Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Dinner for 4, Food for 14

When I saw all of the food arranged on Boogie's counter top, stacked in the fridge, and bubbling away on the stove, I couldn't help but think of the night's guest list. Me...check, Teddy...check, Boogie...check, his roommate Benji...check. Who the f*ck is going to eat all of this food then? I actually took a small spin around the apartment to make sure people weren't hiding behind furniture waiting to spring out for a surprise party/intervention of some sort. Nobody popped out of the shadows though. Well then, time to ditch the belt, do some precautionary stretches and get down to business.

Italian Sausage Soup

‘Packets of Mackerel’ in a Red Pepper & Caper Sauce

Fettuccine w/Rabbit Ragu

Stuffed Veal Breast w/ Baked Cheese Polenta

Zuppa Inglese (Italian Trifle)

The starter (it can only be referred to as that because it happened to come first) was sort of a play on an Italian Wedding Soup. Every bowl was filled to the brim with a rich, and herbaceous tomato broth and just a few handfuls of sweet and hot sausage links.

It had just the right amount of spice and was topped with a dusting of parmesan for an extra savory kick. An excellent soup (you can find the recipe below on this blog); it took a great deal of restraint not to overload on this first course because of the amount of grub to I only had 2 small bowls.

Next, I saw 6 whole fish rolled up in a pinwheel fashion and crammed into a sautee pan with herb butter, white wine and clam juice. The mackerel started with a quick sautee and ended with a lengthy bath in all the juices. They drank up all the liquid and stayed super juicey with every turn of the fork. The sauce underneath added a great punchy pepper flavor and a briny kick that could only come from the mighty caper.

Again, the portions were healthy, but the impromptu eating competition rolled on.

The pasta course was exactly what a ragu should be. Chunky, slow cooked meat (rabbit in this case) with a reduced sauce. The thick steamers of fettuccine were dyed orange from the oil of the sauce like a load of laundry whites tossed in with a lone red sock.

All of our forks twisted on to the delight of our chef....not only had we made it to the 3rd course, but clean plates to boot? The food was that good.

Damn. Spoke too soon. We should have kept on cramming in food. Instead, we took a break to chat and we lost valuable momentum. The veal breasts were immense in size and stuffed with a breadcrumb, parmesan, and caper mixture. The outside was cooked picture perfect with a nice thick crispy skin followed by moist flesh.

A beautiful pan gravy was concocted by combining the pan drippings, shallots and veal stock with another separate sauce with mushrooms. One problem though.....we didn't have much room left to fit in this monster. By the time the enormous slabs were plated next to a slice of polenta and covered in the velvety sauce, we could do little but laugh (between deep breathing and shallow belches).

We tried our very best though, and it was damn tasty. I'm envious of the leftovers that Boogie enjoyed for the next few days though. A grand sandwich indeed.....

Just a touch of something sweet to finish off of the night. Sweet? Yes. Boozy? Hells yes. The Italian Trifle contained enough alcohol to kill off any Italian and the raisins on top could double as a successful party snack if the party's theme was competitive drinking. That being said, the cake was sweet, dense and the cream throughout was delicious.

Needless to say, we ended up forgoing our usual post-meal drink and slothed all the way back to Brooklyn. Bravo Boogie, a meal fit for a king....and his wife, kids, and half the damn kingdom.

Delicious Links

1) Upper Playground shows us how to prepare a Pig's Head 3 ways.
2) Dissecting the mysterious Col-Pop.
3) Self Explanatory.

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

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Recipe: Italian Sausage Soup

1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed if present.
1 large chopped onion
3 medium carrots (shopped)
2 stalks celery (chopped)
8 cups chicken broth
1 14 oz can tomatoes diced
1 8 oz tomato sauce
3 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Fresh rosemary
Fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup orzo pasta
Finely shredded Parmesan cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste


In a 4 qt. Dutch oven, cook the sausage, onion, carrot, garlic and celery over medium heat until the sausage is no longer pink. Drain well to remove fat.

Add chicken broth, tomatoes (w/liquid) ,tomato sauce, oregano, rosemary,basil, thyme, fennel seeds, bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 1 hour.

Add pasta and return to boiling. Reduce heat and cook uncovered for 30 minutes.

Remove and discard bay leaf.

Serve with shredded Parmesan cheese.

Serves: 6

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Smoked Salmon Rillettes

A nice little recipe for entertaining friends....or entertain yourself into a nice little food coma. You will need:

8 oz. Fresh Salmon
3 cups Water
8 oz. Smoked Salmon
4 Chopped Shallots
3 tbsp. Dijon Mustard
2 tbsp. Vodka
2 tbsp Lemon Zest
3 tbsp. Lemon Juice (fresh is preferred)
4 tbsp. Cubed Unsalted Butter (room temp)
1/3 cup Chopped Parsley
Ground Black Pepper to Taste

Bring the water to a boil in a pan, lower to a simmer and add fresh salmon. Cook 3-4 minutes on each side, or until cooked through.

Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, add the other ingredients and mix. Don't worry too much about uniformity of the pieces of smoked salmon, butter and shallots because all of this going to be blended.

Once the cooked salmon is cooled, flake into pieces and add to the bowl. Toss all of this into the food processor and pulse until blended. Try not to over blend, as you'll want a bit of texture. Too smooth and you will have yourself a salmon mousse....which wouldn't be terrible, but it's not what we set out for. Make certain the butter is fully incorporated, as you don't want huge chunks of butter in some bites. When finished, taste to make sure everything is balanced, cover and refrigerate. Let it set for at least 3-4 hours before serving, but it would be fine to make the day before.

