooking range or Scoville-measured kind) is what cooking is all about. Those who master these skills will become very good cooks indeed. I do believe Adam is getting there.
To kick things off, after a couple of bottles of delicious Loose Cannon IPA from Clipper City in Baltimore, he surprised us with some of the best shrimp cakes I've ever eaten. With crunchy jackets and soft, perfectly seasoned interiors mined with chunks of shrimp, they were little miracles, exhaulted further by their marriage to a clever remoulade of coriander leaves and lime zest.A chilled smoky tomato soup had serious depth of flavour with a fair whack of heat and might have been a one-note battering ram of spice and smoke were it not for the thoughtful addition of a paprika-flecked sour cream. I will admit that I am a bit of a sucker for heat and ate the soup slavishly, saving the orange blob of dairy for the last pain relieving mouthful. Yin. Yang.

For his entree, chef had cooked a stew of chicken and served it with warm tortillas with the classic Mexican/SW accoutrements. The chicken was braised until it literally fell apart in the braising liquor, and absolutely packed full of flavour. I could taste cumin, paparika, chilli, garlic, some brown sugar. This was one serious dish. Crisp tortillas were strewn with guac, some onion, a slick of sour cream and a spoonful of the sauced meat. I don't think anybody uttered a word for a few minutes, until one of us said proudly "that's the best damn tortilla I've ever had!", and nobody could deny it. Fucking superb.
Those chicken tortillas would be a hard act to follow, so I don't admitting that I was a touch dissapointed with the pork ribs up next, with pineapple and jicama salad. The sauce sticking to the ribs was excellent though, a playful mixture of soy sauce, tangerine, ginger, garlic, pepper flakes and brown sugar. He struck a perfect balance with sauce, but there just wasn't enough of those flavours actually in the meat. (Maybe he should have flash-braised the ribs in that sauce and then crisped them up?)A satisfying seasonal dessert of watermelon ice was flanked on either side by some beautiful home-flavoured vodkas: A pear & ginger and a blueberry-lime. The ice was OK, but the drinks were the real star of the dessert packing huge amounts of their advertised flavours with every sip.A cigarette was all that was needed then, to finish off what was without a doubt, the best meal I've ever had at Adam's. He shall be missed, and I do hope that before he goes, he'll give us the recipe for his signature chicken tortillas.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Don't judge a book...

Living in the rapidly gentrifying East Village for so many years has turned me into a bit of a snob, or at worse, a complete asshole. I normally shop for grocery staples at Associated or Key Foods, often overlooking the less well known supermarkets. For my recent collaboration with Adam a few days ago, I decided to go to Fine Fare on Avenue C & 4th Street.

They seem to cater to the Latino community in the area & I had often dismissed the place as 'ghetto'. I was pleasantly surprised to find a well stocked, clean grocery store. After buying some hideous leeks at my local Associated further up Avenue C earlier in the day, I was amazed at the freshness of the produce. Adam & I were able to find everything that we needed for our co-op meal (well, nearly everything, we had to substitute Gorgonzola for Goat's Cheese, but this turned out to our advantage) & then some.

Cuts of meat that I never find at other stores, plus varied vegetables & spices. Now most grocery stores have a 'Goya Section', but this one was truly amazing. More Goya products than I've ever seen in my entire life! One in particular; a bright orange Beef Tripe Stew (Mondongo) caught my eye & I just had to have it. I'm not a regular tripe eater (actually, I really try to avoid the stuff), but I was feeling adventurous & I actually ate it tonight with some bread & an avocado salad. It was pretty damn good and from a can no less! I'll be cooking my own tripe stew soon enough!

Basically, the point of this post is not to dismiss any store or ingredient, sometimes you find hidden gems behind an otherwise ugly exterior! Note: some canned goods are more appealing than others!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Stop. Collaborate and Listen.

With just two of us able to buck the chains of work, travel, laziness or prior obligations, Boogie and I decided to give a Thursday Club duo a shot. He had a starter and dessert in the works but we decided to pull our culinary resources and think up a main dish with inspiration provided by his local Mexican food market. Passing through the extensive protein aisle filled such intriguing items as pork maws, beef kidneys, and chicken backs (You've got to love these types of markets), we opted for a fairly pedestrian meat choice to base our meal on. A few thin sheets of sirloin would do to start our creative juices. How about we stuff it, roll it up and lacquer it with a rich wine sauce? Meh, this evening had a laid back feel compared to the usual high-octane Club meals - what I could really go for is a sandwich actually. Done. A sandwich for the ages though. A few other items thrown into the basket and we were off. Here's the menu:

- English Onion Soup w/ White Cheddar and Crouton

- Steak Sandwich a la Boogie
Potato and Pea Salad

- Chocolate Mousse with Cherry-Port Compote

The soup was slowly bubbling away for a few hours by the time we returned from shopping. Some last-minute spice tinkering with pepper flakes and balsamic, a quick corn starch addition for texture and we were all set to top them with bread, cheese and bang it under the broiler. The final product was similarly close to it's French counterpart, but the sharp cheddar added a delightful punch to the sweet onion base. It was a hearty start for a meal that featured a sandwich for the main course, but not many things have the raw appeal of soup with a pipping hot and gooey bread and cheese lid.


We scarfed it.

The super steak sandwich took a few components from traditional steakhouse menu. Sauteed spinach with garlic, seared steak, mushrooms in red wine and a creamy Gorgonzola crumble. Really nothing too controversial about those ingredients. Let the stacking begin.


The bread was perfectly crusty and the monstrous concoction stayed glued together surprisingly well. A few pockets of liberally sprinkled Gorgonzola occasionally overpowered the bite, but it was good enough for me to finish my portion in record time. I whipped up a quick cold potato and pea salad to compliment the hoagie as well. A simple mayo and dijon based dressing with some dry herbs and lemon zest were spot on despite the imprecise measurements that went into it.
A nice slow pace allowed us to clean up as we went along and most importantly digest and prepare for one more course.

The dessert started off as a mousse, but was morphed into a gelatin/pudding/ganache due to the off-timed addition of cream. No matter though as the end result, although unidentifyable, was absolutely delicious. I put my ramekin in the freezer in hopes of solidifying it enough to flip it upside-down, but it refused to budge. Shoveling into my face right out of the cup would have to do.


The lemon-juice spiked cherry sauce added a nice bright acidity to the rich chocolate pudd...eh, mous....uh, whatever the hell it was. A great way to end the leisurely evening at any rate.

Regardless of how many people were there, one thing remains a constant; the contented, slightly wobbly walk through the chaos of the Lower East Side to the subway and a nice nap on the F train back to Brooklyn. I wouldn't have it any other way....and rarely do.
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