Serve with dark bread (pumpernickel or the like) and enjoy!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Fat Hippo (71 Clinton Street @ Rivington)

I went to my friend's new restaurant, Fat Hippo, last Thursday for a tasting night. They're not officially open yet, but wanted to get feedback from friends & family. The decor although unfinished (according to the architect), looks great. With exposed brick, vaulted ceilings & some awesome I-beams. Again, they weren't quite ready to open, so the only choice of booze was wine or beer, but we were assured that they'd have a full bar. 4 of us sat down & decided to order everything off the menu & just share, so we could all taste everything & give our opinions.

1) 'Trailer Park' Chicken Sampler

I never met a piece of chicken I didn't like, so I was excited by this dish. The fried chicken was good, but the star was the beer can chicken breast. It was insanely tender & did not last very long. There were 2 sides: collard greens which I really liked & corn bread which was a little on the dry side. The chef has been tinkering with the recipe, so I'm sure it'll be perfect when they open.

2) Chili & Chocolate Glazed Spare Ribs (foreground)
Pan Fried Mozzarella Balls (background)

I was somewhat skeptical about the ribs, but I was glad to be proved wrong. spicy & sweet, they literally fell off of the bone. Pickled watermelon (an interesting flavor) & radish slaw accompanied. We all loved this dish. The mozzarella balls with arugula & herb roasted tomatoes were also tasty.

3) Grapefruit & Feta Salad

I was really surprised how well the tartness of the grapefruit went with the salad, this dish was a hit with all of us. It featured olives, spiced pecans & a honey vinaigrette.

4) Hot & Sour Sauteed Calamari

Call me a wuss (everyone does), but I found this dish to be way too hot. Everyone else seemed to be able to manage the heat, but I was guzzling down water & beer like it was going out of style. The calamari was cooked well (no Bridgestone tire here), but my tongue was on fire.

5) Maryland Crab Cakes

Yowza! This was amazing! Served with corn succotash, roasted garlic caper sauce & a side of Mac 'n Cheese (background), I was a very happy man. The crab cake was really good, & the Mac was some of the best that I've ever had in my life. Bravo!

6) Grilled Marinated Pork Chop

I had to do a double take as this monstrous piece of pork arrived at the table, it looked like something out of the Flintstones! How any one person could finish that is beyond me. The 4 of us struggled & couldn't even do it. Served with pulled pork stuffing, bacon (yes, more pork), brussel sprouts & a maple-jalapeno mustard sauce, it was incredibly tender.

7) Steak & Eggs

I'll admit that there was nothing really special about this dish. A grilled hangar steak with green tomato gratin & egg toast. I liked the presentation of the egg, but I thought the meat was slightly overcooked & could have used more sauce.

8) Free Range Turkey Meatloaf

By this time my stomach was waving the white flag, so I didn't try too much of this dish. It was served with mash, green beans & a house made tamarind ketchup. I did enjoy what I tried though.

Not pictured were the Shrimp Ceviche & the French Fries. I have nothing much to say about the ceviche as it really was like any other. The fries were not that crispy, but they were having trouble with the deep fryer.

After this insane meal, all 4 of us has a serious case of food coma & were all sitting there happy, yet sleepy. I enjoyed pretty much every dish here, which is a real rarity. The standouts were the crab cake & the ribs. The prices (if they don't change before opening) were insanely cheap given the portion size & the quality of the food which was all organic.

Please bear in mind that this was a pre-opening meal & they were working out the kinks in the kitchen. Also several dishes were unavailable. Any gripes that I had will be sorted out before opening.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Fishtail (135 E. 62nd St btwn Park & Lex)

I had a chance to have a restaurant week lunch with my mother at David Burke's restaurant, Fishtail. He'd split with his partner, Donatella Arpaia, last August & rebranded their popular eatery as David Burke Townhouse. Fishtail is his newest offering to the UES dining scene. I was a bit late, so by the time I arrived my Mom was already perched on the long bar on the first floor drinking some Campari. We were whisked upstairs to our table. The decor is really nice & the place gives the impression of an old townhouse (which it most likely was), very inviting.

I started with the deep fried oysters & calamari which was accompanied by a spicy yet sweet dipping sauce. I though that they were good, particularly the tentacles (which are my favorite). My only real complaint was that they were slightly on the greasy side & served in a small faux-deep fryer basket which I thought was a tad over the top.

Mom got the tacos, one of which was crab & the other was tuna tartare. She seemed to enjoy the dish.

Next up for me was the roasted chicken with roasted veg & a red wine reduction. I really, really enjoyed this dish. The seasoning was perfect & the skin was delicious. The sauce was also really flavorful.

Mom had the grilled swordfish steak with fries. I had a chance to try this dish & I thought it was pretty good, but it could have used more sauce. For a seafood restaurant, this dish really didn't blow me away, but for $24.07 for 3 courses, I really wasn't going to complain.

Next up come the desserts (unfortunately both of these pictures came out too blurry to post). I had the pineapple tart, which was good, but nothing extraordinary. I thought that they did a great job on the crust though. The other dessert that we ordered was the chocolate mousse which I think is probably the best mousse I've ever had.

In all, I had a good time & enjoyed the food & attentive service, but I'd like to go back & sample the full menu. One thing that I did notice was that there were a whole lot of waitstaff, which meant good service, but it did make traffic a bit congested around your table.
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